Rosalind Franklin: Be A Blossom Of Wisdom

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).

Rosalind, 4 Years After Elucidating the Double Helix

Rosalind, 4 Years After Elucidating the Double Helix

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.

Patrice Aymé


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38 Responses to “Rosalind Franklin: Be A Blossom Of Wisdom”

  1. Paul Handover Says:

    Will find time to leave a reply later today. Nonetheless, enjoyed my first read through.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      I am in the process of re-reading it myself, and making myself clearer, even to myself…
      Thanks for enjoying it!
      Sexism is a huge problem, as:
      1) it makes humanity fight with one hand tied in its back.
      2) it symbolizes the fact stupidity is supposed to rule.

  2. John Rogers Says:

    Good stuff, Patrice. Good stuff.
    The treatment of Rosalind Franklin’s work has always been an outrage. It is amazing how many thieves there are in all walks of life. Really discouraging.

    My own little teeny tiny theory is that we are currently in a distinct period (culturally) of transition to the new.
    That is why in America you have the rage against the questioning of the traditional entitlements of white men (variously expressed as sexism, racism, the need for voter ID, GOP conservatism, the need to own a gun, etc.). It’s sort of the death rattle of the old order.

    The current president is a nigra (Obama), the next one may well be a woman (Hillary). Not really a fan of either of them, but they upset other people a lot more than me (while keeping the foundations of Wall Street rule in place, hurrah!).

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Agreed to all. Obama is history. The history of nothingness. He has started to understand this of late. But do robots really understand stuff?
      Hillary is my candidate, of course. Her and her modestly evaluated fortune. She could turn into another Obama, a front for nothingness. Or maybe not. In my grandest vision, she is biding her time to exact vengeance on her tormentors, including Bill and his cohort from hell and Gold Man, and anxious to leave a significant mark in history.
      We will see.
      After being violated by Obama in the essence of my being, I’m not holding my breath. Time is rushing by, and may soon explode, when the CO2 crisis changes gears.
      Meanwhile the European ultimatum to Putin is in its last few hours…

    • Paul Handover Says:

      Enjoyed your comment John. It certainly does feel like a transitional period. Fascinating times! (I think! 😉 )

      • Patrice Ayme Says:

        Most fascinating times, ever, no doubt! The times we, humans, were born for. We are generating our own ecology in more ways than one!

        • Paul Handover Says:

          Do you ever write something that isn’t wise? 😉

          • Patrice Ayme Says:

            Yes, deliberately so, and that’s even wiser. It’s like the opposite muscle exercise technique all athletes have to practice, lest they suffer catastrophic asymmetric collapse. I tend to keep it off the website, albeit I practice the occasional joke (“Vlad The Impaler, Oblabla, or bemoaning the late roasting of Joan of Arc, etc.”)

  3. John Rogers Says:

    Oh, and on the rage front I left out gay marriage.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      In France the Catholic far right swallowed that (after all discrimination against homosexuals was removed from law in the Sixteenth century by Henri III).
      But then they went ballistic on medically assisted pregnancies, no doubt to compensate. Now the European Court of Human Rights has struck down France (as it should have) for that. Big time.
      As European law has pre-eminence over French law, this is fun. Lots of fun.
      Who said Europe was useless?

      Thanks for appreciating my Franklin-Hypatia-Gautier essay, BTW.

  4. Ian Miller Says:

    In fairness, I think it is called the Higgs not because of what you say, but rather because Higgs happens to be the simplest to say. Higgs chose his parents well.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Ian: I suggested another name, using the initials of the three alleged main discoverers in the past, something like the BEH boson (although BE may have been fairer). I was told it won’t happen.
      It’s like the law of inertia or the heliocentric system. Names matter. Agreed, in that case… Anyway the Jap prize was given to the 6 main perpetrators before…
      Many discoveries made in the non Anglo-American sphere are attributed to Anglo-American. Barring that, other Germanoids do. First.
      Relativity is a prime example: Poincare’ even chose the name. And had the Nobel attributed to Lorentz.

      Then there is the funny stuff, like “Lou Gehrig disease”. Who in the hell is Lou Gehrig? Some ball player? Too difficult, too French, to name it “Charcot disease”? (Charcot called it “Distrophie Musculaire assymetrique”)

  5. red Says:

    “So what to live for?”

    Well, certainly not JUST to use the “tools” well. Rosalind was a genius no doubt. Her equivalent in stone age would be someone understanding or discovering some basic tool(s) usage. And 1000 years from now we could say the same about rosalind. So it is certainly not the life’s entire purpose.

    My point is, how much (tools or science evolution) is too much ?? Its like eating or growing in human height, you can keep evolving like a beautiful rose. What next ? why ? There is seemingly no limit to it.

    There should be something more fruitful and meaningful for the pursuer, so he/she can be content while living (the WHY dissolves). It is the understanding of self, reality as is. Smart are the humans who live their lives 100% in reality (no maya).

