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‘Abhorrent’ road name to be changed to honour work of female scientist

PUBLISHED: 11:00 26 June 2020

James Watson Road Norwich  to be renamed Rosalind Franklin Road next week Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

James Watson Road Norwich to be renamed Rosalind Franklin Road next week Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

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A Norwich street named after a controversial Nobel prize winner will be renamed to acknowledge the work of a female British scientist.

Dr James Watson (2005), who discovered the structure of DNA more than 50 years ago stands next to the original DNA model created by Watson and Crick in 1953. Picture: Edmond Terakopian/PA Archive/PA ImagesDr James Watson (2005), who discovered the structure of DNA more than 50 years ago stands next to the original DNA model created by Watson and Crick in 1953. Picture: Edmond Terakopian/PA Archive/PA Images

Staff at the Quadram Institute, on James Watson Road, at the Norwich Research Park, said they did not want to be associated with the American scientist after a series of “abhorrent” comments in regards to race.

Instead, the road will be named in honour of Rosalind Franklin, whose work formed a crucial part in the discovery of DNA, and the road sign will be unveiled next week.

The research centre asked landowner Bullens Development if the name could be changed before applying to South Norfolk District Council to complete a formal legal process.

Dr Maria Traka, Quadram Institute research leader, said: “We are delighted to hear the road is being renamed. When we moved here in 2019, colleagues at both the Quadram Institute and the UEA’s Bob Champion Research and Education building had serious concerns about the road being named after James Watson.

James Watson Road Norwich  to be renamed Rosalind Franklin Road next week Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMANJames Watson Road Norwich to be renamed Rosalind Franklin Road next week Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

“The widely-reported views expressed by James Watson are abhorrent and we felt strongly that was an association we just didn’t want.

“Rosalind Franklin Road is a very fitting choice. She died tragically young but her work formed a crucial part of the discovery of DNA’s structure. It will be a real honour to have a such notable British female scientist acknowledged on the Norwich Research Park.”

Who was Rosalind Franklin?

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Thursday marked 100 years since the birth of Rosalind Fraklin.

Rosalind Franklin through her work as a x-ray crystallographer recorded the critical evidence used in identifying the structure of DNA.

She would also be part of work on the tobacco mosaic virus in plants before her death in 1958 aged 37 from ovarian cancer.

She was born in London on July 25 1920 and enrolled in Newnham College, Cambridge in 1938 to study physics and chemistry.

While working at King’s College London she worked on finding the structure of DNA.

Among the data she collected was the famous photo 51 which was shown to James Watson by colleague Maurice Wilkins without her knowing, leading Dr Watson and partner Francis Crick to the discovery of the double helix DNA structure, but her work was not acknowledged.

Dr Watson would go on to share the Nobel prize for the discovery in 1962.

The now 92-year-old has become a controversial figure in the science world after comments made in 2007 to the Sunday Times about race and intelligence, as well as comments in regards to anti-semitism and sexism.

In 2019, a documentary by US broadcaster PBS celebrating Dr Watson’s life asked the scientist if his views had change, however his response led to further backlash.

The new Rosalind Franklin Road will be officially recognised on July 2, with a new sign installed on July 4.


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