In this paper we discuss the foundations and process of design of a research-informed instructional unit aimed for pre-service science teacher education. The unit covers some key ideas on the nature of science (around methodology, theory change, scientific inference and explanation, values, gender issues) anchoring them in a well-known episode from the history of science-the 'discovery' of radium by the Curies. Such episode is mainly examined as reconstructed in the 1997 French commercial film 'Les Palmes de Monsieur Schutz'. Pre-service science teachers are required to solve three tasks, individually and in small groups; those tasks are respectively centred around: (1) the distinction between 'discovering' and 'inventing'; (2) scientific modelling via abduction; and (3) the extended hagiographic treatment of the figure of Madame Curie. Plenary debates around the tasks aim at acquainting pre-service science teachers with some powerful concepts of twentieth century philosophy of science. © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009.