By Anne Ortelee


April 25, 2003 marks the 50th anniversary of the announcement to the world that the structure of DNA, known as the Double Helix was discovered.  Many people however are not fully aware of the controversy behind this discovery that still exists.  Below is an article by Anne Ortelee confronting this controversy head on, and introduces players we may not know. 

          Cloning, GMO foods, tests for genetic diseases, and stem cell research all create ongoing emotional and ethical controversy.  To find out why, look to the seeds of controversy sown by the discovery of DNA’s double helix structure.  On April 25, 1953, Nature magazine published James Watson and Francis Crick’s groundbreaking article on the structure of DNA entitled A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid.  In the scientific community, the first person(s) to publish gets credit for the discovery.  Often simultaneous paths of scientific research occur at different places a/k/a synchronicity.  Sharing and competition are encouraged because new research stands on the shoulders of earlier research. This time, the allure of the Nobel Prize was too compelling ~ sharing and competition degenerated into allegations of stealing, manipulation and skullduggery.

In Watson and Crick’s hypothetical paper, which contained no authorities, experimental proofs, or any historical record, they said We have also been stimulated by a knowledge of the general nature of the unpublished results and ideas of Dr. [Maurice] Wilkins, Dr. [Rosalind] Franklin and their co-workers at King’s College, London (A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid, p. 738).  They solved the riddle of DNA using a tinker toy model after Watson used Wilkins, Franklin’s co-worker, to gain access to her photographs of DNA, without having Franklin’s or King’s College’s permission to do so.  Watson and Crick had the vital information they needed to publish results before Franklin or Wilkins had a chance to do so.  The way these ideas were transferred to Watson remain at the core of the controversy, embedded in the horoscopes of the players in this drama. 

Rosalind Franklin (July 25, 1920, London, England, time unknown) was a brilliant scientist in post-warGreat Britain when women were not welcomed by the male-dominated scientific community.  Her Mars (action)-North Node (destiny) conjunction in Scorpio indicates her scientific brilliance and drive to explore the darkest depths resulting in her experiments with X-ray crystallography.  Both the Sun and Mars are strengthened in the signs they  rule (Leo and Scorpio), while Mars tightly squares her Sun-Mercury-Venus-Neptune stellium in Leo, and  quintiles her Jupiter in Leo giving  fiery pride, creativity, passion, inspiration, and brilliance. The stellium’s excess energy pours into the opposite sign of Aquarius creating fierce independence and quirkiness. Although her time of birth is unknown, it is safe to say that her five Leo planets made her very difficult to get along with if her pride and values were not respected and honored.  She was, in fact, described as an extremely, deeply shy person appearing to almost reject people and, in many cases, antagonizing them (Rosalind Franklin and DNA, p. 215). 

          The Mars-Uranus-Pluto grand trine in water supports her driven nature and incredible instinct for research, and Mars’s sextile to Saturn in Virgo gave her an ability  to coax, revisit, refine, and analyze her data, adjusting based on success or failure.  This means that Mars aspects every planet in her chart, notwithstanding the Moon, which could range from 25 Scorpio to 7 Sagittarius–depending on what time of day she was born.  I am inclined towards a Sagittarius Moon based on her prolific publishing, love of adventure, hiking, foreign places, and outspoken manner.  The Moon would then trine her Leo Stellium further contributing to her drive, charm, and ease of relationships with people.  She argued passionately about science and worked with single-minded concentration.  Mercury, ruler of the mind, is combust the Sun indicating an ability to focus on her destiny but promising conflicts with, and lack of cooperation from, those whose points of view run  counter to her beliefs.

          Franklin came from a wealthy, orthodox Jewish family, and her parents wanted their powerful, formidable, and able daughter to follow in their philanthropic footsteps by becoming a social worker rather than a scientist.  When her aunt (Moon trine her Leo planets) offered to pay for her education, Franklin’s father relented.  She attended Cambridge University where she did her dissertation on gas phase chromatography. After World Waar II, she spent four happy, productive years in Paris where women scientists like Marie Curie were respected.  Her boss (Sun-Neptune), a Resistance war hero, was a brilliant scientist who appreciated smart, strong women. 

