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High School: 19 June 2017

19 June 2017

This week we celebrate the legacy of Rosalind Franklin. Find out more about who this remarkable woman was, and her many achievements in life… Find out about the special events going on at St. Andrews this week—EXPO ‘17, the Sports Awards celebration, and Business Sale Day… Lastly we have a calendar of the events that remain in this school year.


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Celebration of Rosalind Franklin

On Thursday last week, I had the privilege of accompanying Aashish, Beam, Ilesh and Zakk (all Year 10) to the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel, where they set up their celebration of the life and work of life and work of Rosalind Franklin before presenting it to the British Ambassador (pictured) and many distinguished guests at the British Embassy’s Queen’s Birthday Party.

Their showcase reflected the theme of the evening, a celebration of the UK’s science, creativity and innovation, and I was very proud of their creativity and innovation as this showcase was both all their own work and greatly impressed a number of guests at the Queen’s Birthday Party. Here is the full text of their display:

Who was Rosalind Franklin?

Rosalind Franklin was born on the 25th of July 1920 to Muriel and Ellis Franklin, a prominent British Jewish family from Notting Hill, London. This proved to be an important day in the history of modern science. She began her education at the Norland Place School in Cambridge, moving to Lindores School for Young Ladies in Sussex and then finally on to St. Paul’s Girls’ School in London. She attended Newnham College, Cambridge, where she graduated in 1941 with a degree in Chemistry. After briefly working at the Physical Chemistry Laboratory in Cambridge, she joined the British Coal Utilization Research Association where she worked on, and subsequently received, a PhD in Physical Chemistry from the University of Cambridge. This was the start of a career that became one of the most important of the century.

In 1951, Rosalind Franklin started work at King’s College London in the Biophysics unit. Using her expertise in X-ray diffraction techniques she went on to discover DNA fibres and how they were shaped. Unfortunately, due to a conflict with another scientist named Maurice Wilkins, her research was shown without her permission to another group of scientists led by James Watson, who went on to publish his findings in 1962 and was awarded a Nobel Prize. Tragically, Rosalind was not able to receive the credit for this prestigious award due to her death of ovarian cancer on the 13th of November 1958. The Nobel Committee does not give out posthumous awards. Rosalind Franklin’s death was also the sad end to a career that, although short, undoubtedly helped shape modern medicine as we know it, saving millions of lives along the way.

X-Ray Crystallography

X-Ray crystallography is a method used to map and understand the structures of extremely small molecules. Unlike cells, the molecules that make up proteins and other organic structures cannot be seen using a conventional microscope, as the wavelengths for visible light are too large. X-rays have a much smaller wavelength, almost as small as an atom. The idea of crystallography is to diffract the X-rays through the molecules. As molecules have a uniform arrangement and orientation, scientists can then calculate and track the X-rays from the diffraction patterns to the electron density map and then on to the atomic model.

In 1951, Rosalind Franklin was given a three year research scholarship at King’s College, London. During her time there she improved and perfected the method of X-ray crystallography. After many years of conflicts, Rosalind Franklin was able to obtain clear images of the DNA strands. She used two different fibres of DNA, one more highly hydrated than the other. From these she deduced both the basic dimensions of DNA strands and also that the phosphates were on the outside of what was probably a helical structure. The hydrated strands produced a clear image, which became known as Photograph 51. For the uninitiated, DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) is the building block for all life on Earth. This acid is located in the nucleus of every cell in your body and commands the production of protein in every cell, determining the type of cell that it will create. DNA dictates almost everything in your body, it tells you who are ancestors are and the likelihood of you developing certain diseases. Understanding DNA is crucial to our understanding of the human body, and our understanding of how to save it.

Rosalind Franklin’s Legacy

The work of Rosalind Franklin has been the catalyst for many advances in all matters of technology and medicine. These advances have led to the saving of millions of lives, whether it be via medicines such as antibiotics or the improvement of many lives, for example through the use recombinant DNA in genetically modified crops that have sustained the livelihoods of countless people. Recent advancements in DNA technology have also led to its use in personalized medicine. Through the analysis of DNA, doctors can now identify health risks such as cancer or diabetes. It is through these discoveries that Rosalind Franklin made that all these technological advancements have been made possible. Even her later work, before her passing, created significant repercussions throughout the field of Biology, such as her work in finding a cure for the Tobacco Mosaic Virus.

Rosalind Franklin’s impact on the world was not just limited to the field of Science, as she was also instrumental in promoting the feminist movement. The stealing of her research data by Maurice Wilkins, and the subsequent battle, trying to prove that the ideas were hers, propelled her on to become an icon for all female scientists. Despite this, Franklin is first and foremost a scientist and her achievements will be at the forefront of science for decades and centuries to come.

Big events this week

This week we have EXPO ‘17 - see the Art, Drama and Music sections for more details on Wednesday, the Sports Awards Dinner on Thursday and Business Sale Day, when our Year 10 Business Studies students sell a wide variety of different products, with all proceeds going either to the Bangkok Refugee Centre or another charity chosen by the students, on Friday - see their adverts for more information.

I look forward to seeing many of you at these events,

Roo Stenning

Head of High School


High School Calendar: Term 3

Tuesday 20th June

IGCSE Exams end

Wednesday 21st June

EXPO ‘17

Thursday 22nd June

Year 10 Thai Trip: National Assembly

Thursday 22nd June

Sports Awards Dinner

Friday 23rd June

Business Sale Day

Friday 23rd June

Term 3 Grade Reports published

Sunday 25th - Thursday 29th June

Year 12 Service Project Trips

Monday 26th June

House Basketball, Football and Futsal Competitions

Thursday 29th June

High School Awards Assembly

Thursday 29th June

House Music Competition

Friday 30th June

End of Term 3