"Our dark lady is leaving us next week"; on the 7th of March, 1953, Maurice Wilkins of King's College, London, wrote to Francis Crick at the Cavendish laboratories in Cambridge to say that as soon as his obstructive female colleague was gone from King's, he, Crick, and James Watson, a young American working with Crick, could go full speed ahead with solving the structure of the DNA molecule that lies in every gene. Not long after, the pair announced to the world that they had discovered the secret of life. But could Crick and Watson have done it without the "dark lady"? In two years at King's, Rosalind Franklin had made major contributions to the understanding of DNA. She established its existence in two forms and she worked out the position of the phosphorous atoms in its backbone. Most crucially, using X-ray techniques that may have contributed significantly to her later death from cancer at the tragically young age of 37, she had taken beautiful photographs of the patterns of DNA.
This biography tells the story of Rosalind Franklin - the single-minded young scientist whose contribution to arguably one of the most significant discoveries of all time went unrecognized, elbowed aside in the rush for glory, and who died too young to recover her claim to some of that reputation.
Brenda Maddox graduated from Harvard and has written several biographies of Elizabeth Taylor, D.H.Lawrence, Nora Joyce and W.B. Yeats. She has two children, and is married to the editor emeritus of Nature Sir John Maddox; she is a past chairman of the Association of British Science Writers and former judge of science writing in competitions such as that of the Committee for Public Understanding of Science