          In 1951, when Pluto moved into orb of her Jupiter, Franklin was hired at King’s College in London to apply her skills in X-ray crystallography to the study of DNA. Maurice Wilkins (December 15, 1916, New Zealand, time unknown) who was on vacation when Franklin was hired, was livid and insisted she was his assistant.  Franklin, in turn, insisted she was independent.  A queenly Leo, she’d run her own projects for the previous nine years.  She had a forceful reaction when she discovered the Senior Common Room at Kings was off limits to all women, regardless of status.  Franklin was a smart, feminist, Jewish woman dropped into a conservative, WASP, male culture.  

          She  is described by fans as charming, brilliant, opinionated, and competitive, and by foes as bossy, argumentative, and aggressive.  She could be probably either, depending on your point of view.  Her key planets are in masculine signs, making her energetically a man in a woman’s body.  Often the same words have very different meanings when applied to a man or a woman.  It is always interesting to see how the phrase “complete and utter control” changes meaning based on the gender of the person being described.

          Franklin and Wilkins had a very difficult, non-collegial relationship.  Wilkins’s Moon, which could range from 16 to 28 Leo,  is opposed by Uranus in Aquarius, and ties into Franklin’s Leo Stellium.  It was personal. Neither would give up.  Franklin probably represented his inability to control proud, fierce women who abandoned him, either physically or emotionally, starting with his mother.  This is further exacerbated by his retrograde Cancer Saturn of karmic issues around control, security, or family, falling on her Sun.  It is obvious from all accounts that he needed to control her in order to feel secure, while her tight Uranus opposite Saturn is activated if someone tries to control her. His exalted Mars in Capricorn is inconjunct her Venus-Neptune conjunction, further emphasizing their inability to relate.  Their Mercury’s are inconjunct within minutes, while his Neptune conjoins her Mercury indicating stressful conversations, and an uncanny knack for misunderstanding each other every time they interacted.  His Mars-Pluto-Mercury further activates their ability to communicate.  She was exceptionally willful and her flamboyant defense of her beliefs and passionate argumentative style conflicted with his conservative, controlled Capricorn mindset. 

          Wilkins was Rosalind’s Pluto transit to her Jupiter as the South Node passed over her Leo Stellium. Rosalind was Maurice’s Pluto transit to his Leo Moon and Venus in Scorpio. Jupiter in Aries and Taurus activated both their charts. The stage at Kings was set for Pluto to appear–enter James Watson (April 6, 1928, 1:23 am, Chicago, Illinois) as the third person in the triangle.

          James Watson’s birth chart has Mars in the anaerectic degree of Aquarius, indicating extremes of Aquarian behavior–the ends justify the means. Mars is opposed by Neptune in Leo, making the boundaries of his actions vague, fueled by dreams of grandeur, kingship and not always on the straight and narrow, namely deception and insidious behavior.  Mars rules his very tight Sun- Jupiter (grandiosity, god-complex) conjunction in Aries (competitive drive, me first) tightly squared by Pluto in Cancer (willful, ambitious, power- hungry, arrogant). Retrograde Saturn in Sagittarius gives him karmic issues around honor, moral codes, and righteousness.  As the ruler of his chart, Saturn, placed in the 11th house of success from career (2nd from 10thhouse), trines his Sun-Jupiter supplying enormous drive, ability for success, and tremendous luck in work, thus his nickname “Lucky Jim.”  Venus, exalted in Pisces and joined to his fallen Mercury, is inconjunct Neptune and square  Saturn creating an idealization of the “perfect woman,” but conflicted, difficult, and often contemptuous relationships with real, smart women.   In The Double Helix, which portrayed how he and Crick discovered DNA’s structure, Watson writes about Franklin in a very complex, often sarcastic, manner.  He imagines what she would be like if she took off her glasses and did something novel with her hair (The Double Helix, p. 45). He refers to her as “Rosy,” a diminutive of Rosalind, and a red flag marker of insecurity and attempted dominance. 

Clearly, Rosy had to go or be put in her place.  The former was obviously preferable because, given her belligerent moods, it would be very difficult for Maurice [Wilkins] to maintain a dominant position that would allow him to think unhindered about DNA.  The thought could not be avoided that the best home for a feminist was in another person’s lab. (The Double Helix, pp. 14-15)

Watson’s need for a woman’s support, yet his difficulty with, and need to be free of,  them is reflected by his Libra Moon tightly trining his Mars, and Venus squaring his Saturn.  A Libra Moon further indicates his desire for refined, “nice” women who focus on partnership.  His Moon is opposite Chiron, implying primal wounding by the mother figure, and its placement as ruler of the 9th placed in the 7th indicates success through partnerships via publishing and foreign places.  His Scorpio midheaven, co-ruled by Mars opposite Neptune corroborates the paranoid plotting and striving for success he writes of in The Double Helix .  He was a double standard, fire grand trine guy in the often-misogynist scientific world, and despite his Libra Moon, appears via his book to have dubious social skills.  Pluto conjunct his descendant gives power struggles with open enemies as well as partners.  Francis Crick was rumored to have been considering a lawsuit about The Double Helix.  Watson may be described as an exceptionally brilliant guy with breathtaking competitive drive, enormous luck and ruthlessness combined with a strong dislike but need-based dependence on women.  

