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The Rosalind Franklin and Henrietta Lacks Monument to Nearly-Forgotten Contributors to Science

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The Rosalind Franklin and Henrietta Lacks Monument to Nearly-Forgotten Contributors to Science (whoa, that's a mouthful.) briefly existed in the location of the Paul Revere statue in the Boston Public Garden, surrounded by hundreds of varieties of trees and flowers.

Each year, with the garden's well-known tulips in full bloom, I look at the array of colors, think about how these variations are the result of tiny differences in the flowers' DNA, and and ultimately remember these women. I remember their monumental contributions to biology, and how, disappointingly, many would be content to leave their memories as mere footnotes in history.

Franklin and Lacks immediately came to mind when thinking of people deserving of a monument. Choosing between the two was impossible; Franklin's experiments first revealed the helical structure of DNA, a result laughed at by her collaborators until, upon realizing its validity, they stole her work, denied her role in discovering the structure, and eventually shared a Nobel Prize for it without her. Lacks died young of cancer, but cells from her tumor live on, a scientific anomaly that has since formed the basis of nearly all cancer research using human cells. Her family wasn't informed of this for decades. Many of the scientists using cells derived from her tumor do not even know her name.

Franklin *did* important science, but Lacks *is* important science. Who am I to rank one above the other?

We are raised to expect women to take what they're given quietly, without regard for whether it's less than what they deserve. It's not enough. It's rarely enough. This monument, fleeting though it may be, is a tiny step in the right direction.

KG