Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.
25 Apr 2013
Photo 51 (Image copyright: King’s College London)
Sixty years ago today a paper describing the structure of DNA was published in Nature. Photo 51 was important to Watson and Crick’s discovery, and is surely the most famous x-ray crystallography image in the world. But what do its shadows and cruciform spots actually mean? Katherine Nightingale met King’s College London Professor of Molecular Biophysics Brian Sutton for an explanation of both the image and its history.
When and where was Photo 51 taken?
It was taken in May 1952 by Rosalind Franklin and her PhD student Raymond Gosling at the MRC Biophysics Unit. Franklin, a biophysicist, had been recruited to the unit to work on the structure of DNA. The unit was then part of the King’s College campus on the Strand in London and was run by Sir John Randall, who had turned some of the university’s physics department over to studying biological problems. More literally, it was taken three floors down in the basement underneath the chemistry laboratories, below the level of the Thames.
The MRC Biophysics Unit moved to Drury Lane in the 1960s and later became the Randall Institute. I now work in its most recent incarnation — the Randall Division of Cell and Molecular Biophysics. So photo 51 is doubly significant for me: I’m an x-ray crystallographer so it’s part of my heritage in that respect, but all of us in the division are proud of this link with the work in the 1950s. [...]
Continue reading: Behind the picture: Photo 51
9 Apr 2013
In the latest of a series of posts delving into our photo archives, Katherine Nightingale takes a look at sailors scribing in the ‘hot room’ in what is now the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit.
(Image copyright: MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit)
It’s pretty safe to say that these five sailors, shirtless as they are and with some sporting makeshift sweatbands, are being ‘cooked’ in the hot room of the MRC Applied Psychology Unit (MRC APU) in Cambridge, which became the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in 1998.
This photo was published in a 1974 research paper, but the MRC APU first began using naval ratings as experimental subjects in 1961, testing them for two hours a day on a range of tasks and paying them an hourly honorarium for their troubles.
The work was carried out on behalf of the Royal Navy Personnel Research Committee, which was interested in how the sailors made decisions when under stresses such as extreme heat, noise, boredom and sleep loss, or strange atmospheric pressures. [...]
Continue reading: Behind the picture: Sailors in the hot room
5 Mar 2013
In the second of a series of posts looking back on the photo archives of our 100-year history, Sarah Harrop muses on the health and safety of mouth pipetting, flu research and floral trousers.
NIMR flu researchers pipetting by mouth in the late 1960s
This photo is from the late 1960s, as the smart ties and ruler-straight side partings give away. It was taken at the WHO World Influenza Centre at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in Mill Hill, north London.
Supervising is Professor Helio Pereira, a Brazilian researcher who was then Director of the centre and Head of the MRC NIMR’s Virology Division. [...]
Continue reading: Behind the picture: A bit of a mouthful
10 Jan 2013
One of the joys of turning 100 is that you have a fair few photos to look back on. As part of the research for the MRC Centenary Timeline, we’ve been looking through the archives and finding some gems, including this picture of the team behind some of the first MRI scans of the entire body.
The team behind some of the first whole-body MRI scans (Copyright: Sir Peter Mansfield)
He might look like a man lying on a wallpaper pasting-table but in fact Barry Hill, then a technician in the Department of Physics at the University of Nottingham, is reclining atop state-of-the-art MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) equipment.
This photo, tentatively dated to 1980, shows Sir Peter Mansfield (in shirt and tie) and his colleagues a couple of years after they completed their first MRI whole-body scans (of Sir Peter himself). They’d completed the first MRI images of living tissue — the fingers of research student Andrew Maudsley — in 1976. [...]
Continue reading: Behind the picture: The humble beginnings of MRI