Penn State

Ruyan Guo - Professor of EE / MRI, Penn State University Park

Book Title: Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA

Author: Brenda Maddox

Book Description:

As Chinese literary-critics pointed out different reader perceives quite different stories reading the same book; the book of Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox, has the kind of effect on me and I believe on interested readers. It is an excellent biography, albeit with powerful empathy of the author, about the life of Dr. Rosalind Franklin (1921-1958), who in her tragically short 37 years of life, achieved highly. Her achievement was not measured by her academic rank which was merely 'research associate' at time of her death, nor by awards or honors she garnished. Her name was not to be among the Noble prize winners unlike her 'competitors' or colleagues of her junior in later years. Her achievement was documented in her 37 highly acclaimed scientific papers published on crystallography of substances from carbons to tobacco mosaic virus. Her most memorable achievement, also a source of debate on her due credits, was undoubtedly the ingenious experimental x-ray diffraction and mathematical x-ray analysis that led to the illumination and verification of double helix structure of the DNA. Dr. Rosalind Franklin's life was also complex accompanied by misunderstanding or misinterpretation on both professional and personal levels, when she was alive or after she was gone.

I enjoyed reading this book and hope interested readers will be intrigued to realize the complexity of scientific research and that of personal life intertwined with it. I hope Rosalind's story encourages us to cherish self-confidence while upholding high standard of scientific conducts. By reflecting on the story of her life, I wish more of us could be conscientious about appreciating cultural and personal differences, thus participating, supporting and nourishing scientific collaborations, which will enrich our professional life and extend impact of individual achievements. Finally as an applied researcher in electrical engineering and materials research, I must side with Rosalind that experiments not models can show which structure is right.

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