Watson, James Dewey

Watson, James Dewey, 1928–, American biologist and educator, b. Chicago, Ill., grad. Univ. of Chicago, 1947, Ph.D. Univ. of Indiana, 1950. With F. H. C. Crick he began (1951) research on the molecular structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) at the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge. Their findings, published in 1953, resulted in the joint award to them and to M. H. F. Wilkins (on whose laboratory's in X-ray diffraction their studies were partly based) of the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Watson joined the faculty at Harvard in 1955 and in 1968 became director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. From 1994 to 2003 he was the laboratory's president; in 2004 he was named its chancellor. From 1989 to 1992 he also was director of the National Center for Human Genome Research, which undertook the Human Genome Project. His chief researches have been in the fields of genetics, bacteriophage reproduction, and cancer. Remarks in a published interview in 2007 that persons of African descent were inherently less intelligent than Europeans led to his suspension and subsequent retirement as Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory chancellor; a restatement of that position in another interview led the laboratory to strip him of his honorary titles in 2019.

See his The Double Helix (1968), The DNA Story (1981, with J. Tooze), Genes, Girls, and Gamow: After the Double Helix (2002), and Avoid Boring People: Lessons from a Life in Science (2007); biography by V. K. McElheny, Watson and DNA: Making a Scientific Revolution (2003); H. F. Judson, The Eighth Day of Creation (expanded ed. 1996).

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