Rosalind Franklin sculpture to be unveiled in Hampstead

Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind Franklin - Credit: By MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology - From the personal collection of Jenifer Glynn

A sculpted portrait of pioneering scientist Rosalind Franklin is to be unveiled in Hampstead.

The biophysicist's X-ray Photo 51 helped Watson and Crick discover the double helix structure of DNA – but she didn't share their 1962 Nobel Prize because she died of ovarian cancer four years earlier.  

To mark International Women's Month, the property firm redeveloping the former Westfield College site in Kidderpore Avenue into luxury apartments, will install a tondo sculpture of Franklin framed by DNA formations. 

Franklin took the photograph in May 1952 while working as a research fellow at King's College London, before going on to work on the molecular structure of viruses at Birkbeck. When King's later took over the Westfield site, it named a student building after her.

Younger sister Jenifer Glynn said that while Franklin never worked at Westfield College, their parents lived nearby on Hocroft Road at the time she took Photo 51.

Nicole Kidman in Photograph 51

Nicole Kidman plays Rosalind Franklin in the play Photograph 51 - Credit: Johan Persson

"They moved there in 1950 and my mother stayed until she died in 1976. Rosalind had a London flat while she was working at King's but she would come at weekends," she said.

With books, a play starring Nicole Kidman, a Mars Rover named after her, and a Rosalind Franklin Institute being built outside Oxford, Glynn welcomes the posthumous recognition of her sister's work.

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"She has a growing reputation not only for DNA but for the virus work which has come to the fore right now. She was hardworking, conscientious and loyal but she was never a feminist campaigner  - at the time she was pleased at what was open for women rather than resenting what wasn't. But she knew as a woman she had to work harder to achieve in the scientific world."

Rosalind's niece Shirley Franklin, who lives in Archway, said it was "nice to see a memorial going up to her".

"She was my godmother and I was supposedly like her because I was strong-willed. I was quite young when she died but she used to bring me presents from all over the world and she taught us about prisms when we visited. She would laugh heartily but she was also quite serious and really quite modest. She would have been entertained by all this naming things after her, but she would really like encouraging women into science."

Grave of scientist Rosalind Franklin (Photo: Hester Abrams)

Rosalind Franklin died age 37 of ovarian cancer without her work being recognised she is buried in Willesden Jewish Cemetery. - Credit: Hester Abrams

The unveiling will take place on March 15, followed by an online discussion with local MP Tulip Siddiq, Baroness Garden of Frognal, and Cambridge lecturer and scientist Dr Nicky Dee titled “How Rosalind paved the way for women in science, and why we need more women in STEAM".

Tondo artist Keziah Burt said: “With an ongoing debate around the imbalance between male, female and non-binary statues, it is an honour to create a piece of art depicting such an incredible woman and I hope it inspires others to walk in her footsteps."

Lisa Ravenscroft from Mount Anvil which has redeveloped the Westfield College site said: “Rosalind Franklin paved the way for women in science, but like many women at the time she didn’t get the recognition she deserved. So I am thrilled the tondo will be positioned proudly on the building named after her at Hampstead Manor during International Women’s Month."