ABOUT THIS PUBLICATION
This popular 1993 collection of practical investigations was compiled and illustrated by Dean Madden. Many of the investigations had previously appeared in the NCBE Newsletter, or had been developed and used in NCBE workshops for teachers by John Schollar. Others were already in the public domain.
All of the ideas had been tested, both in the NCBE laboratory, and more importantly, by teachers, many of whom came on in-service training courses pioneered by the wonderful Erica Clark who was then Biology subject officer at the University of London Examinations Board.
In this booklet we tried to select a range of investigations encompassing microbiology, plant tissue culture and enzyme technology, reflecting both the content of examination courses and introducing new ideas. Most were presented as simple qualitative tasks, but the ways in which they could be turned into quantitative investigations were usually apparent. Our intention was that the materials could be used as they were or as a starting point for more ambitious work.
We anticipated that the materials would prove useful to those teaching younger pupils and to older students looking for ideas for practical projects.
An overriding concern was that the work should be relatively cheap to carry out, using readily-obtainable materials. The NCBE ended up supplying several of the items (such as enzymes and cultures) that would otherwise be unobtainable by schools at a reasonable price or in suitable amounts. This publication contributed significantly to the development of the NCBE's role as a supplier of equipment and materials.
Today this eclectic collection provides a snapshot of the type of practical biotechnology that was being carried out in British schools during the 1980s and '90s, before DNA and genetic modification began to steal the show and before (in England and Wales) the National Curriculum led to more conservative syllabuses. It was, perhaps, a more innocent time.
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (then the Agricultural and Food Research Council) very kindly supported the production of the original booklet.
How we did it
Practical biotechnology was the first 'large' booklet to be published by the NCBE. It was produced using a Macintosh SE computer, which had a small black-and-white screen and an even smaller hard disc capacity (just 20 Mb).
Consequently the booklet had to be produced in several parts, as the computer's hard drive could not hold the whole document at once. Amazingly, we didn't keep any backups during production as the Macs of the day never crashed (the modern Unix-based ones don't either).
The finished booklet was sent to the printers in compressed format on 15 floppy discs.
How to download these files
Practical biotechnology has been out-of-print for a while, and is now only available as downloadable Adobe Acrobat (PDF) files. Just click on a title to the left to go to the download page.
Details of how to obtain a free copy of the Adobe Acrobat Reader software are given here.