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Watson, James D. (1928- )

Watson, James D. (1928- )

American molecular biologist

James D. Watson won the 1962 Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine along with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins for discovering the structure of DNA , or deoxyribonucleic acid , the molecular carrier of genetic information. Watson and Crick had worked as a team since meeting in the early 1950s, and their research ranks as a fundamental advance in molecular biology .

James Dewey Watson was born in Chicago, Illinois, on April 6, 1928, to James Dewey and Jean (Mitchell) Watson. He was educated in the Chicago public schools, and during his adolescence became one of the original Quiz Kids on the radio show of the same name. Shortly after this experience in 1943, Watson entered the University of Chicago at the age of 15.

Watson graduated in 1946, but stayed on at Chicago for a bachelor's degree in zoology, which he attained in 1947. During his undergraduate years Watson studied neither genetics nor biochemistryhis primary interest was in the field of ornithology. In 1946, Watson spent a summer working on advanced ornithology at the University of Michigan's summer research station at Douglas Lake. During his undergraduate career at Chicago, Watson had been instructed by the well-known population geneticist Sewall Wright, but he did not become interested in the field of genetics until he read Erwin Schrödinger's influential book What Is Life? It was then, Horace Judson reports in The Eighth Day of Creation: Makers of the Revolution in Biology, that Watson became interested in finding out the secret of the gene .

Watson enrolled at Indiana University to perform graduate work in 1947. Indiana had several remarkable geneticists who could have been important to Watson's intellectual development, but he was drawn to the university by the presence of the Nobel laureate Hermann Joseph Muller, who had demonstrated 20 years earlier that x rays cause mutation. Nonetheless, Watson chose to work under the direction of the Italian biologist Salvador Edward Luria, and it was under Luria that he began his doctoral research in 1948.

Watson's thesis was on the effect of x rays on the rate of phage lysis (a phage, or bacteriophage , is a bacterial virus). The biologist Max Delbrück and Luriaas well as a number of others who formed what was to be known as "the phage group"demonstrated that phages could exist in a number of mutant forms. A year earlier Luria and Delbrück had published one of the landmark papers in phage genetics , in which they established that one of the characteristics of phages is that they can exist in different genetic states so that the lysis (or bursting) of bacterial host cells can take place at different rates. Watson's Ph.D. degree was received in 1950, shortly after his twenty-second birthday.

Watson was next awarded a National Research Council fellowship grant to investigate the molecular structure of proteins in Copenhagen, Denmark. While Watson was studying enzyme structure in Europe, where techniques crucial to the study of macromolecules were being developed, he was also attending conferences and meeting colleagues.

From 1951 to 1953, Watson held a research fellowship under the support of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, England. Those two years are described in detail in Watson's 1965 book, The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA. An autobiographical work, The Double Helix describes the eventsboth personal and professionalthat led to the discovery of DNA. Watson was to work at the Cavendish under the direction of Max Perutz, who was engaged in the x-ray crystallography of proteins. However, he soon found himself engaged in discussions with Crick on the structure of DNA. Crick was 12 years older than Watson and, at the time, a graduate student studying protein structure.

Intermittently over the next two years, Watson and Crick theorized about DNA and worked on their model of DNA structure, eventually arriving at the correct structure by recognizing the importance of x-ray diffraction photographs produced by Rosalind Franklin at King's College, London. Both were certain that the answer lay in model-building, and Watson was particularly impressed by Nobel laureate Linus Pauling's use of model-building in determining the alpha-helix structure of protein. Using data published by Austrian-born American biochemist Erwin Chargaff on the symmetry between the four constituent nucleotides (or bases) of DNA molecules, they concluded that the building blocks had to be arranged in pairs. After a great deal of experimentation with their models, they found that the double helix structure corresponded to the empirical data produced by Wilkins, Franklin, and their colleagues. Watson and Crick published their theoretical paper in the journal Nature in 1953 (with Watson's name appearing first due to a coin toss), and their conclusions were supported by the experimental evidence simultaneously published by Wilkins, Franklin, and Raymond Goss. Franklin died in 1958. Wilkins shared the Nobel Prize with Watson and Crick in 1962.

