Photograph 51 and credit in the scientific process
A colleague and I were having a debate the other day centered around discerning gender bias from the general trampling of graduate students in the sciences. About a week later (yesterday) I was leafing through an excellent issue of Nature (really, check it out — everything from the Coelacanth genome, Wilson’s new book, to forest fragments and tipping points in yeast) on a ferryboat (also excellent).
The photo above, as most know, is generally considered the key evidence that helped Watson & Crick unravel the puzzle of DNA’s structure. I think for many it’s more famously known as the photo Rosalind Franklin took and thus unrolls a debate about credit for the discovery, and how credit and politics are played out in academia.
Thus I was most terribly impressed when Nature taught me something I didn’t know about this story: that the actual triggerman was Raymond Gosling, who was Franklin’s PhD student.
Even the greatest scientific discoveries come with an element of the mundane. A humble paperclip was biophysicist Raymond Gosling’s choice. Late one night in May 1952, in a chemistry lab in London, the PhD student wrapped DNA around a paperclip to keep the molecule’s fibres stretched taut in front of an X-ray source so that he could analyse their structure. The result was the celebrated ‘photograph 51’
Discoveries take ego, genius, conflict, inspiration and fierce ambition. But they also need the hard graft of PhD students who beaver away late into the night and improvise with what they find in the stationery cupboard. They do not always receive the recognition that they deserve. Raymond Gosling is a good place to start to reverse that trend.
You can read the full editorial and listen to the accompanying podcast here.
It’s been sunny all week and, unlike previous weeks, stayed sunny for my planned field day at Saturna. I napped on the Mayne Queen and enjoyed many new species in flower showing up, including — shocker— some Poaceae already out! Grass doesn’t photograph in full glory so instead here’s the mossy trees leafing out. Also my little tribe of blad eagles joined me again.
Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For, lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of singing is come,
And the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land;
The fig tree puts forth her green figs,
And the vines in blossom give forth their fragrance.
Song of Songs (quoted in my discipline’s literature, Nordic myths, Old Testament — all in the service of understanding climate and plants)
Just back from another amazing hop and after dull, dull phenology (mainly the same as 6 days ago) the second to last plot revealed Camas! Not quite out yet, but soon! It was as though I was meeting a movie star: I recognized it instantly even if we had never before met in person.
I made what is probably my last trip anytime soon to Whistler yesterday. Then today I was reading about Sunshine Valley, what looks to be a lovely resort in the Rockiers and its Delirium Dive, one of the steepest runs in North America. Check out the video until 45 seconds, so you can catch the view and stairs (yikes, my favourite run at Whistler, the Blackcomb glacier, requires a little take-your-skis off and hike but those stairs look beyond me, let alone the 50 degree dive after them).
We apologize for the delay in submitting revisions; the responsibility for this delay lies solely with the postdoctoral associate leading this paper who has been slowed by the usual issues of being funded for other projects, two moves and the search for a more permanent position.
So, is this inappropriate to include in a cover letter for a manuscript that you are ‘re-submitting’ 28 months after receiving reviews?
Lots of tiny plants (bottom six photos, all but the purple-pink-ish one were 1-5cm) to learn but I had the company of orcas on the ferry in and a couple bald eagles perching about. If you can identify any of the bottom six plants that aren’t the violet, the carrot or the buttercup — let me know! Is the pink-purple one a pink?