Google replaced its standard rainbow-colored logo with something steeped in sepia today. It features a cartoon portrait of a young woman looking at a molecule with a double helix and seeing a pattern of horizontal bands arranged like an X.
The doodle is a tribute to Rosalind Franklin, who would have turned 93 today.
Franklin was part of a team of scientists that worked to unlock the shape and structure of DNA. The key was being able to decipher that pattern of bands, or the X-ray crystallograph pattern, of a DNA molecule. The doodle version doesn’t differ too much from the real deal. The bands’ pattern gives information about the shape and dimensions of the molecule.
The results were published as part of a series of papers in the science journal Nature. However, the first paper in the series, written by James Watson and Francis Crick, ended up being the most famous paper of the lot. Franklin’s role in the research is relegated to only a small credit towards the end of the paper.
Watson, Crick, and Maurice Wilkins were all awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work. Franklin was ineligible for nomination, having passed away in 1958. She was never considered for the prize in the years prior to her passing.
There was well-documented tension between Franklin and her male colleagues. However, even James Watson, a scientist who is no stranger to controversial and insensitive remarks, agreed that she deserved more recognition.
“If Rosalind had been alive, the only just thing would have been two Nobel prizes,” he said in a video interview with DNA Interactive. “[Franklin and Wilkins] could have got the prize in chemistry.”