Watson is famous for his 1953 work with Crick where they proposed a modification of Linus Pauling's helix model of DNA. Their basis was some unpublished experimental work taken from Rosalind Franklin at a rival lab. When Pauling saw their papers, he corrected their modification and found the chemical structure of DNA.
Lynne Osman Elkin says:
One of the things I proposed last year at AAAS [the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting] is that I think it should be called the Watson-Crick-Franklin structure. As far as I'm concerned, she was a de facto collaborator. Maybe she didn't give them her information directly. But every time they hit a stumbling point, it was her information that they got from Wilkins that straightened it out.Watson was promoting a new edition of his 1968 book that brags about stealing Franklin's data and unpublished theories, and then tricking her into publishing her paper after the famous Watson-Crick paper. The public was thereby fooled into thinking that her work was done to confirm the Watson-Crick model, when it was actually the chief inspiration for the model.
In the Friday interview, Watson continued to badmouth her, and to refuse to give her credit for what she did. He even boasted that she died without knowing how he and Crick had cheated her.
Watson also claimed to not remember saying that Africans are stupid, and then mumbled something about not wanting to be quoted. His answers to other questions, such as about what defines good science, were surprisingly lame.
I have written extensively about how Einstein has been over-credited for relativity, thereby fueling speculation about how credit relates to his Jewishness. In the case of DNA, Watson, Crick, and Franklin were all atheists, and only Franklin was of Jewish descent. If there is a Jewish conspiracy to credit Jews, then Franklin should have been credited. It has been alleged that sexism was at work, but I do not see any evidence that she was mistreated because she was a woman or a Jew. It appears to me that Watson and Crick were just dishonest and greedy for the credit, and others failed to stick up for her.
"Watson and Crick were just dishonest and greedy for the credit, and others failed to stick up for her."ReplyDelete
I think that's right - I've never like Watson.
This post is not supported by the facts. At frequent intervals a rewriting of history is proposed in which Rosalind Franklin is the real discoverer of the structure of DNA. This so far has been less successful than Einstein's coronation as the greatest physicist. Rosalind Franklin was an experimenter working for Maurice Wilkins at London University charged by him with taking x-ray chrystallographs of DNA using an apparatus designed by Sir Laurence Bragg in order to assist Wilkins determine its structure. Franklin appears to have decided that she would deduce the structure herself. Independently, Francis Crick, a physicist who liked to have a sounding board for his ideas, recruited Jim Watson to assist him unravel the structure of DNA at Cambridge. What Crick and Watson did was to put together all the known properties of the constituents of DNA which together with one x-ray supplied by Wilkins confirmed its double helix structure and enabled them to build a model. Franklin did not believe that DNA was helical; she was not able to deduce its structure. Linus Pauling has nothing to do with it. The chemical formula of DNA had been known but its physical structure with the arrangement and angles of the base pairs in a double helix was not. Crick and Watson understood the significance of one specific x-ray of many; Franklin did not; it did not help her at all. The achievement of Crick and Watson was that of synthesis.ReplyDelete
Franklin did NOT work for Wilkins (though Wilkins somehow managed to convince himself that she did.) Franklin DID believe the structure was helical, though she had only solved part of the puzzle herself.... and Crick and Watson did present an early model of theirs to her, and she schooled them on how water and proteins interact, and how their initial model could not be correct (she was right, and this set them on the correct course.)
You say Pauling had nothing to do with it? You are wrong. His role is documented in this web exhibit.ReplyDelete
What you (and Watson) say about Franklin is false. At one point she said that the A-form of DNA was not helical, but she had written a manuscript that modeled DNA as a double helix before Watson and Crick found their model. The Wikipedia page has the reference.
Watson and Crick admitted that their discovery depended crucially on Franklin's unpublished work, and that they never told her how they stole credit for what she did.
My criticism of Watson is that he still refuses to credit Franklin for what she did. Even if she had some misunderstandings, or had some disagreeable personality traits, he should still credit her for what she did. He does not. He just badmouths her. Her work made him famous and he refused to acknowledge it in the interview.
As you are quoting Wikipedia, can you can confirm your endorsement of the entry for Albert Einstein? Wikipedia can be very helpful with non-contentious issues, or rather those histories which are not subject to rewriting by a certain group of people. I know of one person whose entry is fabricated by these people and he cannot correct it because they have it locked.ReplyDelete
Linus Pauling was certainly in the race to discover the structure of DNA with Laurence Bragg after his prior achievement on the alpha helix. Here is a quote from the official short Nobel biography of Francis Crick:
"In 1947 Crick knew no biology and practically no organic chemistry or crystallography, so that much of the next few years was spent in learning the elements of these subjects. During this period, together with W. Cochran and V. Vand he worked out the general theory of X-ray diffraction by a helix, and at the same time as L. Pauling and R. B. Corey, suggested that the alpha-keratin pattern was due to alpha-helices coiled round each other."
