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issue Community Health 2024

The Famed Four: Dr. Rosalind Franklin Among Women Honored at Trinity College Dublin

Trinity College officials Helen Shenton, Linda Doyle and Catherine Giltrap unveil Dr. Franklin’s sculpture in February 2023.

Prior to 2023, the rows of marble sculptures in The Old Library at Trinity College Dublin — a research university established by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592 — exclusively featured men, including Aristotle, Cicero, Homer, Shakespeare and Socrates.

But in what Trinity officials described as “a first step toward a better representation of our diversity in all of Trinity’s public spaces,” sculptures of four women were added: dramatist Augusta Gregory, mathematician Ada Lovelace, women’s rights advocate Mary Wollstonecraft and Dr. Rosalind Franklin.

“While it is important to respect tradition, it is also important to break tradition. The addition of these sculptures of women has been a long time coming,” Trinity Provost Dr. Linda Doyle said at the February unveiling. “I hope that the inclusion of these four outstanding women is the furthering of a collective recognition of the incredible contribution of women across many fields.”

“The addition of these sculptures of women has been a long time coming.”

According to Trinity College, Dr. Franklin’s sculpture was created by Vera Klute in three sections with “classical and contemporary techniques. The portrait is made with cast Parian (a type of porcelain) Jesmonite, marble and Swarovski crystals, the latter making direct references to Franklin’s use of X-ray crystallography to research the structure of DNA. The helix of the socle is a visual nod to Franklin’s contribution to the discovery of the helical form of DNA.”

Among those paying a 2023 visit to The Old Library were 鶹Ӱ alumnae Audrey Bromberger, MD ’84, and Angela Nuzzarello Aavik, MD ’86, both of whom shared their experience via helix.letters@rosalindfranklin.edu.

“It was the highlight of my trip!” Dr. Nuzzarello Aavik wrote. Dr. Bromberger, who visited with her husband, John Birmingham, wrote that she was “extremely pleased” to see the sculpture during a tour that included a view of the 1,200-year-old Book of Kells. 

Dr. Nuzzarello
Aavik Dr. Franklin sculpture Dr. Bromberger and
her husband
Dr. Nuzzarello Aavik during her visit to the Old Library; Dr. Bromberger and her husband.

Trinity officials noted that Dr. Franklin was selected for the honor from more than 500 nominations by students, staff and alumni “covering a wide field of ground-breaking individuals who contributed significantly to scholarship and culture across history.”

“Rosalind Franklin’s scientific discoveries have benefited humanity in several ways,” the college wrote in a tribute. “While her name is often connected with missing out on a Nobel prize, her legacy is of much greater significance.” 

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