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1 April 2018 Using the Discovery of the Structure of DNA to Illustrate Cultural Aspects of Science
Peng Dai, David Rudge
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DNA is a central topic in biology courses because it is crucial to an understanding of modern genetics. Many instructors introduce the topic by means of a sanitized retelling of the history of the discovery of the structure of DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick. Historical research since 1968 has revealed that Rosalind Franklin's contributions were more significant than they are usually depicted. In light of this, we developed a two-class lesson plan that draws attention to Rosalind Franklin's role in the discovery and to the social and cultural aspects of science. The first class provides background information regarding what led scientists to recognize that DNA was the molecule of heredity. Students watch a documentary video that includes interviews with some of the surviving protagonists. Students (working in groups) are then asked to debate Franklin's role to refine their awareness of how social and cultural factors affected both the process of science and how it has been recounted. The second class has students work in groups to build a structural model of DNA through hands-on activities. The essay concludes by drawing attention to how the two-day lesson plan, developed for a college-level biology course, can be adapted for use in other settings.

© 2018 National Association of Biology Teachers. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press's Reprints and Permissions web page,
Peng Dai and David Rudge "Using the Discovery of the Structure of DNA to Illustrate Cultural Aspects of Science," The American Biology Teacher 80(4), 256-262, (1 April 2018).
Published: 1 April 2018

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Biology education
DNA structure
history of science
Rosalind Franklin
social and cultural aspects of science
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