Raymond Gosling: Visit to King's Archives

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Professor Raymond Gosling as he came into the Archives to be interviewed for a Swedish documentary on genetics. He was very talkative and full of insights into that crucial 1950-1953 period when the King’s Biophysics Unit were working on the structure of DNA. What was so refreshing about talking to him was not only his enthusiasm for the subject but his even-handed approach. Having worked with both Franklin and Wilkins at different stages of the project he gave a fair and independent analysis of their fractured relationship.

In the discussion with Gosling he emphasised the significance of the early x-ray photographs in kick-starting the hunt for the structure, and unintentionally spurring on the ‘race’ with its public unveiling at the Naples conference (1951). As well as describing the impressive character of the Biophysics Unit pioneered by Sir John Randall, he was aware that the time was ripe for the discovery of the structure of DNA and that several institutions around the world could have claimed it.

Below, is a video clip of Professor Gosling taking about the discovery of DNA at King's in the 1950s, as part of the London Science Festival, on the 21st October 2011. 

The diffraction pattern that Gosling refers to in the video is not the one shown in the video, which for those eagle-eyed readers out there is 'Photo 51'. Gosling was discussing the 1950 multi-fibre crystalline DNA pattern he produced with Wilkins and was the image shown at the Naples Conference in May 1951. Here is the correct image: 

X-ray diffraction image of DNA using the Raymax tube and Unicam camera, 1950 (ref: K/PP178/6/5/1)

The research papers relating to Raymond Gosling's work on DNA can now be accessed online via the Wellcome Digital Library. You can find out what other material available online via the Wellcome Library catalogue


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