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Four pupils, aided by presenter Joe Crowley, set out to understand why scientist Rosalind Franklin has largely been overlooked by history. Crick and Watson are well-known for their discovery of the structure of DNA, but a female scientist, Rosalind Franklin, went almost unrecognised despite making a crucial breakthrough. The pupils visit a laboratory to take part in an experiment where they extract DNA from a strawberry. They discover the importance of DNA to all living things and learn about its distinctive double helix structure. Working online, the pupils search newsreel archives, Pathe and Movietone, then discover that Crick and Watson were awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize for their work on DNA but that there is no mention of Franklin. Joe arranges for the pupils to meet Shirley Franklin, Rosalind Franklin's niece, who tells them that the scientist made a critical discovery relating to the shape of DNA in 1952, and Crick and Watson heard about this. The pupils hear Shirley's personal testimony and learn that Rosalind Franklin was unrecognised, partly because female scientists were not treated seriously in the 1950s by many of their male counterparts. The pupils are shown evidence of Rosalind Franklin's crucial discovery in the archive of Churchill College, part of Cambridge University, where they are able to examine and record Franklin's original notes. Finally the pupils hear an interview with historian, Dr Patricia Fara who expresses that today, female scientists remain angry at Franklin's treatment.
First broadcast:
27 March 2012

Classroom Ideas

A starter activity could be to discuss what discrimination means. Pupils can research other female scientists and think about whether they were discriminated against. Are there any female scientists today that have made an important discovery? Do pupils think that something should be corrected to acknowledge that Franklin discovered the photograph? If so, what? The clip could also be used when discussing changes in science and technology and great scientific discoveries. Use the clip when discussing the life of Rosalind Franklin and why she was significant. The clip would also be useful when discussing how the past has been represented and interpreted in different ways including some of the reasons for this.

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