    As they say, understand yourself and you understand everything. That, is the purpose of life. Something meaningful to live for. Life wont be a vacation from nothing anymore. The philosophies of buddhism and its variants was ALL about this. They are worthy to dedicate entire lives to, as some millions around the world currently do. Its not just reading/analyzing/understanding it, but “living” it. Like a process.

    • gmax Says:

      As Patrice said somewhere
      “Living in a fire is a different reality from living in a bed.”

      BTW, Franklin was certainly a philosopher, as the second quote above shows.

      • red Says:

        lets go one reality behind…the reality where circumstances/living-conditions (or other mere variables) wont define reality. Beware of the maya.

        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          Hi Red! Can you explain a bit more? Plus I don’t know what the “maya”, माया, is supposed to be. Can be many things. Started as “supernatural” in vedas, like 35 centuries ago…

          What To Live For? Essay I hope to write tomorrow.

          • red Says:

            not super natural, but western pundits loosely translate maya to illusion.

            historically (and even now, in india), the context its used, is anytime you were fooled by your own perceptions (of all senses, including mind/thinking).

            In case of mind/thinking, its even more powerful. As you wont know it, until you are out of it (sometimes requires transcending). Some humans take decades to come out of some of their self-inflicted mayas. (happens a lot in religion, philosophy, any area where you “live in it”). superstitions/dogmas used to be prime examples. Happens in science too, but most dont live it (unlike other areas) as they experiment, use tools, verify etc.etc. (though some hardheadedly do LOL).

            Its the human tendency of habit/inertia (in thinking, thus everything else). It defines their psychology, behavior, character.

            In the “struggle to pin down reality”, you fight with maya in every thinking moment of life. Until you dont. Its a continuous PROCESS, where at some point you understand reality in full (thus maya too) and you stop fighting. You now understand everything, including your self. some take years, or decades and some life times just fighting maya.

            Its the journey of reality. Path of the wisdom. Once you well establish in the PROCESS, even if you dont fully reach end goal, the path gives you lot of gifts (wrongly translated as yogic powers) – e.g/ like the ability to see a person’s character just by observing his/her behavior, mannerisms, or by seeing their self-inflicted mayas.

            you want to blossom in anything, blossom in this. Whats more meaningful, than humans themselves.

            • Patrice Ayme Says:

              Dear Red: I want to answer you thoroughly, but I’m going to handle Paul’s question first. Although extremely related, it’s way easier. More in a separate comment (cell phone people complain about unreadable nestling of replies to comments, Russian doll style).

          • red Says:

            “maya” thus embodies human limitations (explained in above comment). This is where “super natural” in vedas comes from. Anytime, we humans cant quite explain something (yet), we call it maya (aka super natural, “gods play”, out of this world, etc.etc).

            So if you go india and try explaining higgs boson or quantum to some villagers, they will call it maya and leave it at that 🙂

      • Patrice Ayme Says:

        GMax: Thanks for spotting the typo… And the quote! That’s actually the essence of the answer I want to make to Red.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Hmmmm…. That seems to be close to the main Buddhist like answer. Whatever Buddhism is… It deserves a thorough answer… Say a micro essay…

  6. gmax Says:

    Fantastic essay, Patrice! BTW, you have a typo. You meant that Newton and Copernic were attributed discoveries that were made centuries EARLIER!!#!

    Specifically, by BURIDANUS. The heliocentric system and inertia.

  7. Paul Handover Says:

    Your essay, Patrice, clearly depicts your views towards Western religions but here’s a question: why do so many Americans embrace Christianity in what one might describe as almost a fundamentalist manner?

    For such a forward-looking nation in so many ways, this aspect has puzzled me for some time.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      The USA goes for the simple, brutal, and dirty. When the aim is wealth, the rest should serve that. That’s why the law is applied in a Prussian way… With the religion to go with it. If one believes that God takes care, no revolution needed.

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Feedback? Maybe I make an essay on that, answering Red at the same time!

      • Paul Handover Says:

        Yes, would be a great essay. Especially why so many lean on organised religion when there is a raft of spiritual offerings just for the taking, so to speak. E.g. the light of the early dawn at 05:00 this morning!

        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          I’m going to scramble a little thing on that. Considering the vastness of the subject, it’s puny. I have written many essays on the connection between the exploitative mentality and the Bible. That’s why the later has always been popular with exploiters…

  8. Patrice Ayme Says:

    [Sent to New York Times’ Krugman’s editorial, June 30, 2014.]

    If one believes that profit and greed are the only motivations of man, then taxes ought to be cut as much as possible. If one believes that human motivations extend beyond profit and greed, one should reserve a place in the economy, for said motivations.

    That’s when government comes in. So cutting taxes to the maximum is just saying that making man a wolf for man is just perfect.

    Well, this is not enough to feel a real woman’s heart:

  9. Patrice Ayme Says:

    @ Red: A few hints:
    Reality varies (as GMax reminded us).

