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Published on Apr 25, 2012
The discovery of the "double helix" DNA structure by James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins - which won the Nobel Prize in 1962 - ranks as the single most formidable scientific discovery in modern history. Yet in retrospect, the events are bittersweet, for beneath lies buried a tragic irony: Watson, Crick and Wilkins might never have reached their conclusions (or, at least, reached the conclusions as early as they did) without a massive contribution from a crystallographer and molecular biologist named Rosalind Franklin - a contribution that went publicly uncredited and undocumented. Franklin made the fateful decision to share one of her pivotal X-ray photographs of an inner molecular structure to the deputy director of her lab, Wilkins - who then, without Franklin's knowledge, casually revealed the image (known as 'Photograph 51') to Watson and Crick.