In the controversy over Franklin, the crucial roles of Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins have been quite deliberate sidelined. Nobody denies that Franklin took 'the' x-ray; however, it meant a lot more to Crick than to her. Crick had trained as a Physicist, worked as an engineer during the war in the design of weapons, and had a very powerful visual intelligence, something which appears to be lacking amongst many modern physicists. His later career demonstrated that he did belong to the first rank of scientists.
I agree that Watson is being rather silly and churlish; however, as to the question of whether Franklin would have deduced the DNA structure given time; one would have to credit her with being a scientist of the first rank for that to be true and there is no evidence of that. The fact is that Franklin was supposed to be working for Wilkins in his lab, but rather than behaving collaborately with him, she attempted to keep her work to herself and lock him out; as far as Wilkins was concerned, however, her work was not secret and she was not exclusively empowered to unravel the DNA structure.
I feel that I need to add, although this is quite an old thread, that Rosalind Franklin was not working FOR Wilkins, though he believed that she was. They were actually peers. Also, there was quite a lot, except for the helical structure, which she DID discover and Watson and Crick received a copy of her full report. For instance, she laid out the amount of water in the structure (which is extremely vital to the understanding of DNA structure.) She also correctly said that the phosphates should be on the backbone. Aside from DNA, she was considered an expert at that time in the properties of carbon,coal and related substances. After being at King's, she led a team in discovering the structure of the Tobacco Mosaic Virus. Because she died in her thirties, I do not believe it is possible to make an informed decision about whether she was a first-rank scientist or not.Delete
Wikipedia is factually quite good on Einstein and relativity. I have posted several disagreements, but at least it usually gives sources in contentious areas.ReplyDelete
I do not know whether Franklin was a "scientist of the first rank", or whether she would have discovered the structure on her own. I am not speculating about what she might have done. I simply say that she should be credited for what she did, and for the role her work played in the discovery of DNA properties. Watson and Crick did not do that when she was alive, and Watson continues to refuse to credit her in this interview.
Instead, you and Watson badmouth her. Why do you make a point of saying that she was not collaborating with Wilkins? Does that relate to anything I said? Were you just looking for something negative to say about her?
Maybe Franklin did not trust Wilkins. From what we know now, Wilkins secretly stole her work and got the Nobel Prize that she should have gotten. So maybe she had good reason not to trust him.
"Why do you make a point of saying that she was not collaborating with Wilkins?"ReplyDelete
Because she was supposed to be calloborating with Wilkins who was the senior researcher and she did precisely the opposite. She tried to win the Nobel Prize on her own. She refused to collaborate; perhaps she objected to working with goyim? However, as it happens, Franklin died of cancer before the Nobel Prize for DNA was awarded so she would not have qualified anyhow.
Not only is the slur to her character underscored with 'she objected to working with goyim' utterly offensive, but where do you get off with this portrait in the first place? She was offended that he inserted himself above her as he superior and gave her poor equipment and the worst lab. He refused to acknowledge her as an expert and an equal. The issue wasn't her bigotry but his. I agree with anonymous. From what I read she wasn't working for him, he just wouldn't accept that.Delete
Your offensive slur not withstanding, I agree with anonymous. From my readings she was not under Wilkins, he just couldn't stand the idea of a woman being his equal. He assigned her to the worst lab, and bothered her all the time. And yes, Watson and Crick were stuck. Wilkins smuggled her work out to them knowing it was important, why else would he? Her work was stolen. That's all. Anything more about whether she was a first rate researcher or otherwise is not only off the mark, it's cruel, and probably sexist. The three principle men in this shabby story certainly were. Women in science really had an uphill battle in those days and she sadly literally lost hers.Delete
I don't see any evidence that Franklin refused to collaborate, as her Wikipedia page has her collaborating with others. But let's suppose that you are right, and she wanted to win her own Nobel Prize or she disliked Wilkins. Why is that a reason to deny her credit for what she did? People still credit Watson, in spite of his character flaws.ReplyDelete
I saw a tv programme during Wilkins lifetime, in which he more or less made this case. I suggest you look at Wilkins' wiki page which explains how this situation arose.ReplyDelete
I have no idea why Franklin was assigned the role at London. She had a second class degree in Chemistry. Perhaps it was as a result of her family background which appears in much greater detail for her than for the other scientists involved. Suffice it to say, it required someone like Crick with his strong mathematical skills to actually deduce the structure of DNA. Anyone looking at the relevent x-ray can see that it would not provoke a eureka moment in anyone who had not worked out much more about the composition and arrangement of the base chains and without a very strong mathematical background.
I'm really no sure what credit is being denied Franklin; everybody knows she took the x-ray used to confirm the double helix structure of DNA; however, neither could she see that that was the case, nor did she have the other skills necessary to deduce the complete structure. Most science is a collaborative effort and that applied to DNA as well. Maybe more people should have shared the Nobel prize, but three living persons is the rule.
The Rosalind Franklin was robbed meme has been going on for decades and has become more elaborate with the elapse of time. Needless to say, the Marxist 'neurobiologist' Prof Steven Rose of the illustrious (ho hum) Open University and others were able to exact revenge when they stirred the pot in the UK and got Watson's lecture tour cancelled, culminating in his firing from his university post over his views on the distribution of intelligence amongst races. On the whole I think Watson has been treated extremely badly by some extremely vindictive and some extremely cowardly people. He may not be a great diplomat, but he has had a lifetime of achievement in science.
