watson & crick

I’ve been binge listening to the Improvised Star Trek podcast and it is super great. I love all the characters, but I’m absolutely charmed by the resident Chief Science Officer Crick Watson. Who is definitely not a robot but is a little bit of a mad scientist.

Also I have no idea which uniform he should be wearing besides that it had to be blue? I’m sorry to more hardcore Star Trek fans -_-  

who to fight from the history of science

James Watson: You should definitely fight Watson. If anyone deserves a swift punch in the teeth is Jim Watson. you will win and be doing a service to society

Francis Crick: You should fight Crick. you will probably win if you’re just fighting Crick, but if he double teams with Watson, your odds decrease, but you should fight him anyways

Rosalind Franklin: Fighting Franklin will make Watson and Crick feel vindicated so you should definitely not fight her also you will lose

Lise Meitner: Why would you want to fight her? Fight Otto Hahn instead

Isaac Newton: You will lose, because while Newton looks like a classic nerd he fights dirty and will probably hit you with a telescope

Albert Einstein: depends on which version of einstein you fight. if it’s special relativity working in the patent office einstein you will definitely lose. if it’s late career einstein you can win by distracting him with quantum mechanics

Paul Dirac: Dirac will destroy you and probably come up with some new and interesting quantum theory while doing it

Erwin Schrödinger: you have an equal probability of wining and losing a fight with schrödinger until you actually fight him. be warned that he is wily and might try to distract you with his cat

Gilbert Lewis: you will definitely lose a fight with lewis. he will take out all his frustrations about never winning the nobel on you

Antoine Lavoisier: you will beat him if you’re just fighting him but he will likely send his wife to fight you instead and she will kick your ass

Marie Curie: do you really want to fight a polish woman covered in radium? do you?

Charles Darwin: will throw a turtle at you and run away to his birds. do not fight

Werner Heisenberg: You can only know the speed or the location of a heisenberg left hook, but if you always pick the location you will win


me when someone credits James Watson and Francis Crick for the discovery of the double helical structure of DNA like they didn’t steal the credit from Rosalind Franklin because they were angry that a woman was better at science than the two of them combined

Awesome Women + Google Doodles

Scientists, Mathematicians, and Inventors

Rachel Louise Carson (1907-1964)

American marine biologist and conservationist whose writing brought public attention to environmental threats, especially pesticides

Marie Curie (1867-1934)

Polish and French physicist  and chemist whose pioneering work on radioactivity made her the first woman to win a Nobel prize, as well as the first person and only woman to win two

Rosalind Franklin (120-1958)

An English chemist whose work with x-ray crystallography was instrumental to discovering the structures of DNA, viruses, coal, and graphite; she died of breast cancer before she could be awarded the Nobel prize, and her colleagues Watson and Crick are often given sole credit to this day

Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799)

Italian mathematician and philospher who wrote first book covering both integral and differential calculus and spent the latter half of her life on charity and theology

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)

British mathematician and writer whose work on the the Analytical Engine, an early computer, made her the world’s first computer programmer

Feminists and Activists

May Ziade (1886-1941)

Lebanese-Palestinian writer, poet, and translator influential in the Arab literary world and known as an early Palestinian feminist

Henrietta Edwards (1849-1931)

Canadian activist and reformer who fought for women’s rights in voting, education, work, and health

Dorothy Irene Height (1912-2010)

educator and activist who fought for the equal treatment of women, people of color, and LGBT+ people

Concepción Arenal (1820-1893)

Spanish writer and women’s rights activist who was the first woman to attend university in Spain

Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928)

British women’s rights activist and suffragette whose militant tactics were key to winning women voting rights in Britian

Artists, Writers, Pilots, One Athlete, and One Entrepreneur

Sohair El-Qalamawy (1911-1997)

influential Egyptian writer, politician, and women’s rights activist, as well as first female professor at Cairo University

Loftia El Nady (1907-2002)

Egyptian aviator who studied flying in secret and became the first female pilot in the Arab world and Africa

Grete Waitz (1953-2011)

Norwegian runner, first woman to run the marathon in under 2.5 hours, and winner of a record 9 New York City Marathons

