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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes it's hard to be a woman,, 23 April 2010
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This review is from: Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA (Paperback)
'Crick and Watson' are names drilled into my brain as the discoverers of the DNA double helix. I didn't know until I read this book that there should have been a third name which I automatically associated with the structure of DNA - Rosalind Franklyn.

Brenda Maddox has written, in some ways, a sadly familiar tale. We like to think that 'science' is Noble, Pure and Of High Ideals - the great god science may indeed be NP + OHI - however, scientists being mortal men and women (and more often than not, mortal men) are as subject to self-serving, naked ambition, power hungry greed as the rest of us.

There's a rush to get your name on the paper, to get the citations - and the desire for this is not just 'this discovery is for the good of all', but its good for ME.

The cut and thrust world of scientific fame and glory is particularly difficult, even now, for women.

Maddox uncovers a warts and all portrait of the difficult, often unlikeable, brilliant Franklyn. Undoubtedly she lacked charm, she lacked the ability to schmooze, she lacked a graceful character (women of course are particularly 'supposed' to be charming, graceful and likeable) The naked ambition which was palpable (and par for the course) in her male colleagues is seen as unacceptable in a woman.

This book is a fascinating - and to a feminist -'keep those flames of feminism burning' - book. Maddox writes extremely well about the fascinating scientific journey of discovery, and about the dirty politics. She doesn't turn Franklyn into a latter day saint - but it is also clear that whatever her defects of character, being a brilliant woman, a brilliant Jewish woman, in a boys' club, would never be an easy ride.

And..............if you feel tempted to think, but that was a long long time ago, read a more recent account of the alpha male wolf pack atmosphere of big business, nobel prize winning glory prize science in Candace Pert's Molecules of Emotion: Why You Feel the Way You Feel One edition of this latter book, due to the often buggy method of listing foreword writers as well as authors, even has this book, written by a female scientist, as being credited to the foreword writer - so the author is given as Deepak Chopra. A amusing mistake unintentionally illustrating 'the back room girls do the work, the boys elbow their way into the spotlight of fame!'
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fair-minded biography brings dark lady into the light, 22 Mar 2012
By 
hbw (uk) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA (Paperback)
Quite why Nobel Prize winner James D Watson, in his 1968 best seller "The Double Helix", chose to portray Rosalind Franklin as a second rate scientist and a thoroughly unpleasant woman is anybody's guess. Barbara Maddox's biography does nothing to solve the mystery, since, as she demonstrates, the two scientists appear to have been on good terms, personally and professionally, in the years following the discovery of the structure of DNA.

"The Dark Lady of DNA" sets out to uncover the truth about Rosalind Franklin and the result is a well researched and highly readable account of her life from her birth into a well-heeled and well-connected family to her untimely death in 1958.

The woman who emerges from the darkness is a first class scientist with a rich personal life. Although she is best known for her work on DNA, she did important and far reaching research on the structure of coal and, having moved into biochemistry, the structure of viruses. As a person, Franklin was certainly not perfect: she could be prickly and argumentative, but many knew her as a thoughtful, generous and loyal friend.

