A physical chemist and an expert in the analysis of complex molecular structures by means of X-ray crystallography. Most famous for her work in creating the X-ray diffraction patterns that enabled Crick and Watson to decode the structure of DNA.
Franklin was educated at St Paul's School for Girls in London and Newnham College, Cambridge. In 1941 she started work on a doctorate, studying the structure of coal and charcoal. She pursued her studies in France for a further three years, learning the techniques of X-ray diffraction. In 1951 she joined a laboratory at King's College, London where she began to study the structure of DNA.
In the same laboratory Maurice Wilkins had already begun to work on DNA, and the difference between his and Franklin's responsibilities was unclear. In Cambridge, Francis Crick and James Watson were also studying the structure of DNA.
Franklin was unhappy at Kings and moved across London to Birkbeck College. As she was leaving, Maurice Wilkins gave her key X-ray image to James Watson.
Franklin died of cancer before being awaded the Nobel Prize in 1962.