Linus Pauling and the Race for DNA: A Documentary History All Documents and Media  
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Key Participants

William T. Astbury
Oswald T. Avery
Sir William Lawrence Bragg
Erwin Chargaff
Martha Chase
Robert B. Corey
Francis H. C. Crick
Max Delbrück
Jerry Donohue
Rosalind Franklin
R. D. B. (Bruce) Fraser
Alfred D. Hershey
Linus Pauling
Peter J. Pauling
Max F. Perutz
J. T. (John Turton) Randall
Verner Schomaker
Alexander R. Todd
James D. Watson
Maurice H. F. Wilkins

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Rosalind Franklin.
Rosalind Franklin. March 1956.
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Rosalind Franklin


The Papers of Rosalind Franklin
Location: Churchill Archives Center, Churchill College
Address: Cambridge, CB3 0DS, United Kingdom
Size: 24 boxes
Finding Aid:
Phone: 44-1223-336087  Fax: 44-1223-336135
Email:  Web:

Anne Sayre Collection of Rosalind Franklin Materials
Location: American Society for Microbiology Archives
Address: 1752 N Street N.W., Washington, D. C. 20036
Size: 8 boxes
Finding Aid:
Phone: 202-737-3600  
Email:  Web:



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Published Papers and Official Documents

Manuscript Notes and Typescripts


"I gave Watson essentially the paper on nucleic acids, and after the 12th he showed it. Morris [sic] Wilkins is supposed to be doing this work; Miss Franklin evidently is a fool. Relations are now slightly strained due to the Watson-Crick entering the field. They (W.C.) have some ideas and shall write you immediately. It is really up to them and not to me to tell you about it. We tried to build your structure, and succeeded, I think, it was pretty tight. Perhaps we should try the new one. They are getting pretty involved with their own efforts, and losing objectivity."

Peter Pauling. Letter to Linus and Ava Helen Pauling. March 14, 1953.

"Most people believe that Wilkins could have done it, and they are sure that Pauling could have done it before Watson and Crick, had he been given the data. It is interesting that when Corey went to King's in 1952, Rosalind Franklin took him into a lab and projected the DNA pictures, but Corey was a gentleman and did not attempt to convey this information, or did not remember it precisely enough to give it to Pauling."

Robert Olby. Interview with Gerald James Holton. Plenary Sessions of the Conference on Transforming Conceptions of Modern Science, Bellagio, Italy. September 1969.

"[Franklin] came very much closer to the discovery of the double helix than she has usually been credited with doing."

Anne Sayre. Rosalind Franklin and DNA. 1975.

"In [The Double Helix, Watson] tells about how happy they were, he and Crick, that my husband was not allowed to come because had he come, he would no doubt have seen these excellent photographs that Rosalind Franklin made and had and which, when they saw them, with their other data, they were able to work out the structure of DNA...[If] ever there was a woman who was mistreated, it was Rosalind Franklin, and she didn't get the notice that she should have gotten for her work on DNA."

Ava Helen Pauling. Interview with Lee Herzenberg. September 1977.

"Compared with all previous B patterns that Franklin had obtained, these two pictures were vivid, No. 51 especially so. The overall pattern was a huge blurry diamond. The top and bottom points of the diamond were capped by heavily exposed, dark arcs. From the bull's-eye, a striking arrangement of short, horizontal smears stepped out along the diagonals in the shape of an X or a maltese cross. The pattern shouted helix."

Horace Freeland Judson. The Eighth Day of Creation. 1979.

"Rosalind Franklin was a very intelligent woman, but she really had no reason for believing that DNA was particularly important. She was trained in physical chemistry. I don't think she'd ever spent any length of time with people who thought DNA was important. And she certainly didn't talk to Maurice [Wilkins] or to John Randall, then the professor at Kings."

James Watson. Nature, 302: 653. April 1983.

I discovered that Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling were working together on the structure of DNA, but not in collaboration with Wilkins. Moreover, they had the best DNA preparation. This was a preparation of calf thymus NaDNA that had been given to Wilkins some two years earlier by Rudolf Signer, of Bern, and from gels of which material Wilkins was able to draw thin, uniform fibres showing sharp extinction between crossed polarizers. Gosling and Wilkins had obtained X-ray diffraction photographs from these fibres indicating a high degree of crystallinity, and were a great improvement on those obtained earlier by W. T. Astbury and Florence Bell in their pioneering studies of DNA. They achieved this by passing hydrogen through water and then into the X-ray camera so that the fibres were kept in a moist atmosphere during the exposure.

Hugh Wilson. H. R. Wilson, "The double helix and all that," Reflections on biochemistry, TIBS 13. July 1988.

"Constantly exposing your ideas to informed criticism is very important, and I would venture to say that one reason both of our chief competitors failed to reach the Double Helix before us was that each was effectively very isolated. Rosalind Franklin found small talk awkward and until it was too late did not realize how much good advice Francis would willingly have given her. Had she started to talk to him, Francis would have led her to use her facts to find the base pairs. And then there's Linus Pauling. Linus' fame had gotten himself into a position where everyone was afraid to disagree with him. The only person he could freely talk to was his wife, who reinforced his ego, which isn't what you need in this life."

James Watson. James Watson, "Succeeding in Science: Some Rules of Thumb", Science, 261, 24 (September 1993): 1812. September 1993.

"Let's just start with the Pauling thing. There's a myth which is, you know, that Francis and I basically stole the structure from the people at King's. I was shown Rosalind Franklin's x-ray photograph and, Whooo! that was a helix, and a month later we had the structure, and Wilkins should never have shown me the thing. I didn't go into the drawer and steal it, it was shown to me, and I was told the dimensions, a repeat of 34 angstroms, so, you know, I knew roughly what it meant and, uh, but it was that the Franklin photograph was the key event. It was, psychologically, it mobilised us..."

James Watson. James Watson, Center for Genomic Research Inauguration, Harvard. September 30, 1999.

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