    New philosophy, and especially the one bearing on new science, implies new metacognition (see a few essays back). Franklin was much more than a tinkerer, or tool maker. She had the world at her feet, and she decided to blossom towards wisdom, instead.

    Metacognition is studying, first of all, how we got into yesteryear’s illusions.

    • red Says:

      “She had the world at her feet”

      you may be projecting your “self” (aka “your reality”, “sum of your mayas”, “ego”, etc.etc). This happens quite often, as our mind/thinking is heavily influenced by our (current) state of reality (perceived world), which seems evolving(changing) too – thus unreal (i.e. prone to bias(=maya) ). people tend to see (features of) others through themselves, particularly the ones they admire. ego acts as a good catalyst for this.

      Did you meet her ? if not, how can you say that about her. Nobody has a clue what other human being’s state(s) were/are. For all we know, she could have OCD or other psychological benefits. As i mentioned earlier, she is a genius no doubt. But only in her field, even that is due to her upbringing, education, environment (university), etc.etc. The discovery she made, or the path she chose, were all reached by several variables (not in her control entirely) coming into a formation (and their inertia over a long period of time, since her birth).

      equanimity, humility, concentration in every moment, peace, relaxed mind/state, no context switching of mind (“single stream of consciousness” – real reality living ), subdued psychological tendencies etc.etc, are some of the characteristics of evolved humans of the path (process). These things dont come on their own just by understanding or reading about them. They require several variables to come together into a formation, achieved by conscious effort over significant period of time. This is no different than say physical exercising or healthy eating/living over long time to achieve a certain physical health state. Its easier for some humans, some may take more time. But, all are capable in their own way.

      “and she decided to blossom towards wisdom, instead.”
      what is wisdom ?. It negates everything and nothing. For a full blossom.

      • Patrice Ayme Says:

        Dear Red: I’m going to answer you in a longer essay. No need to meet people “in person” to know them. Actually most people have met themselves in person, and still don’t know themselves. That’s the whole point of “maya”, if I am not mistaken.
        Rosalind was in excellent situation to be a very high society bimbo. Instead she chose mountain climbing (literally, and figuratively).

        • red Says:

          lot of (most of rich 3% ‘ers) people are routinely in situations to become high society bimbos. And significant majority choose not become one. Not because they got enlightened at young age, Its just not their thing. And some chose not to just as a rebel, or disillusioned, or to prove something (to their dad, or somebody that insulted their bimbo’ness). There could be 100 other reasons.

          • Patrice Ayme Says:

            Franklin’s work with radiation was hard, and known to be dangerous at the time (but not how much it really was). She was not just shooting the breeze as the opportunistic Watson and Crick. Crick pushed cynicism to noticing that she had done many other things besides the double helix (not only she got the imbricated helices right, but also how the elements therein were disposed: W & C had it inside out), so she was not just obsessive about it.

            Just like Buddha, a prince, enlightenment comes best to the 3%… Not to say the 1%… Plato, Aristotle, were from the .1%…for example. Even Joan of Arc, who knew many languages and was trained in the art of wars, was from up there…

  10. Dominique Deux Says:

    Fascinating, enlightening, well worth the read. Nothing to nitpick about. Rats.

    One small question: you use (not giving a second thought to it) the expression “to go ballistic”. I understand it is commonly used, as you do, to mean “to wax furious”. Or “to blow a gasket” (in French: “péter les plombs”.

    Yet AFAIK a self-propelled missile “goes ballistic” when it loses propulsion and its trajectory is then dictated by gravity, inertia and fluid mechanics only. Hardly the stuff of explosively increased fury.

    The threat associated with the expression might come from the fact that many military missiles (from VIs and V2s to ICBMs) actually flew (or rather, fell down) the last leg on their journey on empty fuel reserves, so going ballistic was the stage before lethal explosion, But I don’t see how this applies to people or groups “going ballistic”.

    Unless it means that they then lose (or renounce) their ability to steer a rational course?

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Thanks Dominique, your appreciation tells me I’m going in the right direction.
      Ballistic comes from the Greek “ballein”, to throw. Ballistic missile is first attested 1954; actually, once propulsion is stopped, such missiles fall all the way, using Buridan’s Law Of Inertia. Hence the figurative expression going ballistic (1981) “becoming irrationally angry.”

      Recent missiles maneuver, though, to evade defenses. Even better, Russia’s Iskander missiles, deployed in Kaliningrad (in violation of accords signed with Reagan!) do not go more than 50 kilometers high (so are nearly impossible to intercept by the USA “Standard Missiles” embarked on ships, and that can shoot down even satellites).

      See picture and link in:

  11. Patrice Ayme Says:

    [Sent to Guardian, June 23 2015.]

    Clearly, the fundamental work was Franklin. Even the article:

    makes this clear: no Franklin, and her picture 51, no Watson and Crick. The rest is sexist rationalizations. See:

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