This is an excellent biography. Maddox has done a good job of explaining the science and its importance to a general readership and has drawn a balanced portrait of this able and complex woman whose posthumous fame is well deserved.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful biography, 5 Oct 2011
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This review is from: Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA (Paperback)
This is a well written book that gives us a more insightful understanding into the life of Rosalind Franklin. Her contribution is vastly overlooked and this book explains why. Interesting anecdotes and lovely photographs.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Maddox's Rosalind: a fair account, 4 Nov 2003
This review is from: Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA (Paperback)
Many of the key players in the exciting discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA have been rightly rewarded by enhanced reputations and, in the case of James D. Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, the awarding of the Nobel Prize in 1962. Not so for the sole female contributor, Rosalind Franklin, her life has been subjected to caricature and only in rather recent years has her significant scientific contributions been publicly recognized. The ire of many a feminist is particularly directed at James D. Watson, the author of the 1968 best seller “The Double Helix”, in which, Watson paints the then deceased Franklin as a virago figure. In contrast to Watson’s personal memoir, British author Brenda Maddox, in her recent biography, has done much to lay out a very human portrait of Franklin as well as provide a balanced account of her prodigious scientific accomplishments. Maddox covers her subject’s whole life, not just the critical but brief DNA years and thoroughly succeeds in generating an admirable Rosalind (as she is sensitively referred to throughout, in contrast to others who are referred to by surnames). Maddox is an accomplished biographer with several awards to her credit including the Whitbead Biography award for her life of D. H. Lawrence. Her skillful techniques are well honed and through Maddox’s lens the reader cannot help but view Rosalind as a warm though strong-willed, precociously intelligent and, on account of her untimely death at only thirty seven, ultimately a tragic figure.
Franklin was fortunate to be born into a well-heeled banker’s family that allowed her to secure a rigorous education in the physical sciences at the private St. Paul’s Girl’s School in London. Maddox does a splendid job of bringing Franklin’s girlhood alive and the extract from Franklin’s diary describing the awe and unadulterated fun surrounding the coronation ceremonies for King George VI are marvelous. Franklin loved sports but was a committed scholar as well and graduated with an award for outstanding performance, especially in physics, that allowed her to enter Cambridge University as an undergraduate on the eve of World War II. Her family’s wealth provided the educational opportunity but Franklin provided the rare combination of uninhibited drive, focus, powerful intellect and hard work. As Britain and her Commonwealth stood alone against Hitler, Franklin showed the same steadfastness of purpose by her unswerving commitment to her studies. Once again, Franklin shows her uniqueness, since there were many belles (and a few beaus, I would imagine) at the university who enjoyed the social whirl that existed in spite of the war. While at Cambridge, Franklin met a fellow physicist, Adrienne Weill, a dynamic Frenchwoman that fascinated and greatly influenced Franklin. This relationship was the first step in Franklin’s transition to passionate francophile which ultimately soured her relationship with her own country and spoiled her interactions with her British colleagues. In the meantime, Franklin completed her Ph.D. in physical chemistry with a specialty in applying X-ray structural analysis to amorphous coal and proceeded to publish her first publications in prestigious scientific journals. Franklin’s life was not work since she had a penchant for strenuous holidays in the outdoors usually involving climbing and hiking which she maintained throughout her life. The French connection ultimately led to a job offer in Paris, which Franklin embraced with enthusiasm. Although she remained totally committed to her work, she mastered French, conquered high mountains, developed fine dress taste and was exposed to the Parisian post-war political ferment. This was not to last, and in 1950 she returned to London to what would prove to be professionally productive but personally an unhappy time. This constituted her leap into DNA at King’s College London.
Franklin’s accepted a research fellowship to work at the Biophysics unit, King’s College London, headed by the famous physicist, J. T. Randall, responsible for the British discovery and development of radar during World War II. She was to work with Randall’s deputy, Maurice Wilkins, on studies he already had underway involving DNA. By all accounts, except Franklin’s, Wilkins seemed to be an excellent collaborator and had productive and amiable relationships with colleagues and students in his decades-long scientific career. Franklin came to King’s with a craving for foreign friends and what can only be thought of as a “chip on her shoulder”. She was described as “tense and unbending, clutching her aversion to everything English” and ultimately this led to her having a poor relationship with several of her colleagues. In particular, she considered Wilkins her inferior. Nonetheless, interpersonal squabbles aside, Franklin was a professional scientist of the highest quality and she quickly made her mark in her new laboratory and generated X-ray pictures of DNA that were second to none.
The steps along the way to the discovery of the structure of DNA have been laid out before, notably by Watson in his 1968 best seller and also in commentaries and rebuttals to his biased account. The key facts run as follows, Watson and Crick at Cambridge University utilized model building as a tool to visualize several hypothesized structures of DNA. In large part, these tinker-toy-like models were speculative and relied on laboratory data generated by others as well as competing models proposed by academic competitors, notably the renowned chemist, Linus Pauling, in the US. In Franklin’s thinking, model building was not given much weight and she focused, to the exclusion of almost all else, on X-ray methods and data analysis as the true road to deciphering the structure of DNA. As it turned out, Franklin’s experimental data was instrumental in inspiring the Watson and Crick model of DNA and in recent years the importance of her contribution has gained increased credence. Unfortunately, Franklin’s productive life was cut short by cancer and she died aged thirty-seven of cancer. Although not fully reconciled in life, the Franklin-Wilkins building at King’s College London was opened in 2000, and stands as a testament to their joint contribution to one of the last century’s greatest scientific advances.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Franklin and DNA, 6 July 2003
By 
Mr. David Edwards "gammacenturi" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA (Paperback)
A really very good and interesting book. Does it redress the balance? I think not. How can a book written 50 years after the discovery by a non-participant be more reliable in its descriptions of the events, than one written 15 years afterwards by one of the main discoverers [J. Watson 'The Double Helix']. There are literally 100's of similar arguments in science especially about precedence and many books written. But sad though it seems that Rosalind was ill treated, nothing written in this book contradicts that in the first part of her working life she was awkward, did not right from the start co-operate with her own boss and was unlikely to share in open, honest discussion her ideas and discoveries. Watson & Crick meanwhile were quite happy to welcome her and Wilkins [her boss]to see their model as it progressed. The great insight Watson had on seeing her X-Ray photo could equally have applied to Franklin if she had continued to visit W & C's workplace and viewed their evolving model. Other scientists also contributed greatly and in one case crucially to the discovery of DNA's structure(the enol/keto form for example).
So Watson & Crick never did a single experiment and made the discovery - would Franklin or indeed Pauling have done so without ALL the pieces of evidence? Probally not. But Pauling would have had more chance because he was part of a team.
Franklin worked alone, there was no synergy or alternative ideas.
The book is very honest and fair showing her warts and all. It appears to give a complete decription of her life and her earlier work in Paris on carbon structure. At the end you cannot help but like her but perhaps her cause has been hi-jacked by the feminist movement? I recommend it to all who are interested in the life and times of scientists.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!!!, 24 Feb 2012
This review is from: Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA (Paperback)
This biography is a brilliant read. I read a lot of biographies but this was a stunning read.
I actually bought this book as research as I co-wrote a play about the life of Rosalind Franklin and this book was a brilliant source for my research.
Rosalind Franklin lived a very interesting and (to us) valuable life.
Please buy this book and read - you will fall in love with her story I am sure of it.
Remarkable woman with a powerful story laid before you in this very book.
Buy, buy, buy!!!
Enjoy
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent attempt to strip away the mythology and find the person, 11 Dec 2010
By 
Davey (Dorset, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA (Paperback)
This is an excellent book, both insightful and a damned good read. There is so much baggage around Franklin, none of her own making, and this book tries to strip this away and paint a picture of Franklin the person and the scientist. Franklin the person was prickly, snobbish - and perfectly human! As a scientist, I think her most important work was on X-ray crystallography of viruses; I've always felt her role in the DNA story was exaggerated by Watson in his book, in order to make Watson himself seem clever - back in the dawn of time when I was a first year Biochemistry student, my lecturer described the DNA story as "Crick did the work and Watson wrote the book". One of the nicest things I found out from this book was how close she became to Francis Crick, who is described as one of her favourite scientists; not something you'd expect from Watson's silly book.