Amalia Eriksson (1824-1923)

Swedish entrepreneur who became one of the first women in Sweden to own a business and the first person to manufacture peppermint candy

Amelia Earhart (1897-1937)

American aviator and first female pilot to fly across the atlantic

Martha Graham (1894-1991)

American modern dancer and choreographer whose work revolutionized dance and theater

Anne-Cath. Vestly (1920-2008)

Norwegian author of children’s literature whose writing challenged gender roles

M. S. Subbulakshmi (1916-2004)

renowned Indian musician and vocalist who was awarded the  Bharat Ratna and the Ramon Magsaysay award

Nellie Melba (1861-1931)

soprano opera singer who became the first Australian to gain international recognition as a classical musician

                       Happy International Women’s Day!


February 28th 1953: Watson and Crick discover DNA structure

On this day in 1953, scientists James D. Watson and Francis Crick discovered the chemical structure of DNA. They made the discovery of the double helix structure whilst building a cardboard model of the molecule in their laboratory at Cambridge University. Their model of DNA was based on an X-ray diffraction image taken by Rosalind Franklin and the fact that DNA bases are paired. They first announced their discovery to friends and it was not formally announced to the wider scientific community until April 25th. Watson, Crick and Maurice Wilkins were jointly awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries. The discovery was a groundbreaking moment for science, and lay the foundations for the research into DNA and the investigation of human genetics.

“We have found the secret of life.”
- Francis Crick

Gather round children, let me tell you a story of unethical scientific practice and sexism. There’s a lot of controversy around this, but I will give you the very simplified story illustrated by a meme. Rosalind Franklin made huge discoveries and breakthroughs in the study of DNA structure. However, it’s been alleged that Watson used Franklin’s photo 51 in a presentation without her permission and without giving her credit. This was just the tip of the iceberg. Yes, Watson and Crick did do research and made a couple breakthroughs, however, without Franklin, they would have had nothing to stand on. It would have been fine if she were credited and given the recognition she deserved, however, that was not the case. Rosalind Franklin passed away in 1958, but shortly after Watson and Crick were awarded a nobel prize. Now, children must memorize the names of Watson and Crick in science class but might never learn about Franklin until much much later, if at all. History buried her and ignored her in text books for decades despite her amazing and groundbreaking work, and I think we all know why…


Discovering the Structure of DNA

On February 21, 1953, Francis Crick and James Watson discovered the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) using unacknowledged photographs and research by their colleague Rosalind Franklin. They had considered many other candidates for the structure, including single and triple strand helices before deciphering the structure. Franklin’s x-ray crystallography (image on right) would provide the missing essential clue they needed to decipher the structure.  They would publish a paper that same year describing their discovery, but the significance of the discovery was largely overlooked by the general public for over a year. Today it stands as one of the most remarkable milestones in the history of science.

The word deoxyribonucleic is a compound word formed around the main root word ribose, which arrived in English in 1892 via the German word Ribose which was itself borrowed from the English word of 1880 arabinose, a sugar derived from gum arabic. The word nucleic comes from the Latin word nucleus meaning a kernal around 1700, from the Latin diminutive nucula meaning a little nut. It did not take the meaning of a central characteristic or attribute until 1762. It wasn’t applied to cellular structures for another 70 years around 1862. The -oxy- root comes from the Ancient Greek word οξυς (oxys) meaning sharp or pointed (sharing the earlier common root word that gave the Latin word acer with the same meaning and ultimately the English word acid). The de- prefix is a Latin preposition meaning down from, off or away from, used mainly in English compound words as a privative, meaning that something lacks something.

Women in Science

For International Women’s Day, I want to share information about a topic near and dear to my heart- Under-recognized women in science. These are all women who you should have heard of, who have been vitally important to the field of science, but sadly, they’ve been slowly erased from, or just never included in, the history books. Here’s three of them- I may post more throughout the day.

