Segments in this Video

Introduction: Science Pioneers (02:19)


Using DNA samples and paper trails, "Finding Your Roots" compiles family histories for three important scientists: Frances Collins, Shirley Ann Jackson, and Harold Varmus.

Frances Collins (04:10)

Collins spent years leading the human genome project that President Bill Clinton unveiled in June 2000. Collins grew up on a farm and was homeschooled until sixth grade. In 1984 he helped develop a fibrosis screening technique.

Shirley Ann Jackson (03:43)

A fascination with bumblebees inspired Jackson’s scientific interests. Her parents supported her curiosity, but others discouraged her from entering the scientific. Jackson was the first from her school admitted to MIT and one of two black women in her class.

Harold Varmus (03:06)

Varmus grew up in a close Rhode Island family and was not immediately interested in science. At Amherst and Harvard, he shifted focus between medicine and English, receiving his medical degree from Columbia. Varmus' work with the National Institutes for Health determined his career path.

Discovering Mental Illness (06:37)

Collins learns why his paternal grandmother Elizabeth Sellers did not talk about her family. A 1900 census reveals that after her brother committed suicide, her wealthy father never recovered and took his own life. Collins discusses mental illness and historical stigmas.

Discovering Slave Ancestors (06:19)

Jackson’s mother Beatrice Cosby was strong and reserved. She lost her parents as a teen and attended a boarding school. An 1880 census reveals that Jackson’s great-grandparents were illiterate farmers, likely born into slavery; tax records reveal Colonel Edmund Pendleton purchased her great-great grandparents.

Discovering Holocaust Victims (10:54)

A 1910 New York census reveals Varmus’ grandparents emigrated from Poland in 1906. His grandfather’s 1937 social security application listed parental names, enabling research of the Warsaw archives. Many of Varmus' ancestors suffered and died under Nazi occupation.

Finding Slavers and Patriots (07:15)

Collins learns his fourth great-grandfather emigrated from Scotland in the 1780s. He settled in Maryland where he prospered and owned slaves; he freed them upon his death. Christopher Doughty's pension records reveal service in the Continental Army; he escaped British imprisonment.

Finding Family Traditions (04:06)

Originally from Cuckoo, VA, Jackson’s grandfather died in Philadelphia in 1919; her father, George Heider Jackson, was four. Jackson's maternal line also originated from Cuckoo, Virginia. Four generations shared the George Jackson name.

Conclusion: Finding Your Roots (03:14)

Finding Your Roots uses DNA samples to reveal genetic heritage over five hundred years. Approximately 96% of Collins' ancestry originates from the United Kingdom. Varmus is 100% Ashkenazi Jewish. Jackson is 82% sub-Saharan African.

Credits: Science Pioneers (00:17)

Credits: Science Pioneers

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Episode 6: Science Pioneers (Finding Your Roots, Season 6)

Part of the Series : Finding Your Roots (Season 6)
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Henry Louis Gates, Jr. traces the family trees of Francis Collins, Shirley Ann Jackson, and Harold E.Varmus--three pioneering scientists who’ve made dramatic contributions to our understanding of the world, all the while knowing little about their own ancestry. 

Length: 53 minutes

Item#: BVL206200

Copyright date: ©2020

Closed Captioned

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