Campus: CSU Hayward -- February 22, 2002

Cal State Hayward Professor Contends Gender Discrimination Against Woman Scientist Involved in Discovery of DNA

Lynne Osman Elkin, a professor of biological sciences at California State University, Hayward, presented new findings today (Friday, Feb. 15) that a prominent woman scientist has never received the credit due her for contributions to the discovery of DNA. Elkin's presentation was made at the convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, MA.

Professor Elkin's contention follows her significant research on the career of the late scientist Rosalind Franklin, who discovered crucial keys to the structure of DNA while working at Kings College in London between 1951 and 1953.

Because Franklin died in 1958, she was ineligible to receive consideration for the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine, which was awarded to three men: James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins.

"Her competitors-Watson and Crick of Cambridge University-used Franklin's scientific data in deciphering the structure of DNA," Elkin said. "Wilkins, a male colleague of Franklin's at Kings College who initiated the DNA studies there, confirmed the work of Watson and Crick because Franklin was leaving Kings College."

Elkin revealed new evidence during her Friday presentation at the AAAS convention in Boston that Franklin never realized the extent to which Watson and Crick had access to Franklin's data. Elkin says that each of the scientists did Nobel Prize-caliber work and that all needed to be credited accordingly.


Professor Elkin received her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in 1973 for her studies on chloroplast fluorescence. She has taught at Cal State Hayward since 1971 and began researching Rosalind Franklin in connection with teaching a course on "Achievements of Women in Science." Elkin decided in 1999 to write a biography on Franklin when she started reading original archival papers relating to Franklin and realized how much valuable material about the scientist has never been revealed to the science community and the public.

So far Elkin has examined papers in nine archives in both England and the United States. She has interviewed 35 friends and relatives, plus colleagues of Franklin, in addition to key people involved with or knowledgeable about DNA history or X-ray diffraction going back to the time period of 1951-1953. The presentation at the 2002 convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston is her 18th about Franklin. The others have been given at conferences and universities in the United States and England.

Interviews with Professor Elkin can be arranged by contacting Barry Zepel of the Office of Public Affairs at Cal State Hayward at (510) 885-3884.

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