After the completion of his research fellowship at Cambridge, Watson spent the summer of 1953 at Cold Spring Harbor, New York, where Delbrück had gathered an active group of investigators working in the new area of molecular biology. Watson then became a research fellow in biology at the California Institute of Technology, working with Delbrück and his colleagues on problems in phage genetics. In 1955, he joined the biology department at Harvard and remained on the faculty until 1976. While at Harvard, Watson wrote The Molecular Biology of the Gene (1965), the first widely used university textbook on molecular biology. This text has gone through seven editions, and now exists in two large volumes as a comprehensive treatise of the field. In 1968, Watson became director of Cold Spring Harbor, carrying out his duties there while maintaining his position at Harvard. He gave up his faculty appointment at the university in 1976, however, and assumed full-time leadership of Cold Spring Harbor. With John Tooze and David Kurtz, Watson wrote The Molecular Biology of the Cell, originally published in 1983.

In 1989, Watson was appointed the director of the Human Genome Project of the National Institutes of Health, but after less than two years he resigned in protest over policy differences in the operation of this massive project. He continues to speak out on various issues concerning scientific research and is a strong presence concerning federal policies in supporting research. In addition to sharing the Nobel Prize, Watson has received numerous honorary degrees from institutions and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter. In 1968, Watson married Elizabeth Lewis. They have two children.

In his book, The Double Helix, Watson confirms that never avoided controversy. His candor about his colleagues and his combativeness in public forums have been noted by critics. On the other hand, his scientific brilliance is attested to by Crick, Delbrück, Luria, and others. The importance of his role in the DNA discovery has been well supported by Gunther Stenta member of the Delbrück phage groupin an essay that discounts many of Watson's critics through well-reasoned arguments.

Most of Watson's professional life has been spent as a professor, research administrator, and public policy spokesman for research. More than any other location in Watson's professional life, Cold Spring Harbor (where he is still director) has been the most congenial in developing his abilities as a scientific catalyst for others. Watson's work there has primarily been to facilitate and encourage the research of other scientists.

See also Cell cycle (eukaryotic), genetic regulation of; Cell cycle (prokaryotic), genetic regulation of; DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid); DNA chips and micro arrays; DNA hybridization; Genetic code; Genetic identification of microorganisms; Genetic mapping; Genetic regulation of eukaryotic cells; Genetic regulation of prokaryotic cells; Genotype and phenotype; Molecular biology and molecular genetics

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"Watson, James D. (1928- )." World of Microbiology and Immunology. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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James Dewey Watson

James Dewey Watson

The American biologist James Dewey Watson (born 1928) was a discoverer of the double-helical structure of the deoxyribonucleic acid molecule.

James D. Watson was born April 6, 1928, in Chicago, Illinois. At age 15 he entered the University of Chicago. He graduated in 1947 and went on to pursue graduate study in the biological sciences at Indiana University. There he came under the influence of some distinguished scientists, including Nobel laureate Hermann J. Muller, who were instrumental in shifting his interests from natural history toward genetics and biochemistry. In 1950 Watson successfully completed his doctoral research project on the effect of x-rays upon the multiplication of bacteriophages (viruses that attack bacterial cells).

Watson spent 1950-1951 as a National Research Council fellow in Copenhagen doing postdoctoral work with biochemist Herman Kalckar. He had hoped to learn more about the biochemistry of the genetic material deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). These studies proved unproductive. It was not until the spring of 1951, when he heard the English biophysicist Maurice Wilkins speak in Naples on the structure of the DNA molecule, that Watson enthusiastically turned his full attention to the DNA problem.

Watson's next research post at Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, England, brought him into contact with the physicist turned biologist Francis Crick. Together they shared an interest in DNA while he was preparing for his doctorate. Thus began the partnership between Watson and Crick which resulted in their joint proposal of the double-helical model of the DNA in 1953. Watson, Crick, and Wilkins shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their DNA studies.

The structure of the giant and complex DNA molecule reveals the physical and chemical basis of heredity. Watson and Crick were convinced that the molecular subunits which made up DNA were arranged in a relatively simple pattern that could be discovered by them. Their mode of operation stressed the conception and construction of large-scale models that would account for the known chemical and physical properties of DNA. To this model-building endeavor Watson contributed the double-helical structure, along with other fruitful, intuitive suggestions, while Crick provided the necessary mathematical and theoretical knowledge. After their work on DNA was completed, Watson and Crick collaborated again in 1957, this time in clarifying the structure of viruses.

After a two-year stay at the California Institute of Technology, Watson accepted a position as professor of biology at Harvard University in 1956 and remained on the faculty until 1976. In 1968 he became the director of the Cold Spring Biological Laboratories but retained his research and teaching position at Harvard. That same year he published The Double Helix, revealing the human story behind the discovery of the DNA structure, including the rivalries and deceits which were practiced by all.

