Matthew talks about Rosalind Franklin tomorrow

Mark your calendar for tomorrow: Matthew Cobb, sponsored by the groups indicated below, will be talking about the scientific contributions of Rosalind Franklin, and will, I’m sure, dispel many misconceptions that have accreted around her life. He’s kicking off a series of talks on women in science.

This talk will be virtual, but you have to register in advance to see it (it’s free), and then test your connection, as there are two ways to connect. (The site walks you through it.) Registration is here, or you can click on the screenshot below. And. . . you can even ask questions.

Note that it’s at 11 a.m. Eastern time or 5 p.m. Central European Time.

Here’s Matthew’s own summary:
It’s a 40 minute talk (already recorded), followed by live Q&A that might go on for some time. It’s about Franklin’s life, not simply the DNA years. It puts particular emphasis on her post-DNA work on viruses, and casts a rather different light on people’s impressions of what the double helix meant at the time. It doesn’t go into her love life nor do I call her ‘Rosalind’. She is ‘Franklin’ throughout. It was fascinating working on this and helped clarify my views of her – which are even more positive than they were before I began. Includes lots of photos, extracts from her letters to Watson, etc etc.
And here’s the official blurb for the talk:
If you’ve registered, you can go here and click on the “Already registered? Click here” button, or click on the screenshot below. Note on the webinar page there’s a button for asking questions. Put Matthew in the hot seat!


  1. phoffman56
    Posted October 15, 2020 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Also recommended, and for more detail, is the 2002 biography by Brenda Maddox entitled “Rosalind Franklin– The Dark Lady of DNA”

    I think it was recommended here; I got it and read it recently. And then I purchased another to be a gift. Well written, not just hagiography–my impression from reading expert(s) (from here IIRC) is that the scientific details are very accurate.

  2. C.
    Posted October 15, 2020 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure this will be enlightening, but can I admit I cringe at the title of the series? Women in Science…wont it be wonderful when we can get past this type of identity politics and just focus on scientists? Rather than admire people for their biological sex, gender identity, race, ethnicity, maybe some day we can just admire them for their contributions to science. I don’t admire Libbie H.Hyman because she was a woman or because she was Jewish, but for her multi-volume textbooks on invertebrates and her scientific papers on Turbellaria.

    Note, that is NOT a criticism of the series or of Dr. Cobb, just my general feeling around current ideologies that irk me. I have grown quite weary of things like Lab GIRL or GRRL science or HERpers… but I get it, it’s a response to decades of willful exclusion, chauvinism, and bigotry. I’m just looking forward to a future without this sort of thing. ✌️

  3. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 16, 2020 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    I registered and checked spam and browser on mobile – works – and it isn’t letting me in. Might need to check more spam…

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted October 16, 2020 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      Switched browser – works.

      Amazing – her notebook. This stuff is great!

  4. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 16, 2020 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    My recent thinkings have suggested the following thought experiment/counter factual:

    What if the Nobel Prize did not ever exist – how would this story settle in your mind?

    That is, if Watson, Crick, and Wilkins never got the prize, I think the roles of those involved would not be so distorted as they are – without even bringing up other factors that we are too familiar with.

    Interesting talk! Again, a refreshing take on a topic I thought had nothing new to find!

    • C.
      Posted October 17, 2020 at 7:33 am | Permalink

      Excellent point. We praise Franklin for the work she did and many books have been written about her. She is definitely not overlooked by science or the science groupies like myself. Is the prize so very important? I wonder perhaps if it is time to move away from prizes completely. The real honors are how often your work is cited, what them lasting impact of your work is, and I suppose because we are only human, how much your fellow scientists respect you. Your question has altered my opinion of the Nobel Prizes. Thank you for stimulating my little grey cells!

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted October 17, 2020 at 7:50 am | Permalink

        “ I wonder perhaps if it is time to move away from prizes completely. “

        At one point was into that angle. However, I see three things against it:

        1. The Nobel Prizes truly serve as a figurative museum of great discoveries, illustrating a progression… though it has a sort of royalty that is peculiar.

        2. See below

        3. It will never happen.

        “ Your question has altered my opinion of the Nobel Prizes. Thank you for stimulating my little grey cells!”

        Thank you, Poirot to my Hastings 🙂 I think this is the important point – I was letting the Nobel Prize distort my thinking.

    • phoffman56
      Posted October 17, 2020 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

      Prizes often tell us more about the awarders than about the awarded.

      However for me it is sometimes a valuable way to learn about something I had completely missed.

  5. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 16, 2020 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    my computer crashed before the Q&A finished – will the Q&A/dicussion be archived as well?

    in case I can ask here :

    1. Is there evidence her ovarian cancer was inherited (it appears it is partly heritable)?

    2. What obstacles were there to Franklin maintaining her health – that is, admitting the standards of the time, how well understood was ovarian cancer?

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