Dr.James D. Watson
Nobel Prize winner 1962
Co-discoverer of DNA
President of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
It was 1953, James Watson, just 24, and Francis Crick, 36 at the time, surprised the world, when they struck upon the famous double-helix structure - like a twisted ladder - of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA.
The two were awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1962.
Since Watson and Crick made that historic discovery in 1953, Watson has achieved cult-like status, as evidenced by the mob of people who crowd around him at each conference in search of autographs and photos with the guru.
A half-century later, the biotechnology industry is based largely upon Watson's and Crick's discovery. The discovery of the double helix and its translation into application by the biotechnology industry has revolutionized biology and improved the lives of countless thousands of patients. So, too, are genetically engineered foods like bigger tomatoes and innovative medical technologies like gene therapy.
Law enforcement agencies now routinely collect and test DNA from crime scenes, either to convict the guilty or set the innocent free. Social issues such as whether to have children are now often affected by expanded knowledge of DNA and its role in heredity.
The discovery was retold in Watson's 1968 best-seller "The Double Helix."
Building on the work of Watson and Crick and others over the decades, scientists are now able to alter genes to breed out disease and breed in "desired" traits.
Dr. Watson is the President of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and built it "from a quaint and sleepy biology lab into a powerhouse of biology."
As the scientist who decoded the secrets of the double-helixed DNA, Dr. James Watson was noted by TIME magazine as “One of the Great Minds of the Century.” The winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize, Dr. Watson uncovered the basic scientific structures of life, and how the organization of these proteins and nucleotides arrange themselves to create the unique identities of each living organism. Dr. Watson is a living legend whose greatest scientific discovery radically advanced and altered our understanding of human identity. There is no one with more authority than Dr Watson to comment on the current direction and debates surrounding genetic engineering, cloning and the future of 'life' itself. From 1988 to 1992, Dr. Watson was appointed to head the National Institute of Health in the Human Genome Project, which was designed to sequence the human genome entirely. His effort has resulted in a complete directory of the genetic code of the human species.
Learn more about Dr. Watson
Biographical Sketch of James Watson - Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
James D. Watson, Chancellor Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Chancellor's Message - Watson School of Biological Sciences
The TIME 100 SCIENTISTS & THINKERS
The Nobel Foundation - James Watson Biography