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Why Rosalind Franklin should be the face of the new £50 note

The former Birkbeck scientist was instrumental in the discovery of the structure of DNA, but the Nobel Prize bore only the names of her male colleagues.

Birkbeck is calling for Dr Rosalind Franklin, who worked in the Department of Crystallography here, to be the face of the new £50 note, following a call from the Bank of England for nominations for a figure who has contributed to science.

Dr Franklin was a pioneering force in the biological sciences, most famous for her contributions to the photography and discovery of the structure of DNA – the double helix. The discovery of the structure was awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, but the award only bore the names of Franklin’s male colleagues, Francis Crick, James Watson and Maurice Wilkins.

However, her achievements and legacy in the science community are well established. Anna Ziegler, who wrote a play about Franklin’s life, recalled a conversation she’d had with Professor Don Caspar, one of Franklin’s colleagues. He had told her that “her time at Birkbeck was the most fruitful period of time in her life for her work. For example, she did really incredible work on the tobacco mosaic virus while at Birkbeck, and in fact, had she lived and continued, she would have gone on to get a Nobel Prize for that work. People don’t really know that about her because they associate her with the DNA story.”

Dr Franklin is remembered at Birkbeck through the Rosalind Franklin Molecular Biology Laboratory, currently headed by Dr Renos Savva, and with the annual Rosalind Franklin Lecture which welcomes inspiring women scientists from around the world to share their research.

Master of Birkbeck Professor David Latchman is a signatory on a letter to Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, expressing his support for Rosalind Franklin appearing on the next £50 note. 

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