In this letter, J. T. Randall told Franklin that he wished to change the focus of the work she planned to do at King's
College. Instead of studying proteins in solution, she would look at DNA fibers. He stated that "as far as the experimental
X-ray effort is concerned, there will be at the moment only yourself and Gosling . . ." and thereby set the stage for
conflicts between Franklin and Maurice Wilkins.
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1950-12-04 (December 4, 1950)
Randall, J. T.
King's College London
Original Repository: Churchill Archives Centre. The Papers of Rosalind Franklin
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I am sorry I have taken so long to reply to your letter of November 24th. The real difficulty has been that the X-ray work
here is in a somewhat fluid state and the slant on the research has changed rather since you were last here.
After very careful consideration and discussion with the senior people concerned, it now seems that it would be a good deal
more important for you to investigate the structure of certain biological fibres in which we are interested, both by low and
high angle diffraction, rather than to continue with the original project of work on solutions as the major one.
Dr. Stokes, as I have long inferred, really wishes to concern himself almost entirely with theoretical problems in the future
and these will not necessarily be confined to X-ray optics. It will probably involve microscopy in general. This means that
as far as the experimental X-ray effort is concerned there will be at the moment only yourself and Gosling, together with
the temporary assistance of a graduate from Syracuse, Mrs. Heller. Gosling, working in conjunction with Wilkins, has already
found that fibres of desoxyribose nucleic acid derived from material provided by Professor Signer of Bern gives remarkably
good fibre diagrams. The fibres are strongly negatively birefringent and become positive on stretching, and are reversible
in a moist atmosphere. As you no doubt know, nucleic acid is an extremely important constituent of cells and it seems to us
that it would be very valuable if this could be followed up in detail. If you are agreeable to this change of plan it would
seem that there is no necessity immediately to design a camera for work on solutions. The camera will, however, be extremely
valuable in searching for large spacings from such fibres.
I hope you will understand that I am not in this way suggesting that we should give up all thought of work on solutions, but
we do feel that the work on fibres would be more immediately profitable and, perhaps, fundamental.
I think I must leave to you the question as to whether you come over here for a day or two to discuss these matters further.
It now seems so near to the time when you will actually be working here that it is perhaps hardly necessary for you to make
the special journey. On the other hand there may be things which you could organize on the apparatus side in Paris and you
could hardly do this without further discussion with us. The change of program, such as I have suggested, will probably mean
that we should obtain the formal consent of the Fellowhip Committee; there is no hurry about this and there is no doubt about
Dr. Price has just heard from Mr. Heins of the Rockefeller Foundation that orders have now been placed for your apparatus.