After the double helix Rosalind Franklin's research on tobacco mosaic virus

Angela N.H. Creager, Gregory J. Morgan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Rosalind Franklin is best known for her informative X-ray diffraction patterns of DNA that provided vital clues for James Watson and Francis Crick's double-stranded helical model. Her scientific career did not end when she left the DNA work at. King's College, however. In 1953 Franklin moved to J. D. Denial's crystallography laboratory at Birkbeck College, where she shifted her focus to the three-dimensional structure of viruses, obtaining diffraction patterns of Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) of unprecedented detail and clarity. During the next five years, while making significant headway on the structural determination of TMV, Franklin maintained an active correspondence with both Watson and Crick, who were also studying aspects of virus structure. Developments in TMV research during the 1950s illustrate the connections in the emerging field of molecular biology between structural studies of nucleic acids and of proteins and viruses. They also reveal how the protagonists of the "race for the double helix" continued to interact personally and professionally during the years when Watson and Crick's model for the double-helical structure of DNA was debated and confirmed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-272
Number of pages34
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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