If you wish to have the last word, be my guest, as I am your's. I actually enjoy reading your blog and have learned quite a bit from it.
The meme is an entirely appropriate one. Watson and Crick's findings insufficiently rewarded the contributions to their model that Franklin made... in not just the x-ray crystallography but her criticism of their work, which is what put them on the right path.Delete
You act as if Watson and Crick had some sort of special talents that make them uniquely able to deduce the DNA structure. But by their own accounts, they rushed into print because they were scared that Pauling or someone else would quickly come to the same conclusions if they had better crystallographic data.ReplyDelete
Even if everything you say is true, that Franklin was lacking in skills, that Watson was a victim of Marxist revenge, etc, I don't see how any of that has anything to do with my points here.
My beef with Watson is that he is still lying about Franklin, unnecessarily badmouthing her, and refusing to credit her. I base this on last week's interview.
When asked about not crediting Franklin properly for her picture, Watson says at 16:40, "I've forgotten the details. ... I never felt guilty. She had the photograph for about eight months. ... We were very pleased that when we got the Nobel prize that Maurice Wilkins shared with us. Rosalind had been dead for five years. ... She had difficulty seeing social clues. ... I don't think she thought we took advantage of her."
This is just unbelievably slimy. Watson gives the impression that he was really happy that Franklin had died before the Nobel prize was given.
He seems to be saying that he had a right to steal the picture because she sat on it for 8 months.
He obviously remembers the details. He was promoting a book that describes the details. She never even knew that they took advantage of her, so her failure to object means nothing. Why does he have to make a point out of saying that he was pleased that Wilkins shared the Nobel prize? He wasn't asked about Wilkins. The comment serves no purpose except to imply that he was glad that Franklin did not get a prize. The comment about her social difficulty also serves no purpose except as a mean-spirited put-down.
Watson could have said, "We made crucial use of her data. It is too bad that she did not get more credit when she was alive to appreciate it." That would have cost him nothing, as his book already explains how they made use of her data.
Watson also says, "She didn't want DNA to be a helix." (at 15:35) This is really dishonest. She had written a paper modeling DNA as a double helix. As the interviewer asks, what possible difference could it make what she wanted DNA to be?
This is crazy. I don't trust anything Watson says, if it could be a self-serving lie.
"You act as if Watson and Crick had some sort of special talents that make them uniquely able to deduce the DNA structure." I was trying to say that they were a balanced team that was fully equiped intellectually and by scientific pedigree, but not uniquely, to the task. I agree that they knew it was a 'race' with such as Linus Pauling. That's why they were frustrated by the fact that Franklin had been allocated the equipment and the best sampling material available and had then attempted to sit on her results, indefinitely, without sharing them.ReplyDelete
Watson could have said, "I was not eager to credit Franklin because I viewed her as a rival. We did make use of her work, as I described in my book." Or maybe, "I hated Franklin because her influence contributed to our DNA project being suspended, and I resent the suggestion that she was ahead of us in figuring out the structure of DNA. But she had some great crystallographic data that no one else had." Or maybe, "Should should have published her data right away, and then we would not have had to steal it. But then Pauling and others might have figured it out first, so I am glad that we got to her data first."ReplyDelete
"[Rosalind Franklin] became friends with both Watson and Crick, and spent her last period of remission from ovarian cancer in Crick's house (Franklin died in 1958). Crick believed that he and Watson used her evidence appropriately, while admitting that their patronizing attitude towards her, so apparent in The Double Helix [author: J D Watson], reflected contemporary conventions of gender in science.]"ReplyDelete
It is a matter of conjecture whether, had she lived, she would have shared the Nobel with Crick and Watson; it is very probable.
Watson's behaviour is unseamly (this article reveals he has form), especially with Franklin's premature demise, but those who claim that Crick and Watson stole the Nobel prize, as though they, themselves, had not made very significant advances, are being economical with the vérité.
I doubt that Franklin would have gotten the prize in 1962, when the others got it. The prize could have been given several years earlier when she was still alive, but records show that she was not even nominated.ReplyDelete
Her crucial role in the DNA discovery was not publicly known until Watson's 1968 book. Crick was opposed to that book. Watson also badmouthed her in the book. Today he seems unwilling to give her the same credit he gives her in the book.
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I feel that I need to add, although this is quite an old thread, that Rosalind Franklin was not working FOR Wilkins, though he believed that she was. They were actually peers. Also, there was quite a lot, except for the helical structure, which she DID discover and Watson and Crick received a copy of her full report. For instance, she laid out the amount of water in the structure (which is extremely vital to the understanding of DNA structure.) She also correctly said that the phosphates should be on the backbone. Aside from DNA, she was considered an expert at that time in the properties of carbon,coal and related substances. After being at King's, she led a team in discovering the structure of the Tobacco Mosaic Virus. Because she died in her thirties, I do not believe it is possible to make an informed decision about whether she was a first-rank scientist or not.