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Putting the Pieces Together: The Discovery of DNA Structure and Replication

Kevin M. Bonney
Liberal Studies, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
New York University




Educational Level


Type Methods


Subject Headings

Biology (General) Genetics / Heredity

Date Posted

Teaching Notes

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The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.

  • The Chemical Structure of DNA hhmi/
    This video uses an animation to illustrate the structure and main properties of DNA. Running time: 2:44 min. Produced by Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).
  • The Secret of Life—Discovery of DNA Structure
    This video describes the contributions of several key scientists involved in the discovery of the structure of DNA. Running time: 8:36 min. Produced by Virginia Commonwealth University, 2014.
  • Building a Model of DNA Replication
    This video shows a demonstration of the conservative, dispersive, and semi-conservative models of DNA replication using marshmallows and gum drops. Running time: 3:19. Created by Kevin M. Bonney for the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, 2015.
  • The Double Helix hhmi/
    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. Running time: 16:53 min. Produced by HHMI BioInteractive.
  • DNA Replication Schematic hhmi/
    A 50-second animation that explains the mechanism of replication. The double helix unwinds and each strand acts as a template for the construction of the new DNA molecule. Running time 0:50 min.Produced by HHMI BioInteractive.
  • DNA Replication Basic Detail hhmi/
    Short 3-D animation showing how DNA is replicated at the molecular level. It involves an enzyme that unwinds the DNA and other enzymes that copy the two resulting strands. Running time: 1:07 min. Produced by HHMI BioInteractive.second
  • DNA Replication Advanced Detail hhmi/
    Short animation showing both strands of the DNA double helix acting as templates for the new DNA strands. Incoming DNA is unraveled by the enzyme helicase, resulting in the 3' strand and the 5' strand. The 3' strands and the 5' strands are replicated by a DNA polymerase enzyme but in different ways. Running time: 2:20 min. Produced by HHMI BioInteractive.