As we prepare for a new semester, finding ways to bring science to life, to make scientific discovery and history personal for our students, is always challenging. Stories about the people and the passions behind the molecules are one way to get students truly engaged in science. One of the stories often told to introductory biochemistry and molecular biology students is the elucidation of DNA structure. Because of the personalities involved: Watkins, Franklin, Watson, Crick and others, it makes for great reading and even great movie watching (see Jeff Goldblum in Race for the Double Helix). I’ve had students read Watson’s The Double Helix and Sayre’s Rosalind Franklin and DNA, and Crick’s What Mad Pursuit. Now, many of Crick’s papers are being made available online by the Wellcome Library. Additionally, many of the documents are available through the National Library of Medicine in the United States. What a great teaching aid, Crick’s simple sketch of a DNA molecule, a pencil drawing on a yellowed piece of paper. Nothing elaborate. Just a simple sketch that revealed a huge leap in understanding.
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