Daily Video

October 1, 2021

Daily News Lesson: How Rosalind Franklin was denied recognition for her breakthrough DNA discovery


Directions: Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. Some students may find it easier to read along with the transcript or turn on closed captions/CC.

Summary: Before 1953, scientists did not really understand genetics or how parents pass on traits to their children or grandchildren, not to mention all the connections between DNA and RNA and mRNA viruses and vaccines, according to Dr. Howard Merkel, author of the “The Secret of Life.” The story familiar to most people involves how James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA, cementing their place in scientific history. But Merkel’s book paints a more troubling picture of how this famous discovery came about, and why scientist Rosalind Franklin also deserved credit.

Discussion questions: 

Warm up questions: Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

  • Who are the three main people the story revolves around?
  • What did Franklin discover through her research?
  • Where were Watson, Crick and Franklin from?
  • When did Franklin share her work on DNA with Watson and Crick and when did the latter two win the Nobel Prize?
  • Why did Watson and Crick deny Franklin recognition, according to Merkel?
  • How significant was the discovery of the double-helix shape of DNA?

Focus questions: 

  • “The reality is, is that, if life was fair, which it’s not, it would be called the Watson-Crick-Franklin model,” Merkel said. How do you think we could recognize the significance of Franklin’s discovery today? Is this important? Why or why not?
  • Have you ever had an idea that was used by someone else in which you did not received credit? How did it make you feel? What might you say if faced with that situation again?

Media literacy: Who might you have also interviewed for this story?

Additional resources:

Check out these two NewsHour EXTRA daily news lessons on inventions that provide further example of diversity in STEM and how people’s stories get told.

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