DNA : the secret of photo 51.

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This documentary investigates the story behind the work of Scientist Rosalind Franklin, which led James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins to the discovery of the double-helix DNA structure in 1953. Author Brenda Maddox discusses her motivations for writing a biography of Rosalind Franklin. Maurice Wilkins reflects on his impressions of Rosalind Franklin. Sue Richley and Anne Piper discuss their friendship with Franklin. The process of X-ray Crystallography is explained. Vittorio Luzzati and Lynne Osman Elkin reflect upon Franklin’s work and life in Paris. Kimberly Mowry exhibits and explains DNA. Professor Raymond Gosling is visited at King’s College, University of London, who recalls his time researching DNA with Franklin. Luzzati and others discuss Franklin’s dislike of the male-centric atmosphere of King’s and her strained working relationship with Wilkins. Sir Aaron Klug exhibits some of Franklin’s working notebooks. Clips are shown of James Watson reflecting upon his attempts to work with Wilkins in the BBC programme ‘Race for the Double Helix’ (1974). Mowry and others discuss Franklin’s discovery of two distinct forms of DNA. Klug describes a colloquium Franklin holds in 1951 regarding her discovery of DNA models A and B. Gosling recalls presenting a DNA model to Franklin based on his and Crick’s research. Maddox explains Wilkin’s role in the covert sharing of Franklin’s work with Crick and Watson. Joanne Yeh exhibits an example of the DNA fibres Franklin would have worked with and compares Franklin’s X-ray Diffractometer with contemporary practises using modernised equipment. Wilkins recalls his initial encounter with Franklin’s Photo 51. Former Editor of Nature, John Maddox discusses the controversy surrounding the publication of the various scientists’ findings. Klug discusses Franklin’s work on viruses at Birkbeck College, University of London. Colleagues of Franklin, Donald Caspar and Luzzati reflect upon Franklin’s final years, and her time suffering ovarian cancer.


Boston : WGBH Educational Foundation, [2007]

Physical description

1 DVD (56 min.) : sound, colour ; 12 cm

Copyright note

Nova Production.

Creator/production credits

Written, produced and directed by Gary Glassman.
Narrated by Sigourney Weaver.



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