On 6 May 1952, at King’s College London in London, England, Rosalind Franklin photographed her fifty-first X-ray diffraction pattern of deoxyribosenucleic acid, or DNA. Photograph 51, or Photo 51, revealed information about DNA’s three-dimensional structure by displaying the way a beam of X-rays scattered off a pure fiber of DNA. Franklin took Photo 51 after scientists confirmed that DNA contained genes. Maurice Wilkins, Franklin’s colleague showed James and Francis Crick Photo 51 without Franklin’s knowledge. Watson and Crick used that image to develop their structural model of DNA. In 1962, after Franklin’s death, Watson, Crick, and Wilkins shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their findings about DNA. Franklin’s Photo 51 helped scientists learn more about the three-dimensional structure of DNA and enabled scientists to understand DNA’s role in heredity.

In April 1953, Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling, published “Molecular Configuration in Sodium Thymonucleate,” in the scientific journal Nature. The article contained Franklin and Gosling’s analysis of their X-ray diffraction pattern of thymonucleate or deoxyribonucleic acid, known as DNA. In the early 1950s, scientists confirmed that genes, the heritable factors that control how organisms develop, contained DNA. However, at the time scientists had not determined how DNA functioned or its three-dimensional structure. In their 1953 paper, Franklin and Gosling interpret X-ray diffraction patterns of DNA fibers that they collected, which show the scattering of X-rays from the fibers. The patterns provided information about the three-dimensional structure of the molecule. “Molecular Configuration in Sodium Thymonucleate” shows the progress Franklin and Gosling made toward understanding the three-dimensional structure of DNA.

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