And on that topic, how about a biography of Crick, Ms. Maddox?
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating lady, 4 Nov 2003
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This review is from: Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA (Paperback)
An interesting biography about a fascinating woman. To achieve all she did during her short lifetime shows she was courageous, insightful and intellectual.
As the previous reviewer said she was also difficult to get along with and could be just plain prickly if she didn't like the person she was with. I suspect she would have been my worst nightmare as a colleague. However, as one of our great female scientists she is to be admired. The biography does her some justice.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Well Written Biography, 5 Jan 2014
This review is from: Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA (Paperback)
Franklin was a renowned scientist in her own right, she established her reputation in X-ray photography starting with coal and moving onto viruses and DNA. She was a feisty character, and in her tragically short career she made as many friends as enemies.

Crick and Watson are the guys credited with discovering the layout of DNA, but they could not have done it without sight of some of her magnificent X-ray photographs of DNA. Theses had been passed to them without her knowledge, and it was the clarity of these that gave them the insight to solve the mystery of the construction of DNA.

It is thought that she was only one or two steps away from solving this herself, as she as ascertained where certain atoms were and understood the way it behaved.

She was a enthusiastic traveller, and spent time walking throughout Europe, and travelling all over the states. It was said that America bought out her sunny side, and her collaborations with American scientists were fruitful.

As she as taking these X-ray photographs, she was not aware of the damage that that they were doing to her, as they had no protection, even leaning over the camera when it was taking the images. She subcommand to cancer, and she died at the age of 38.

Crick and Watson are the pillars in the discovery of DNA, but she was the keystone.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Rosalind Franklin, 15 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA (Paperback)
Have always been intrigued by the story of Rosalind Franklin and her unrecognised contribution to the discovery of DNA. Would things have been different if she had been a man or of a different personality? I hope that by now the Nobel prize is awarded solely for the quality and importance of the discoveries made.
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Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA
Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox (Paperback - 7 April 2003)
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