Brenda Maddox, who wrote the biography of British scientist and early DNA researcher Rosalind Franklin, will speak at the California Institute of Technology campus on October 7. The lecture, set for 8 p.m. in the Beckman Institute auditorium, is free and open to the public.
Maddox last year published the book Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA, about the woman whose work provided crucial contributions to James Watson and Francis Crick's history-making discovery of the DNA helix. Franklin, an expert in X-ray crystallography, worked at King's College London, and while there produced the then-best available photograph of a DNA molecule. With this and other evidence, Watson and Crick, then working at Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory, were able to solve the structure of DNA, which is now considered one of the leading achievements in 20th century science.
Franklin died of cancer at age 37, before the Nobel Prize for the DNA structure was awarded, but her role in the work has always been puzzlingly obscure. Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA addresses this issue in depth, exploring a myriad of explanations for her lack of prominence, but ultimately concluding that Franklin was not particularly prize-oriented and didn't even "worry about having been outrun in a race that no one but Watson and Crick knew was a race."
Nonetheless, Franklin was a woman who "knew her worth" and was cheated by her early death of the opportunity to carry out her career as a scientist, Maddox writes. "The lost prize was life," she concludes.
Maddox, a native of Massachusetts, is a Harvard graduate and career journalist. She has worked for Reuters news service and The Economist, and has contributed book reviews for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the London Observer. She is the author of Nora: A Biography of Nora Joyce, the standard biography of James Joyce's enigmatic wife. The book won several major awards and was also the source for the feature film Nora, starring Susan Lynch and Ewan McGregor. Maddox also wrote The Married Man: A Life of D.H. Lawrence and Yeat's Ghosts, on the married life of William Butler Yeats. She currently lives in London and in mid-Wales.
The lecture is sponsored by the Caltech Women's Center, the President's Office, Caltech Public Events, Officers of the Faculty, the Caltech Biology Division, the Caltech bookstore, and the History and Philosophy of Science Program.
No tickets or reservations are required. For more information, call (626) 395-4652.