VIRUSES lesson 3: History of discovery

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In this lesson we make a timeline of the history of virology.  This is an unusual drawing because you will be printing four template pages, not one.  Three of the pages are the timeline, the fourth is the official lesson page, which is mostly blank so that you can glue the timeline onto it.  (You don’t have to glue it on, but if you are keeping the  lesson pages in a 3-ring binder, I’m pretty sure you’ll want to stick the timeline to the lesson 3 page.)

Items you will need for this drawing:  the template pages, glue (glue stick is okay), a large paper clip, a yellow pencil or highlighter, a red pencil, and your regular pencil with a good eraser.    (I show you how to glue the timeline in the first part of the video.)

This pdf download gives you all four pages you will need.  Print them in color if you can, but black and white will be okay.

Virus lesson 3 timeline templage pages

Please note that this lesson is a bit longer than the others.  I give an official intermission break at about the 45 minute mark.  You can take a break here, or you can go on and finish the remaining 30 minutes or so.




Activity 3.1:  A word puzzle with a funny prize at the end

Download and print this puzzle.  If you fill in all the right answers, you should get the web address where I have posted some virus jokes.  (NOTE:  Updated version of the puzzle posted on 4/26/20.)

Lesson 3.1 word puzzle


Activity 3.2:  Play a card game where you identify viruses by looking at micrographs

Imagine that you are a pathology student and are asked to memorize what common viruses look like.  (Pathologists are the ones who get those tests that doctors mail off to the lab.  The pathologists look at the tests, often looking at microorganisms under a microscope, then making the diagnosis.  The doctors depends on the pathologist making the right diagnosis.)  The download gives you 12 virus cards to print out.  You can play a solo game, or you can join with one or more other players and do a bingo style game.

Virus pathology bingo game


Activity 3.3:  Do a virtual PCR lab



Here is an example of what I mean about books and videos never telling the whole story about the history of vaccines.  This is a nice video, but it never mentions the hundreds of years before Jenner, when people in many parts of the world were using variolation to prevent smallpox.  Jenner knew about this practice (using smallpox scabs or pus as a treatment to prevent smallpox).  What he did was only to extend the idea to consider that cowpox might also work, and be a bit safer, since it seemed not to cause serious disease in milkmaids who caught it from the cows.  We are usually led to think that Jenner came out of nowhere with a completely new idea, as if no one before him had ever thought of this, which is far from the truth.  But this is a cute video and worth watching.


Here is a video that includes the centuries of “variolation” before Jenner came along.  (Hurray!)



The coronavirus outbreak of 2020 is not the first time that Americans (and others) have had to deal with closures and quarantine.  Parents raising children before 1955 lived in constant fear that their children would contract polio.  Poliomyelitis could be a very mild disease or it could cause paralysis and death.  Many children ended up crippled.  Some had their diaphragm muscles paralyzed so they could not breath and they had to live the rest of their lives (or during a very long recovery) inside a metal tube called an “iron lung.”   This video gives just a few images of these things, not enough to frighten you, just enough to educate you on what it was like before 1955 when the polio vaccine began being used widely.   You’ll never catch polio, thanks to Dr. Jonas Salk  (and Dr. Albert Sabin).


Watch a lab technician put flu virus into an egg (in order to grow huge batches of the virus).  This is a researcher who is collecting samples to be preserved in a freezer for later study.  Flu vaccines are not made this way, by hand.  Vaccines require a mass production process.


Here is how eggs are used to grow enough viruses to produce millions of vaccines.  (This HUGE production facility is in north eastern Pennsylvania, kind of in the middle of nowhere.)  It is part of a French company called Sanofi Pasteur.   Currently (spring-summer 2020) Sanofi is working as fast as they can to produce vaccines for Covid-19.  They received some of the grant money from the US government.




Ready to take the quiz?  (Not required)

(If the online quiz isn’t working, try turning off your ad blocker.  I’ve heard that can fix the problem.)

If you need a printed copy of the quiz, here is PDF you can download and print.  The PDF gives you both the questions and the answers on two separate pages.

Virology quiz lesson 3

Back to: Intro to VIROLOGY