Photograph 51, by Rosalind Franklin (1952)
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On 6 May 1952, at King’s College London in London, England, Rosalind Franklin photographed her fifty-first X-ray diffraction pattern of deoxyribosenucleic acid, or DNA. Photograph 51, or Photo 51, revealed information about DNA’s three-dimensional structure by displaying the way a beam of X-rays scattered off a pure fiber of DNA. Franklin took Photo 51 after scientists confirmed that DNA contained genes. Maurice Wilkins, Franklin’s colleague showed James and Francis Crick Photo 51 without Franklin’s knowledge. Watson and Crick used that image to develop their structural model of DNA. In 1962, after Franklin’s death, Watson, Crick, and Wilkins shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their findings about DNA. Franklin’s Photo 51 helped scientists learn more about the three-dimensional structure of DNA and enabled scientists to understand DNA’s role in heredity.