Remembering Rosalind Franklin: Rosalind Franklin & the Discovery of the Double Helix Structure of DNA

Little, Brown/Christy Ottaviano. Feb. 2024. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316351249.
Gr 3-6–This poignant picture book unveils the life of the gifted molecular biologist, Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958), born in London, to a large and supportive Jewish family, renowned for capturing the X-ray diffraction photograph that illuminated the double helix structure of DNA. The author skillfully weaves a narrative of Franklin’s independent spirit, love of nature, and unwavering intellectual pursuit. However, the tale opens on and returns to a somber tone when it covers how James D. Watson and Francis Crick, with Maurice Wilkins, Franklin’s male colleagues, exploited her groundbreaking discovery without her knowledge, ultimately leading to their co-winning of the Nobel Prize. In the soft watercolor-like scenes, Franklin looks like a grown Fern from Garth Williams’s illustrations of E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web; these create a nostalgic backdrop for Franklin’s journey. An enlightening author’s note adds depth to the narrative, recounting Stone’s fortuitous encounter with Crick. Crick regretfully acknowledged Franklin’s brilliance, shedding light on the historical injustice she faced. Stone also notes the “Matilda Effect,” the sadly common occurrence of a woman’s accomplishment discounted or attributed to a male counterpart. The back matter includes quotes and sources.
VERDICT While the book’s technical vocabulary and complex scientific concepts may pose a minimal challenge for younger readers, older students with an appreciation for learning about lesser-known historical figures and an interest in science will find inspiration in Franklin’s resilience. Remember Rosalind? She’s unforgettable.

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