Rosalind Franklin: Biologist James Watson and physicist Francis Crick solved the riddle of DNA in the 1950s, but they couldn’t have done their work without the findings of other scientists; notably Rosalind Franklin. The daughter of English socialites, Franklin was given every educational opportunity. At every turn, she was faced with resistance from colleagues, employers, and even her own father — a would-be scientist, himself, who worried about a woman’s place in scientific research.
After graduating from Cambridge, Franklin bounced around between jobs in European laboratories, learning cutting edge X-ray techniques. She eventually took a three-year research scholarship at King’s College in London.
Utilizing the radiology techniques she’d learned, Franklin and her lab partner, Maurice Wilkins, took some of the first clear images of DNA structures. The story goes that the pair were having a disagreement when Wilkins, without permission, took his research partner’s unpublished work to his friends, Watson and Crick. Franklin’s images directly informed the two scientists’ first models of DNA structure, yet she was completely uncredited in their published work.
It was only after Franklin’s death at the age of 37, from ovarian cancer, that Watson admitted her work had been “crucial” to his and Crick's discovery. (Photo by Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)