Photo of Bill Astbury and Florence Bell

Bell and Astbury By the 1930s, while Leeds University welcomed students and staff it was still rather unusual to find many women working and studying in the sciences. In 1933-34 Astbury managed to get the Rockefeller Institute to take a financial interest in his work, as a result of this support he was able to employ more staff one of whom was Florence Bell, a graduate of Girton College Cambridge and previously a researcher at both the Cavendish Laboratories in Cambridge and the Physics Department at Manchester. Considered by Astbury to be an ideal candidate for the position of Rockefeller Research Assistant, Bell came to Leeds to join Astbury's laboratory in 1937.

The main focus of Bell's doctoral thesis, however, was concerned not with the structure of proteins but with that of another set of biological fibres: the nucleic acids. That the nucleic acids must have some significant biological role was clear, for as Bell wrote in 1939:

"Possibly the most pregnant development in molecular biology is the realisation that the beginnings of life are closely associated with the interaction of proteins and nucleic acids." (Bell, PhD thesis, 1939)

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