Watson Admits to Misunderstanding Rosalind Franklin

Rosy's instant acceptance of our model at first amazed me. I had feared that her sharp, stubborn mind, caught in her self-made antihelical trap, might dig up irrelevant results that would foster uncertainty about the correctness of the double helix. Nonetheless, like almost everyone else, she saw the appeal of the base pairs and accepted the fact that the structure was too pretty not to be true. Moreover, even before she learned of our proposal, the X-ray evidence had been forcing her more than she cared to admit toward a helical structure. The positioning of the backbone on the outside of the molecule was demanded by her evidence and, given the necessity to hydrogen-bond the bases together, the uniqueness of the A-T and G-C pairs was a fact she saw no reason to argue about.

At the same time, her fierce annoyance with Francis and me collapsed. Initially we were hesitant to discuss the double helix with her, fearing the testiness of our previous encounters. But Francis noticed her changed attitude when he was in London to talk with Maurice about details of the X-ray pictures. Thinking that Rosy wanted nothing to do with him, he spoke largely to Maurice, until he slowly perceived that Rosy wanted his crystallographic advice and was prepared to exchange unconcealed hostility for conversation between equals. With obvious pleasure Rosy showed Francis her data, and for the first time he was able to see how foolproof was her assertion that the sugar-phosphate backbone was on the outside of the molecule. Her past uncompromising statements on this matter thus reflected first-rate science, not the outpourings of a misguided feminist.


He mistook her skepticism for feminism and not scientific integrity.

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 The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Watson , James D. (2001-06-12), The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA, Touchstone, Retrieved on 2011-08-10
Folksonomies: history science biography