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Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Franklin & Gosling Nature paper (1953)

Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling published their results on the structure of DNA in a Nature paper that immediately followed the famous Watson & Crick paper [The Watson & Crick Nature Paper (1953)]. Franklin had completed the manuscript before traveling up to Cambridge to see the Watson & Crick model of DNA but she was able to make changes to her paper before submitting it in early April 1953. A PDF of the paper as it appeared in the journal is here and the original manuscript is here.

The title of the paper, "Molecular Configuration in Sodium Thymonucleate," gives us a clue to why this paper has been ignored and the Watson & Crick paper gets all the attention. The Franklin & Gosling paper is full of obscure references and equations and it's significance can only be recognized because of the paper that preceded it in the April 25th, 1953 issue of Nature. The writing style is ponderous and it does not convey any of the sense of excitement found in the Watson & Crick paper [see April 25, 1953: Three papers, three Lessons].

Franklin and Gosling conclude that DNA is "probably helical," the phosphate groups lie on the outside, and there are probably two strands. They state,
Thus our general ideas are not inconsistent with the model proposed by Watson and Crick in the preceding communication.
As is the case in the Watson & Crick paper, papers in the same issue of the journal are not specifically referenced. If you follow the link to the typed manuscript (above) you can see that this sentence was inserted by hand.

Franklin & Gosling acknowledge their colleagues at the end of the paper in the same manner we saw in the Watson & Crick paper.
We are grateful to Prof. J.T. Randall for his interest and to Drs. F.H.C. Crick, A.R. Stokes, and M.H.F. Wilkins for discussion.

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