Rosalind Franklin

25 July 1920 – 16 April 1958

If you’ve ever learned about DNA, you’ve probably heard of Watson and Crick, two of the men who were awarded the Nobel Prize for proving that its structure is a double helix. Tragically, Rosalind Franklin’s work is all but erased from textbooks. Franklin was an X-ray crystallographer, who photographed DNA. Watson and Crick used one of her photographs, shown to them without her permission, as the basis their double helix model.  Franklin received very little recognition during her lifetime, and died of ovarian cancer, quite possibly from radiation exposure. As the Nobel Prize is never awarded posthumously, it was instead shared by Watson, Crick, and Franklin’s colleague Wilkins, with Franklin’s role being all but forgotten.

Irène Joliot-Curie

12 September 1897 – 17 March 1956

Of course most people have heard of Marie Skłodowska-Curie, the fantastic physicist and chemist  who developed the theory of radioactivity. Lesser known is her amazing daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie. Irene focused on radioactivity and nuclear physics. Together with her husband, Joliot-Curie managed to create radioactive isotopes of usually stable elements, for which the pair was awarded the Nobel Prize. Joliot-Curie was a professor at multiple institutes and helped lead to the development of nuclear fission. She also fought for gender equality and was a member of the Comité National de l'Union  des Femmes Françaises.

Maria Mitchell

August 1, 1818 – June 28, 1889

In Nantucket, Massachusetts, Maria Mitchell is a bit of a local hero. She was a professional astronomer, the first female one in America, and in 1847 she discovered Comet 1847 VI, today known as C/1847 T1. This made her only the third woman in history to discover a comet. She was given a medal by King Frederick VI of Denmark as the comet’s first discoverer. Mitchell was elected to a wide variety of science organizations, and became an astronomy professor at Vassar University. When she learned that she was being paid less than her male colleagues, she fought for a pay raise- and got it! Mitchell was strongly anti-slavery and also helped found the American Association for the Advancement of Women.

Part 2 [X]

Here’s the thing: I love Rosalind Franklin (my bitter science mom) as much as anyone but like, I’m not bitter that she didn’t win the nobel because she was dead by the time it was awarded for the structure of DNA and the prize can’t be awarded posthumously. 

Also, she didn’t actually discover the structure of DNA. She took the picture that Watson and Crick used to solve the structure but she wasn’t super close to actually solving it herself, and she was on to other things by the time Watson and Crick were really getting down to the nitty gritty of the structure. And they did a lot of follow up work that she had no part in (see: moving on to other things).

Don’t get me wrong, Watson and Crick were trash who stole her data without her knowledge and then refused to acknowledge her contribution (and Watson still doesn’t) which is horrible and we should definitely remember and acknowledge her contribution to DNA and other things, but let’s get the history correct and remember her for what she actually did and not for what we wish she had done.


Documentary: DNA - Secret of Photo 51 (NOVA) [55:00]

The discovery of the “double helix” DNA structure by James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins - which won the Nobel Prize in 1962 - ranks as the single most formidable scientific discovery in modern history. Yet in retrospect, the events are bittersweet, for beneath lies buried a tragic irony: Watson, Crick and Wilkins might never have reached their conclusions (or, at least, reached the conclusions as early as they did) without a massive contribution from a crystallographer and molecular biologist named Rosalind Franklin - a contribution that went publicly uncredited and undocumented. Franklin made the fateful decision to share one of her pivotal X-ray photographs of an inner molecular structure to the deputy director of her lab, Wilkins - who then, without Franklin’s knowledge, casually revealed the image (known as ‘Photograph 51’) to Watson and Crick.

“Rosalind Franklin did not have her eyes on the [Nobel] prize. Nor did she worry about having been outrun in a race that no one but Watson and Crick knew was a race. She died proud of her world reputation both in coal studies and in virus research, and her list of published papers that would do credit to any scientific career, let alone one that ended at the age of thirty-seven.”
–Brenda Maddox, Roaslind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA

Icebreaker Activity
  • Group Facilitator: If you had access to a time machine, how would you use it?
  • Me: I would go back in time to warn Rosalind Franklin that her X-Ray crystallography techniques would result in her dying from cancer because I'm still bitter about the whole Watson and Crick thing.
  • Other person: I'd go visit the three musketeers.