Talk:Raymond Gosling

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Based on srticle on Raymond Gosling already on Wikipedia with some expansion of science and commentary From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Jump to: navigation, search Raymond Gosling is a distinguished scientist who worked with both Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin at King's College London in deducing the structure of DNA. He was born in 1926 and attended school in Wembley. He studied physics at University College London from 1944 to 1947 and became a hospital physicist at the King’s Fund and Middlesex Hospital between 1947 and 1949 before joining King's College London as a research student. At King’s College London, Ray Gosling worked on X-ray diffraction with Maurice Wilkins, analysing samples of DNA which Wilkins had previously prepared by hydrating and drawing out into thin fibres. They (probably mainly Gosling experimentally) then produced the X-ray diffraction photographs of the crystalline A form of DNA using these fibres in a humid hydrogen atmosphere. W Astbury and FO Bell at Leeds University had previously obtained X-ray diffraction photographs of similar fibres of DNA but, although later employed in theoretical considerations by Linus Pauling, these were of the mixed A and B forms of DNA and therefore not as useful as the photographs of Gosling and Wilkins. With A Stokes of King’s College, Wilkins and Gosling then concluded that DNA had a double helix structure. Although this crucial structural conclusion was, according to her notes, supported by Franklin in a seminar at King’s College in November 1951, she later opposed it in unpublished discussions throughout 1952. However, Crick and Watson confirmed this structural feature in their definitive publication in Nature in early 1953. Gosling was assigned to Rosalind Franklin when she joined King’s College London in 1951. She then succeeded Wilkins as his academic Ph D supervisor. During the next two years, Gosling and Franklin worked closely together as collaborators and obtained the first X-ray diffraction photographs of the B form of DNA which were simpler than those of the A form and easier to interpret. They then worked to perfect the technique of x-ray diffraction photography of DNA and finally obtained, in May 1953, the sharpest diffraction image of the B form of DNA, the important photograph no.51. Franklin probably actually took this photograph but at the time Gosling and Wilkins were close collaborators and this was a coincidence. This work led directly to the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine being awarded to Francis Crick, James D. Watson and Maurice Wilkins as the sharp B form photograph was crucial to the elucidation of the structure of DNA. Gosling was the co-author with Franklin of one of the three papers published in "Nature" in April 1953; Franklin died in 1958 of cancer and a rule of the Nobel Committee is that the prize is never given posthumously. Sir Lawrence Bragg of the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge nominated Maurice Wilkins for a third share of the Nobel Prize to recognize the contribution made by Kings's College London. Gosling briefly remained at King’s College London following the completion of his thesis in 1954 before lecturing in physics at Queen’s College, University of St Andrews, and at the University of the West Indies. He returned to the UK in 1967 and became Lecturer and Reader at Guy's Hospital Medical School, and Professor and Emeritus Professor in Physics Applied to Medicine from 1984. He carried out some outstanding work using ultrasonics to diagnose vascular problems in a Geriatric Unit at Guy’s. Gosling has served on numerous committees of the University of London, notably relating to radiological science, and still retains an active professional involvement in medical physics.


There has been much discussion about the role of Rosalind Franklin in the elucidation of the structure of DNA. However, the contributions of Gosling have been relatively neglected considering that he was closely involved in taking the first X-ray diffraction photographs of both the A and B forms of DNA. These were the main experimental findings involved in the early DNA history and yet he is not mentioned in many relevant historical accounts including the main article on DNA in Wikipedia. The reason for this might be that Gosling, although a Physics graduate of UCL and a former hospital physicist, was a Ph D student during his work on DNA. However, Crick was also a Ph D student during most of this time and his contribution cannot be said to have been neglected. Both Gosling and Wilkins have been criticized for being responsible for Watson viewing the vital no.51 X-ray diffraction photograph; probably a vital step in the final elucidation of the DNA structure by Watson and Crick. It emerged that Gosling actually transferred the photograph to Wilkins before Wilkins allowed Watson to view it (it was never actually physically transferred to the Cambridge pair). Subsequently, it was generally concluded (and it still is in many historical accounts) that Franklin did not authorize either move. However, in the book by Wilkins (2003) he stated that Franklin, just before she left for Bedford College, authorized Gosling to hand the photograph to Wilkins with her permission for Wilkins to do what he liked with it. She must have been aware that because of the close contacts between Wilkins and the Cambridge pair (and his idealistic views on the freedom of scientific information) that this would probably include viewing of the photograph by them. Also, for that reason, the critical transfer of the no.51 photograph was that between Gosling and Wilkins. Gosling might have felt that as an equal collaborator experimentally with Franklin in obtaining the photograph that he had a right to hand it to Wilkins (Maddox 2002). However, it was unlikely that Gosling would have done this without consulting Franklin who continued to be his academic supervisor and a good friend. Gosling has not denied the account in the book by Wilkins (Wikins 2003) and there is no reason to doubt its veracity or for it to be ignored as in most recent historical accounts (Wilkins 2003). Actually the whole episode, as related by Wilkins, brings nothing but credit to all the King’s College scientists involved. Franklin put her personal feelings to one side for the good of the science and Gosling and Wilkins were authorized by her in their subsequent actions which did lead to major new progress in the field even if it did not take place at King’s College. In any case, although the viewing of photograph no.51 by Watson supplied the Cambridge pair (and particularly Watson) with vital initial motivation, soon afterwards the Cambridge pair learnt most of the data in photograph no.51 from an officially circulated MRC report. A more detailed discussion of these issues with extensive bibliographies is contained in ‘’The Third Man of the Double Helix’’ Wilkins M. Oxford University Press 2003; ‘’Rosalind Franklin The Dark Lady of DNA’’. Maddox Brenda. Harper Collins 2002; ‘’The Path to the Double Helix’’ Olby R. Dover Publications. 1974; ‘’Genesis of a discovery : DNA Structure’’ ed S Chomet Newman Hemisphere Press1993 and ‘’A Quartet of Unlikely Discoveries’’ Sylvia AS and JF Tait. Athena Press 2004. [edit]

Opening sentence[edit]

I think there should be some mention of the work of the Cambridge team in the introduction. Mention of the KCL team in isolation looks odd. Notreallydavid (talk) 16:07, 9 September 2015 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Raymond Gosling/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

Last edited at 03:17, 20 August 2006 (UTC). Substituted at 03:59, 30 April 2016 (UTC)