A 24-year-old American with a Ph.D. in Biology, Watson believed discovering DNA’s structure was THE cutting edge of research.  He repeatedly stated his desire to discover DNA’s structure and win the Nobel Prize. In fact, he’d already written his acceptance speech.  Watson details how he plotted and manipulated in order to succeed.  He partnered with Crick so he could repeatedly re-direct Crick’s incredible, wide-ranging mind towards the DNA puzzle, and befriended Wilkins so that he could pump him for details of his and Franklin’s DNA research.  He even befriended Linus Pauling’s son Peter to get details about his father’s work, since he thought Pauling could discover DNA’s structure.  In January 1953, Peter Pauling gave Watson a copy of his father’s unpublished manuscript on DNA’s structure. 

Arriving at King’s College on January 30, 1953, just before 4:00 PM, Watson wanted to show Wilkins the manuscript.  Wilkins was preoccupied, so instead dropped in, unannounced and uninvited, to Franklin’s lab.  She wasn’t pleased.  They argued about Pauling’s results, which did not match hers.  Watson wrote her voice rose as she told me that the stupidity of my remarks would be obvious if I would stop blubbering and look at her X-ray evidence…I implied that she was incompetent in interpreting X-ray pictures.  If only she would learn some theory, she would understand…(The Double Helix, p. 96)

Watson writes that he feared Franklin was going to strike him after his remark so he hastily retreated to the open door as Wilkins arrived.  He writes, My encounter with Rosy opened up Maurice to a degree that I had not seem before.  Now that I need no longer merely imagine the emotional hell (Pluto conjoined his Moon and square his Venus) he had faced during the past two years, he could treat me almost as a fellow collaborator rather than a distant acquaintance with whom close confidences inevitably led to painful misunderstandings (The Double Helix, p. 98).

(Earlier, Watson used data from Kings’ lab obtained from Wilkins. That betrayal cooled their relationship.  It led to Watson and Crick being barred from working on DNA by their boss.  Watson complained bitterly that the English still believed in fair play. Watson’s Mars is exactly inconjunct Wilkins’s Saturn and shows betrayal potential, while Wilkins’s Mars on Watson’s ascendant pulls Watson in as a Pluto figure for Wilkins.)

          Wilkins told Watson that Franklin had X-ray evidence since the middle of summer about the structure of DNA.  Watson writes I asked what the pattern was like…The instant I saw the picture my mouth fell open and my pulse began to race.  The pattern was unbelievably simpler than those obtained previously (the Double Helix, p. 98) Watson’s description of the photo was a Uranus eureka breakthrough moment, and occurred when transiting Uranus was precisely on his Pluto-descendant conjunction igniting his Pluto…….

At the same time, Wilkins had no idea how significant the information was that he had given to Watson whose Neptune conjoins Wilkins Moon-Athena conjunction and squares his Venus creating a nurturing, supportive, yet foggy relationship.  Wilkins expressed in an interview that Crick and Watson could not have gone on to their correct model, without the data developed here.  They had that ~ I blame myself, I was naive ~ and they moved ahead.  We were scooped, I don’t think quite fairly (Rosalind Franklin and DNA, p. 210).   The inconjunct between his Saturn and Watson’s Mars is betrayed by Neptune’s lack of boundaries.

The chart drawn for the moment Watson arrived at Kings College is quite extraordinary as both an event chart, and how it links all parties involved in this drama.  As an event chart, the most obvious configuration is the fixed t-square between, across the first and seventh house axis.  The t-square (area of conflict) in fixed signs attests to the fact that this controversy still exists to this day, and in all likelihood will never be resolved.   Setting the stage for this dramatic planetary picture is the generational Saturn-Neptune conjunction in Libra, widely squared to Uranus in Cancer, and sextile to Pluto in Leo.  The conjunction, which took place from 1951….is interesting because it emphasizes the Libra duality, which perfectly describes the double helix model. Franklin worked on this since she arrived.  The X-ray Mars and Venus are exactly inconjunct X-ray Neptune and Saturn.

