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Rosalind Franklin and DNA Paperback – July 17, 2000

4.0 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Anyone who read The Double Helix owes it to Franklin to read her story too. -- Newsweek

About the Author

Anne Sayre was a well-known journalist and a close friend of Rosalind Franklin's.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (July 17, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393320448
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393320442
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeremy M. Harris on September 21, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sayre's book is a biography with an agenda. It is also one of the rare instances where an author is sufficiently thoughtful and objective to keep the agenda from ruining the piece.
Rosalind Franklin was a chemist doing x-ray crystallography on DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) in Maurice Wilkins' laboratory at King's College, London. Concurrently, James Watson and Francis Crick were trying to puzzle out DNA's molecular structure in the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge. Technically the two institutions were not competitors, because the English scientific establishment had "ceded" the DNA problem to King's. The world knows that Watson and Crick were first to publish the correct structure of the substance which encodes and controls every detail of the configuration, development, maintenance and reproduction of living things.
Watson and Crick were the kind of bad boys we generally admire. From positions very low on the Cavendish totem pole, they tunneled under, around and through the decorous conventions of incremental science to snatch a Nobel-caliber breakthrough from the very hands of the people who were supposed (eventually) to produce it. They even had a plausible excuse for ethical shortcuts, because the American superstar-chemist Linus Pauling, unconstrained by British decorum, was known to be working on the DNA structure.
In 1968, Watson published "The Double Helix", an entertaining and irreverent personal account of the triumph he and Crick had achieved in 1953. On the positive side, the book gave many people (including myself) their first look at the fascinating scientific and human details of a brilliant achievement in the relatively new field of molecular biology.
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By A Customer on January 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
I read James Watson's "The Double Helix" a number of years ago and assumed that it fairly described the events leading to the discovery of the structure of DNA. I especially remember the very negative impression I formed of Rosalind Franklin from Watson's description of her in that book.
Recently, while browsing in a local bookstore, I came across Sayre's book "Rosalind Franklin and DNA." It caught my attention because I enjoy reading about scientists, their lives, and their work. The book claimed to "set the record straight" concerning the story of Rosalind Franklin which also piqued my interest.
After reading this book, I must admit that I am quite baffled by the September 10, 2001 review from Baltimore below. I can assure anyone thinking about reading this book that it is exceptionally well written and very entertaining (not to mention extremely enlightening).
It is a well structured and convincing argument against Watson's very negative depiction of Franklin as a person and his condescending assessment of her abilities and accomplishments as a scientist. Although it is obvious that Sayre is arguing with the emotional zeal of one defending the reputation of a dear friend, she is very professional and methodical in her approach. She presents an overwhelming amount of testimony from the many people who know Rosalind Franklin intimately, (which Watson did not) and a very thorough and professional review of the pertinent scientific literature (which contradicts almost every opinion Watson gave of Franklin's work and abilities as a scientist). I gained a much better understanding and appreciation for who Rosalind Franklin was and what she really contributed to the pioneering work surrounding DNA.
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Format: Paperback

I read Dr. James Watson's "The Double Helix"(1968) years ago. In it, he badly caricatured Dr. Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958) by systematically stereotyping her. (However, in his book's epilogue he does admit that his initial impressions of her were often wrong.)

I forgot about this until I read the late Dr. Linus Pauling's "How to Live Longer and Feel Better" (1986). In the 'About the Author' section I read the following: "Watson and [Dr. Francis] Crick [both of whom worked in the Cavendish lab at Cambridge University, England] proposed the double-helix structure, which turned out to be correct. Watson and Crick had the advantage of X-ray [diffraction] photographs of DNA taken by Rosalind Franklin [who worked in a lab at King's College, a division of the University of London], an advantage denied Pauling [who worked overseas in a U.S. lab]."

Years later I read "Linus Pauling: Scientist and Peacemaker" (2001). One science article in this book called "The Triple Helix" said Pauling saw Franklin as "a talented young crystallographer [a scientist who is expert in structure and properties of crystals]" and that he had great admiration for her abilities. It also states that "[Dr. Maurice] Wilkins [the scientist who 'worked with' Franklin at King's College] was not...well trained in [the] interpretation of X-ray photos [like Franklin was]."

Thus, my interest was aroused!! I wanted to learn more about Franklin. I thus chose Anne Sayre's book for two reasons:

(1) It was originally published in 1975, just over 15 years after Franklin's death meaning the memories of events were still relatively fresh in people's minds and key people were still alive. (Contrast this to a book written in 2002, ALMOST 45 YEARS after Franklin's death.
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