In celebration of Dr. Rosalind Franklin’s legacy to science, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science has installed at its main entrance a sculpture in bronze of the British researcher whose Photo 51 was crucial to the discovery of the structure of DNA – the single most important advance in modern biology.
In a ceremony on May 29, 2014, 10 years after making history as the first medical institution in the nation to recognize a female scientist through an honorary namesake, RFUMS celebrated Dr. Franklin’s brief life and invaluable contributions that earned her a place among the top 100 scientists of all time.
“Her passion for learning and for her research, her pursuit of extreme clarity, her unflinching commitment to the highest standards in both her scientific and personal life, and her high expectations for others, make her an ideal role model for our university and aspiring scientists throughout the world,” said RFUMS President and CEO K. Michael Welch.
Attending the event were family members of the scientist, who died in 1958 at age 37, including Martin Franklin, her nephew, and Rosalind Franklin Jekowsky, her niece.
“Our aunt would be pleased that her legacy includes this university, which is preparing health science and biomedical professionals who will work on behalf of patients, not in isolation, but in teams that build and capitalize on each member’s skill, knowledge and strengths,” said Martin Franklin. “In honoring her, you honor ideals that can lead each generation to greatness.”
Rosalind Franklin Jekowsky spoke of her aunt’s determination to pursue her education at the highest level despite a world war that raged outside the doors of Cambridge University, where she earned a PhD in physical chemistry in 1945.
“Our aunt rejected the notion that she should interrupt her education to contribute full-time to the war effort,” Jekowsky said. “She rightly saw that if she continued to develop her scientific skills, she could use them to benefit the Allied cause and indeed she did; her study of coal, carbon and graphite, both during and after the war, resulted in enduring contributions to science and industry.”
Franklin also did important work in viruses. She was researching the polio virus with a team at Birkbeck College London at the time of her death, work that, like the discovery in DNA, would eventually be recognized with the Nobel Prize.
The larger-than-life bronze partial figure mounted on a granite base, which stands in the center of University Circle Drive, is the work of artist Julie Rotblatt Amrany, who has produced many pieces of public art.
“It is rare that women get immortalized in sculpture,” Amrany said. “I am delighted that I could be part of the effort to contribute to the recognition of an outstanding and accomplished female leader.”
In taking Dr. Franklin’s name on Jan. 27, 2004, the university also took her famous Photo 51 as its logo and “Life in Discovery” as its motto.
“It is our intention that the sculpture that we unveil today will remind all who enter her namesake university that a life lived in discovery is a worthy and attainable goal and one that reverberates beyond the veil of our own mortality,” Welch said.