Rosalind Franklin, born in Notting Hill, London, was from a wealthy Jewish British family. Armed with a PhD, she spent nearly 5 years studying X ray technique in Paris. Back in Cambridge, she made a succession of discoveries, including the double helix structure of DNA.
Franklin died at the age of 38, a victim from ovarian cancer. I would venture to say that it is likely she got the disease from her work with radiation (as Nobels Marie and Irene Curie clearly did).
Is the human condition a vacation from nothingness? We live, and, in the long run, we die. So what do we live for? Fundamentally, because life is what animals are, that’s what they do. Yet, humans know they will evaporate. So, in their case, there is more: an esthetical choice.
They know their lives, in a way, are gratuitous acts. All proportion kept, they are like those insects who fly around just one day. Humans are erased as they die. The God illusion was invented to deny this. Yet, increasingly, most people do not believe in it, and never did.
So what to live for?
For eons, people learned all they could, and the best were called Shamans. They tried to transmit the knowledge and stories to their (spiritual) descendants. For at least 50,000 years, that process, a continual re-invention of the human condition, ruled. It was no doubt achingly painful for shamans to transmit the wisdom, before they died, and see it all slip back.
Visible progress accelerated only with the invention of civilization, herding and agriculture (in which order is not too clear; wolves certainly came first, at least 50,000 years ago, at least that’s my Neanderthal wolf theory).
Nowadays have writing. Writing was painfully evolved over the eons, and started with painting and other pictorial representations (as Robinson imagines in his book linked to above). We cannot just examine our existence, nowadays, but also the past.
“The results suggest a helical structure (which must be very closely packed) containing probably 2, 3 or 4 coaxial nucleic acid chains per helical unit and having the phosphate groups near the outside.” — Rosalind Franklin, official report, February 1952.
Franklin’s two manuscripts on the double helix DNA reached Acta Crystallographica in Copenhagen on 6 March 1953, one day before Watson & Crick completed their model saying what she wrote months prior.
The details on how Franklin made the discovery of the double helical structure of DNA are complex. The guy who stole her work, to give it to Watson and Crick, Wilkins, had suggested an helix. He probably wanted to exact vengeance on Franklin, who he viewed, erroneously, as having stolen the show, and a PhD student of his. Franklin was actually acting under orders from the head of the lab, who did not bother to warn Wilkins. Wilkins stole Franklin’s famous Photograph 51, and gave it secretly to Watson & Crick.
People who had stolen Rosalind Franklin’s work, were published first in the magazine Nature, although her earlier discoveries were fundamental (to the thieves). The thieves got the Nobel after her death, and insulted her, post mortem, just to make sure that their forfeiture would reign unchallenged (by the same way, in recent years, Watson was widely condemned for racist theories: nastiness is a way of life).
Grotesquely, but tellingly, the Nobels don’t mention prior discoverers. So Franklin was ignored. That makes this Nobel prize a tool of manipulative conspiracies, from the usual suspects. Just as Copernic and Newton are attributed discoveries that were made centuries EARLIER, not mentioning deceased discoverers allow to mangle the history of systems of thought, in arcane, but efficient ways.
That despicable tradition was (slightly) changed for the egregious case of the so called Higgs particle; a prior Belgian discoverer, by then deceased, was mentioned. But the particle is still called a Higgs, because Anglo-American white males are supposed to be dominant in most ways intellectual… Thus in all other ways.
Raping women is an old tradition, most fruitful.
A French professor called, Lejeune, a Catholic fanatic close to John Paul II was the guy who stole credit for discovering trisomy 21. Sleazy behavior like that qualifies automatically for sainthood in the Catholic church. It’s an old tradition started by the killing of Hypatia, an Egyptian female Einstein of 16 centuries ago, by Saint Cyril and his rape murdering sadistic goons.
So Lejeune was fast-tracked for sainthood. Unfortunately for the sleaze ball, his victim, differently from Franklin is still alive (although 88 years old, and having, as she says, better things to do than fighting for recognition, but viewing as a duty to set the record straight ).
The real discoverer of the chromosomal anomaly was a woman, Marthe Gautier, who had done all the cell work that led to the identification of the supplementary chromosome. She had learned in Harvard some ways of manipulating cells, and brought her knowledge back to Paris. She got a bit of space, some rudimentary equipment, and cultured cells using serum derived from her own blood. The same story happened as with Franklin: her pictures were stolen, and Lejeune presented them as his own.
That controversy was well known, so the Nobel committee did not attribute a Nobel for that major discovery, the first explicit roll-out of a genetic abnormality, and its exact mechanism.
It helped that all the discoverers, real or imaginary, were French: one of the missions of the Nobels is to prove the superiority of Anglo-American thinking, and thus of Vulture Funds over Argentina. Hence all the caviar in Manhattan.
Hey, corrupt Nobel clowns! Marthe Gautier is still alive! What about rewarding her, finally? It would be encouraging to all the women out there, who work hard in matters intellectual. Or, at least, it would make you look less corrupt with power and influence.
Here is a letter of Rosalind Franklin to Ellis Franklin, her father. It has no date, possibly summer 1940 whilst Rosalind was an undergraduate at Cambridge University.
“You look at science (or at least talk of it) as some sort of demoralising invention of man, something apart from real life, and which must be cautiously guarded and kept separate from everyday existence. But science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated. Science, for me, gives a partial explanation for life. In so far as it goes, it is based on fact, experience and experiment.”
Rosalind lived like a thinking rose. It’s the best choice we all have. The best metaphysics worth having. We are all roses, and may as well make beauty, the beauty of minds well blossomed, the pinnacle of creation.