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Tribute to Professor Raymond Gosling

Professor Raymond Gosling, a King's Alumnus who worked closely on the discovery of DNA in the 1950s, has died. 

Ray Gosling, as he was known then, worked in the Physics Department at King’s alongside Maurice Wilkins, Rosalind Franklin, Alec Stokes, Herbert Wilson and other colleagues in the MRC Biophysics Unit led by John Randall (which later became the Randall Division of Cell & Molecular Biophysics) where they made crucial contributions to the discovery of DNA's structure in 1953. 

Born in North West London in 1926, Professor Gosling was a British physicist who, with Rosalind Franklin, is best known for producing ‘Photo 51’, the first clear picture of the crystalline pattern of DNA. His pioneering work on X-ray diffraction research led to the building of the first correct model of the DNA molecule. 

He started his work on DNA as a research student at King’s in the summer of 1950, after completing his Physics degree at University College London and a two-year stint as a hospital physicist at the King's Fund and Middlesex Hospital.

Working initially with Maurice Wilkins, Ray Gosling obtained the first clear images of DNA with an X-ray diffraction camera, before taking ‘Photo 51’ at King’s in 1952 with Rosalind Franklin. Arguably one of the world’s most important photographs, the image demonstrated the helical structure of DNA and, with their own deductions, enabled James Watson and Francis Crick of the University of Cambridge to build the first double helix model of the DNA molecule which achieved renown as a global icon of science.

Ray Gosling left King’s soon after he completed his PhD thesis in 1954 to become a Physics lecturer at Queen’s College, which was formerly part of the University of St Andrews, and at the University of the West Indies. He later returned to the UK in 1967 to take up the position of Lecturer and Reader at Guy's Hospital Medical School, and then Professor and Emeritus Professor in Physics Applied to Medicine from 1984. 

Professor Gosling is survived by his wife Mary and four sons. Our thoughts are with his family at this time. 

Professor Gosling and his work was the subject of the BBC Radio 4 programme Last Words, broadcast on 31st May 2015, to which Brian Sutton, Professor of Molecular Biophysics and X-ray crystallographer, contributed.


Maurice Wilkins is the subject of one of a new series of BBC Radio 4 programmes, Science Stories, presented by Kevin Fong and broadcast on 24th June 2015. It is entitled “DNA’s Third Man” and Brian Sutton, Professor of Molecular Biophysics and X-ray crystallographer, discusses Maurice Wilkins’ work and in particular his contribution to the X-ray studies of DNA that led to the famous double helix structure.

DNA's Third Man: