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Short Film
Great Discoveries in Science: The Double Helix

Summary

The Double Helix is the story of the scientists and evidence involved in one of the most important scientific quests of the 20th century: the discovery of the structure of DNA.

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(Duration: 16 min 53 sec)

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James Watson and Francis Crick collected and interpreted key evidence to determine that DNA molecules take the shape of a twisted ladder—a double helix. The film presents the challenges, false starts, and eventual success of their bold chase, culminating in the classic 1953 publication in Nature on the structure of DNA. Watson relates what those early days in the Cavendish Laboratory were like, including his friendship with Crick and their shared ambition and passion. Rarely seen archival footage is combined with interviews with some of today’s leading scientists to bring this landmark discovery and all of its implications to life.

"This film provides an excellent summary of how James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the molecular structure of DNA. It packs a tremendous amount of information into a short time frame […] I highly recommend this video for classroom use and plan to use it in my own."

—David W. Allard, American Biology Teacher, May 2014

Awards

  • Spring 2014 CINE Golden Eagle Award


Curriculum Connections:

AP (2012–13)

3.A.1.a,b; 4.A.1.a,b

Supporting Materials (3)

Film Guides
The following classroom-ready resources complement The Double Helix. This short film describes the evidence that led James Watson and Francis Crick to the discovery of the double-helical structure of DNA and how the structure immediately revealed how genetic information is stored and inherited.
Classroom Resource
This activity can be used in conjunction with the short film The Double Helix. It introduces students to the classic experiment by Matthew Meselson and Franklin Stahl, which revealed that DNA replication follows the semiconservative model.
Classroom Resource
A text transcript of the short film "The Double Helix" from the Great Discoveries in Science short film series.

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The Double Helix is the story of the scientists and evidence involved in one of the most important scientific quests of the 20th century: the discovery of the structure of DNA.

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