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The First Discovery of DNA

source: Ralf Dahm & Lotta Fredholm Name: _______________________ Period: _________ Most people know that DNA contains the blueprint for life. Watson and Crick are the first scientists to figure out the structure of DNA in the 1950s. Less people know the chemist who first isolated the DNA molecule itself. Johann Friedrich Miescher, working in the late 1800s, separated out what he called "nuclein" from cells. Miescher proved that the new substance did indeed come from cell nucleus, and that is was a new type of molecule not like anything known at the time. Although Miescher did develop some hypotheses about how "nuclein" might be involved in heredity, he thought (like most people did at that time) that any one type of molecule would be too simple to account for all the variation seen within an organism. It would be about 75 years before anyone understood how important Miescher's discovery was. In the late 1940's, scientists knew that DNA was most likely the molecule of life, even though many were still not sure since it was so "simple." They also knew that DNA included different amounts of the four bases adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G) and cytosine (C), but nobody knew what the molecule might look like. In order to figure out the structure of DNA, a couple pieces of information needed to be put together. One was that the phosphate backbone was on the outside with bases on the inside; another that the molecule was a double helix. It was also important to figure out that the two strands run in opposite directions and that the molecule had a specific base pairing. As in the solving of other complex problems, the work of many people was needed to establish the full picture. Vocabulary DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) Cell nucleus Heredity _____________________________ _____________________________ Discovery finding something new Blueprint drawing that has information to build something Isolated alone. not with anything else. Substance type of material Variation diversity or difference

Pre-reading question: 1. Write down everything you know about DNA. (Explain the best you can in your own words).

Post-reading Questions: 1. DNA is considered the ________________________________ or the molecule of _________________ because it has all the information needed to build a living organism (examples: human, dog, fish). 2. Miecher separated something he called _____________ from the cell nucleus, which we now know is DNA. 3. The two pieces of information that scientists needed to figure out so they could understand the structure of DNA were: a. the phosphate backbone was on the __________________ with bases on the ____________________ b. the molecule was a double ___________________ 4. How many years did it take scientists to discover the structure of DNA? _________________________ 5. Why do you think it took them that long? (Explain in your own words)

6. Did you learn anything new about DNA? (Explain in your own words).