Markham here joined others in criticizing what she considered misleading statements Crick had made in his essay, "How
to Live with a Golden Helix" (The Sciences, vol. 19, Sept. 1979, pp. 6-9), regarding Rosalind Franklin's approach
to science, namely that her alleged rigidity of character, a result of her upbringing, made her overly concerned with producing
definitive experimental evidence before drawing conclusions, and unwilling to trust intuition. Even though Crick became a
friend of Franklin's during the last five years of her life, he often struggled to fully assess her role in the discovery
of the DNA double helix. He and Watson had relied on her experimental evidence in their discovery, but had done so without
her knowledge and without giving her full credit in their first published accounts of the DNA structure.
Item is a photocopy.
Number of Image Pages:
1 (123,113 Bytes)
1979-09-12 (September 12, 1979)
Original Repository: Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine. Francis Harry Compton Crick Papers
Courtesy of the Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine.
The National Library of Medicine's Profiles in Science
program has made every effort to secure proper permissions
for posting items on the web site. In this instance, however,
it has either not been possible to identify or contact the
current copyright owner.
If you have information regarding the copyright owner,
please contact us at
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
The Discovery of the Double Helix, 1951-1953
How to Live with a Golden Helix (September 1979)
Letter from Francis Crick to the Editor of The Sciences (October 2, 1979)
Letter from Charlotte Friend to the Editor of The Sciences (December 1979)
Letter from Charlotte Friend to Francis Crick (September 11, 1979)
Letter from Francis Crick to Charlotte Friend (September 18, 1979)
Letter from Aaron Klug to Francis Crick (September 18, 1979)
Letter from Aaron Klug to Francis Crick (October 9, 1979)
As one who had long admired you and your work, and had frequent occasion to interview you and report on your accomplishments
in the 1950's and 1960's (including one long auto ride shared with you and Harriet Taylor-Ephrussi and others en route
from Chicago, where we had all missed a plane connection due to bedeviling fog and had to reach Purdue for its 100th anniversary
celebration the next day), I have continued to read with great interest your articles over the years. But I'm completely
taken aback by your recent comment in September, 1979, The Sciences, with respect to your rationale for the "problems"
of R. Franklin.
Indeed, I wonder if we are even referring to the same scientist, or if you have ever bothered to read Anne Sayre's book.
Or, if having done so, you then consider it a gross fabrication from beginning to end. I assure you I do not and neither
do many of my colleagues. The record speaks for itself.
I am baffled by your version of the underlying psychodynamics. Are we not all "victims" of the parents we have and
the circumstances in which we are unwittingly born? Of course you are right about one point: had Franklin been sufficiently
prescient to have chosen other parents her life would have been different. Had she been born not Jewish but Anglican, not
affluent but poor (which always makes it easier for others to be patronizing), not female but male, not in an up-tight British
society but a more liberal one, the going might have been easier.
As for her not wanting to "share" discoveries with others -- if indeed that was the case -- then she had lots of company.
The number of "careful" scientists, both male and female, who have confessed this to me and given me reasons why,
is legion. You may be sure that any time a capable woman refuses "help" from male peers it is for good reason. They
have cause to fear cannibalization of their own results. If that's soap opera, so be it.
Most baffling of all, you apparently consider it a handicap to be "too determined to be scientifically sound" and
laud shortcuts for their own sake. Alas, had I only had you as an instructor at Radcliffe I might have been able to graduate
without so much effort on my part in being thorough and "scientifically sound."