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Rosalind Franklin and the discovery of DNA


Crick and Watson's work on viruses
Aaron Klug Scientist
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The reason they published these things on viruses was for quite a different motive. They were interested in protein synthesis, you see, the early days and there were these ribosomal particles lying around. Now, they pretty well were sure that... although they... And by then they'd formulated the seat of the so-called central dogma. The DNA, as Watson put it, DNA makes RNA, makes protein. So these... they knew that these ribosomal particles where proteins were made contained RNA, lots of RNA. So they assumed that all the messenger RNAs as they were later called, the coding for the proteins was in these particles and they thought... they thought that you couldn't... you couldn't get hold of these ribosomal particles, so they thought they were studies... viruses react as a model. The viruses were known or rather expected to be protein shells with RNA on the inside. So that's how they came along, so they showed great interest in all this. And, of course, that's... it's through Rosalind that we met. Jim Watson used to come down from time to time. And, of course, Rosalind, by this time got friendly with the Cricks. In 1956, we all went to a meeting in Madrid with the National Union of Crystallography. Rosalind went off to Toledo with the Cricks after the meetings and so on, so we got to know Crick and Watson.

Born in Lithuania, Aaron Klug (1926-2018) was a British chemist and biophysicist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1982 for developments in electron microscopy and his work on complexes of nucleic acids and proteins. He studied crystallography at the University of Cape Town before moving to England, completing his doctorate in 1953 at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1981, he was awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University. His long and influential career led to a knighthood in 1988. He was also elected President of the Royal Society, and served there from 1995-2000.

Listeners: Ken Holmes John Finch

Kenneth Holmes was born in London in 1934 and attended schools in Chiswick. He obtained his BA at St Johns College, Cambridge. He obtained his PhD at Birkbeck College, London working on the structure of tobacco mosaic virus with Rosalind Franklin and Aaron Klug. After a post-doc at Childrens' Hospital, Boston, where he started to work on muscle structure, he joined to the newly opened Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge where he stayed for six years. He worked with Aaron Klug on virus structure and with Hugh Huxley on muscle. He then moved to Heidelberg to open the Department of Biophysics at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research where he remained as director until his retirement. During this time he completed the structure of tobacco mosaic virus and solved the structures of a number of protein molecules including the structure of the muscle protein actin and the actin filament. Recently he has worked on the molecular mechanism of muscle contraction. He also initiated the use of synchrotron radiation as a source for X-ray diffraction and founded the EMBL outstation at DESY Hamburg. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1981 and is a member of a number of scientific academies.

John Finch is a retired member of staff of the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK. He began research as a PhD student of Rosalind Franklin's at Birkbeck College, London in 1955 studying the structure of small viruses by x-ray diffraction. He came to Cambridge as part of Aaron Klug's team in 1962 and has continued with the structural study of viruses and other nucleoproteins such as chromatin, using both x-rays and electron microscopy.

Tags: National Union of Crystallography, Rosalind Franklin, Francis Crick, James Watson

Duration: 1 minute, 30 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008