Transiting Uranus conjoins Watson’s Pluto-descendant, showing his breakthrough moment, and the fact that it ignited open enemies and sets off that natal square to his  Sun/Jupiter conjunction.  Because of the contacts between his chart and Franklin’s, the transits not only set his chart on fire, but hers as well.  Transiting Mars and Venus conjoin Watson’s Mercury and Venus.  Watson’s natal Uranus is inconjunct Rosalind’s Scorpio Mars.  Rosalind’s Aries Athena, the brilliant, intellectual, strategic woman trines his Neptune. The Aquarius Sun and Mercury is conjunct his Athena.  He could see the gift and pattern of her work the minute the X-ray Athena set off his Uranus inconjunct. Jim and Maurice’s natal chart have Athena in stressful aspects.  X-ray Athena is very active when both men’s natal promise of problems, help and dependence on women strikes again!

 And all four X-ray planets are tightly inconjunct/conjunct Watson’s Mercury and Venus and pull his Moon in Libra into the energy flow.  Eight planets of energy, with inconjuncts in the mix, create a stressful need to take action and move between two incompatible choices. Watson’s own inconjuncts create stress in what are probably his already flawed attitudes towards women.  He freely admits that he had Franklin’s data without her knowledge, and yet continued to seek out her opinions, feedback and wanted to see her work.  

Rosalind Franklin’s photographs (that Wilkins showed without permission) gave Watson exactly what he needed to understand the structure of DNA, publish the results, and win the Nobel Prize.  Given his chart, the fierce competition in the scientific male-dominated world, and the contacts with her chart, could he have been able to say ‘Hey Rosy, Maurice, that guy you hate, just showed me your X-ray pictures without your permission.  When I saw your work, I figured out the structure of DNA.  Do you want to co-publish your results?  We can share the Nobel Prize.”    Obviously not.  Instead, Watson’s Sun-Jupiter square Pluto kicked in. He would publish before she did and win the Nobel Prize.  She didn’t even know he’d seen her work. Watson’s competitive exalted Sun in Aries beats Rosy’s Leo Sun.    

The rest, as they say, is history.  Watson talked to his boss and got permission to proceed based on his view of Franklin’s photos and to beat the English. Next, Watson got his hands on Franklin’s quantitative data.  He and Crick developed their tinker toy model in under a month.  They wrote a paper and submitted it on March 18, 1953, 11 days before Rosalind Franklin’s paper arrived with her data and the photographs.  She’d written her draft on March 17, 1953. 

  Watson and Crick won the Nobel Prize in 1962, which they shared with Maurice Wilkins.  Wilkins, with his honorable Sun in Sagittarius, mentioned Franklin’s work in his acceptance speech. Watson and Crick mentioned 96 other research items and left her out.  Rosalind Franklin died of ovarian cancer in 1958.  The Nobel Prize is only awarded to living people.  We will never know if Franklin would have also shared in the Nobel Prize had she lived.

The question remains ~ If Rosalind Franklin had the photographs since the previous summer, why hadn’t she published her work?  Did she know what she had?  Crick said, “Oh, don’t be silly. Of course, Rosalind would have solved it… With Rosalind, it was only a matter of time.i

Remember her Saturn in Virgo sextile her Mars and North Node? Rosalind’s karmic issue was about gathering data, analyzing it, and being perfect. She was busy summer, fall, and early winter gathering the quantitative data to prove what the pictures told her! It is a reminder to the Virgo planets in every chart to just send the darn thing out into the world!  It will never be perfect. 

 A friend of mine who met Dr. Watson says the Rosalind Franklin story has dogged him since he used her work without her knowledge or permission.  Her Scorpio Mars and North Node are on his Scorpio Midheaven with her Juno joined to his Moon. They remained married in history as she haunts him from beyond the grave.  It will be interesting to see what happens during this 50th anniversary of the discovery of DNA’s structure.  Chiron will return as Jupiter transits across Rosalind’s glorious Leo Stellium and Pluto comes to trine her natal Jupiter, so besieged in 1953.  Perhaps Rosalind Franklin will get the credit she deserves. 

i. Pg 213, Sayre, Anne. Rosalind Franklin and DNA.

Copyright © 2006 Anne C. Ortelee