14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Nobel Prizes Are Not Given Posthumously,
This review is from: Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA (Hardcover)
"Rosalind Franklin The Dark Lady Of DNA", is a biography, and is not so laden with science that the lay-person cannot read and enjoy the work. But I did read, and will comment, as a lay-reader who is fascinated by the people and the methods they used to uncover one of the great discoveries in the History of Science.
I found this book recommended in The Scientific American magazine. Despite its reputation for being for the trained scientist, or very well studied amateur, the magazine routinely suggests very approachable books for the inquisitive reader. The biography is very readable, and when science becomes integral to the story, the explanations offered together with the diagrams, make the science accessible to the lay-reader. The discussion of DNA is limited to the parts that were to play such a controversial role in who was given credit, received Nobel Prizes, or in this book, the woman, Rosalind Franklin, who was pushed aside. The reasons she was kept from the honors and recognition she deserved are many, and the book covers them in great detail, but as strong a reason as any was the fact she was a pioneer as a female in what was then, virtually an entirely all men's discipline. She also became terminally ill just as the papers and announcements regarding the discoveries of the famed double-helix were being published, and this made her marginalization all that much easier.
The names Watson and Crick are synonymous with the discovery of the double helix of DNA. What is less well known is that their discovery happened when it did, not only because of their work, but the absolutely critical and essential work done by Rosalind Franklin. A photograph she took, entitled simply number 51, was shown without her knowledge together with other information that made the announcements of Watson and Crick possible long before they otherwise would have been possible to proclaim.
Rosalind Franklin was to die at age 37, and 4 short years later Nobel Prizes were given out to those that benefited directly and substantially from her work. The better part of half a century has passed, and despite the naming of buildings, science research facilities, and attempts to revise the historical record to give this amazing woman her due, it will never be enough.
Brenda Maddox has written an important work for everyone as she is helping to document a historical record that was deeply flawed, and now slowly is being corrected. This book is important to so many for the same reason the name Watson and Crick are so important. Rosalind Franklin was one of the keys to the discovery of DNA, her work made Watson and Crick's announcements possible, and History should be taught correctly. Students today should know the most accurate version of what took place, not simply what has become generally accepted wisdom
Equally important is why her work was shared unethically, without her knowledge, and why such behavior was tolerated. This book goes a long way toward exposing these valid questions and why it is so important the record be accurate.
There is no way to know whether Rosalind Franklin would have been given The Nobel Prize along with Watson and Crick had she lived. The number of women honored by that society is absurdly small, and again the author demonstrates not only how many amazing women have been excluded, but how many men you would expect to see rewarded were passed over for names that will surprise you. The examples given cover literature, and the honorees and those ignored will amaze you.
One fact is certain, The Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously, and unless that were ever to change any persons who may have been deserving will never be recognized. Maybe it is enough that the historical record is being corrected, for even if it is not, certain manners of honoring historic contributions to science will always be closed to Rosalind Franklin and that is simply unjust.