Who invented DNA and when was it invented?

DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) wasn't invented but rather discovered by a collaboration of many scientists over the course of many years. Francis Crick and James Watson were the first to suggest the correct model of DNA in 1953 though. DNA carries the genetic code/instructions of all living organisms that we know of today.


Rosalind Elsie Franklin, as she was named, was born in Notting Hill, London. Since childhood, Franklin attended a school for women who taught physics and chemistry. The father also supported Franklin to get a high education. So when he was 15 years old, Franklin decided that he would become a scientist. In 1938 Franklin was enrolled as a Newnham College student, Chambridge and graduated in 1941. Franklin received a graduate fellowship for a year. But in 1942 he decided to become a research assistant officer in British Coal Utilization Research Association (BCURA). There he finally learned about carbon and graphite microstructures as a doctoral thesis which took the theme of physical chemistry. And in 1945 he finally completed his studies from Chambridge University. After graduating, Franklin studied X-Ray diffraction techniques at Laboratoire Central des Services at Chimiques de L'Etat, Paris. In 1951, Franklin returned to England and became a research associate at John Randall's lab, King's College, London.

It was during Franklin's work at King's College that DNA experiments began, although Franklin had only previously focused on the X-Ray field on proteins and fats. Initially before Franklin came to King's College, Maurice Wilkins and Raymond Gosling were already working on the DNA project. However, unbeknownst to Wilkins, Randall asked Franklin to guide Gosling in completing his doctoral thesis on DNA diffraction. Starting from there, the relationship between Franklin and Wilkins was not good and misunderstandings often occurred.

At that time it was found that in 2 DNA formations, that is, when wet the DNA fibers will become long and thin. Whereas when dry DNA fibers will be short and filled. The two types of DNA data are termed DNA 'A' and 'B'. So that Franklin and Wilkins divided the work, Franklin chose DNA data 'A' while Wilkins was DNA 'B'. Then in the end Franklin and Gosling managed to get the image data of the 'A' DNA X-Ray diffraction. Until a scientist J. D. Bernal argued, "The most beautiful X-ray photographs of any substance have ever been taken."

Franklin managed to take the DNA structure diffraction image using X-Ray, and the image has not been published. At the end of 1951, it was reported that DNA 'B' was helix. But Franklin felt that he did not believe that DNA was helix. Meanwhile Wilkins felt confident that DNA was helix. So in 1952, Franklin and Gosling worked by using the Patterson function (one of the calculations in crystallography). This method does require hard work. But with that great effort, it can finally produce enlightenment about the structure of the molecule. And Franklin concluded that the structure of DNA was double helix, not helix.

In 1953, Franklin began writing three draft manuscripts about double helix DNA. Two manuscripts about DNA 'A' have been submitted to Acta Crystallographica, the day before Crick and Watson from Chambridge University completed the model. And the remaining 1 manuscript about DNA 'B' was published by his colleague, Aaron Klug in Nature in 1953. Meanwhile, Franklin did have to provide information to Charmbridge University regarding his collaboration between Chambridge University and King's University. The form of their collaboration is, Franklin and Gosling provide information through photo 51. On the other hand, Pauling and Corey from Chambridge University will describe the molecule.

One day, Watson brought Linus Pauling's proposal wrong about the structure of DNA and visited King's College. Initially Watson wanted to meet Wilkins. Because Wilkins was not in the office, Watson finally met Franklin and talked about his cooperation about the structure of DNA before Linus Pauling realized the error in his proposal. Franklin got angry especially when Watson thought Franklin could not work alone in interpreting the data. Finally Watson retreated and turned to Wilkins. Hearing Watson's story finally Wilkins sympathized and without Franklin's knowledge, Wilkins showed the famous photo 51 data. Meanwhile, Watson also showed Wilkins the manuscripts of Pauling and Corey's publications.

In 1953, while Franklin was still revising his last manuscript article in Nature, it turned out that Crick and Watson published a description of DNA double helix into Nature. What made Wilkins and Franklin disappointed was that in Crick and Watson's publications it was stated that Franklin and Wilkins were only as 'unpublished' contributions.

While in 1953, Franklin finally moved from King's College to Birkbeck College. And in his new place, he finally discovered the structure of the Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV) along with his collaboration with Aaron Klug. And in 1957, Franklin worked on the polio virus.

Until 1958, Franklin took his last breath at the age of 37 due to ovarian cancer. After Franklin's death, there was a lot of controversy in the world of scientist. One of them is that female scientists are still not allowed to do scientific publications. In addition to these issues, there was another issue regarding the receipt of the Nobel Prize. In this case Franklin should have won the Nobel Prize. However, because Franklin died, the Nobel prize was not entitled to Franklin's acceptance.

For the publications carried out by Crick and Watson, finally Crick and Watson won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicice in 1962.

That is the reason why today we only know Crick and Watson as the inventors of the structure of DNA, although at that time Crick and Watson recommended Wilkins to receive the Nobel Prize because Wilkins actually played a role in this discovery.