US Centre News

US welcomes heritage listing of Rosalind Franklin’s grave
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Thursday 9th March 2017

The United Synagogue welcomed today’s listing by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) of the grave of scientist Rosalind Franklin at its historic Willesden Cemetery, the first grave in any US cemetery to receive the mark of national heritage significance.

Rosalind Franklin died aged 37 in 1958 after playing a major role in the discovery of DNA. Her grave has been Grade II listed by DCMS on the advice of Historic England in an initiative celebrating women scientists for International Women’s Day.

“We very much welcome Historic England’s listing of Rosalind Franklin’s grave. It will surely bring more visitors to Willesden Cemetery to connect with her story and those of many notable people buried there,” said David Kaplan, US Director responsible for its Burial Society. “The listing also recognises the importance of our historic burial grounds, which the United Synagogue is committed to preserving.”

The US looks after 11 cemeteries in London with a total of 170,000 graves as well as cemeteries in Sheffield, Dover and Aldershot.

The United Synagogue is planning to open up its Victorian Willesden Cemetery to more visitors and a wider audience through the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Thanks to National Lottery players, HLF has awarded initial support to the project and a development grant of £321,000 to progress plans to conserve the cemetery and create a focus for heritage there, sharing the histories of British-Jewry and offering guided walks, events, learning and volunteering activities.

A Grade II listing means a place is of national importance and has special historic interest. Historic England said, “Listing identifies the most important parts of our heritage so they can be protected by law. It celebrates a site’s significance and makes sure that our history can be enjoyed by present and future generations.”

Franklin’s X-ray observation of DNA contributed to the discovery of its helical structure by Crick and Watson in 1953, who were awarded the Nobel Prize after her death. Her pioneering work helped lay the foundations of molecular biology. The epitaph on her grave says “Her research and discoveries on viruses remain of lasting benefit to mankind”. 

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