While at Harvard Watson wrote The Molecular Biology of the Gene (1965), the first widely used university textbook on molecular biology. This text has gone through seven editions and exists in two large volumes as a comprehensive treatise of the field. He gave up his faculty appointment at the university in 1976, however, and assumed full-time leadership of Cold Spring Harbor. With John Tooze and David Kurtz, Watson wrote The Molecular Biology of the Cell, originally published in 1983.

In l989 Watson was appointed the director of the Human Genome Project of the National Institutes of Health. Less than two years later, in 1992, he resigned in protest over policy differences in the operation of this massive project. He continued to speak out on various issues concerning scientific research and upheld his strong presence concerning federal policies in supporting research. In addition to sharing the Nobel Prize, Watson received numerous honorary degrees from institutions, including one from the University of Chicago (1961) when Watson was still in his early thirties. He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter.

Watson, as his book The Double Helix confirms, has never avoided controversy. His candor about his colleagues and his combativeness in public forums have been noted by critics. Nevertheless, his scientific brilliance is attested to by Crick, Delbruck, Luria, and others. The importance of his role in the DNA discovery has been well supported by Gunther Stent, a member of the Delbruck phage group, in an essay which discounts many of Watson's critics through well-reasoned arguments.

Most of Watson's professional life has been spent as a professor, research administrator, and public policy spokesman for research. More than any other location in Watson's professional life, Cold Spring Harbor (where he is still director) has been the most congenial in developing his abilities as a scientific catalyst for others. His work there has primarily been to facilitate and encourage the research of other scientists.

In 1968 Watson married Elizabeth Lewis. They had two children, Rufus Robert and Duncan James.

Further Reading

Ruth Moore, The Coil of Life: The Story of the Great Discoveries in the Life Sciences (1961), has a chapter describing Watson's personality and work in detail. George and Muriel Beadle, The Language of Life: An Introduction to the Science of Genetics (1966), and Leonard Engel, The New Genetics (1967), provide lucid discussions of Watson's life and his scientific work. General appraisals of the significance of DNA in modern biology are in Ernest Borek, The Code of Life (1965; rev. ed. 1969), and John C. Kendrew, The Thread of Life: An Introduction to Molecular Biology (1966). □

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Watson, James Dewey

Watson, James Dewey


AMERICAN BIOCHEMIST
1928

The American biochemist James Dewey Watson was a discoverer of the double-helical structure of the deoxyribonucleic acid molecule.

James D. Watson was born April 6, 1928, in Chicago, Illinois. At age fifteen he entered the University of Chicago. He graduated in 1947 and went on to pursue graduate study in the biological sciences at Indiana University. There he came under the influence of some distinguished scientists, including Nobel laureate Hermann J. Muller, who were instrumental in shifting his interests from natural history toward genetics and biochemistry. In 1950 Watson successfully completed his doctoral research project on the effect of x rays upon the multiplication of bacteriophages .

Watson spent 1950 and 1951 as a National Research Council fellow in Copenhagen doing postdoctoral work with biochemist Herman Kalckar. Watson had hoped to learn more about the biochemistry of the genetic material deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA ). These studies proved unproductive. It was not until the spring of 1951, when he heard the English biophysicist Maurice Wilkins speak in Naples on the structure of the DNA molecule, that Watson enthusiastically turned his full attention to the DNA problem.

Watson's next research post at Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, England, brought him into contact with the physicist turned biologist Francis Crick. Together they shared an interest in DNA. Thus began the partnership between Watson and Crick that resulted in their joint proposal of the double-helical model of the DNA in 1953. Watson, Crick, and Wilkins shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their DNA studies.

The structure of the giant and complex DNA molecule reveals the physical and chemical basis of heredity. Watson and Crick were convinced that the molecular subunits which made up DNA were arranged in a relatively simple pattern that could be discovered by them. Their mode of operation stressed the conception and construction of large-scale models that would account for the known chemical and physical properties of DNA. To this model-building endeavor Watson contributed the double-helical structure, along with other fruitful, intuitive suggestions, while Crick provided the necessary mathematical and theoretical knowledge. After their work on DNA was completed, Watson and Crick collaborated again in 1957, this time in clarifying the structure of viruses.

After a two-year stay at the California Institute of Technology, Watson accepted a position as professor of biology at Harvard University in 1956 and remained on the faculty until 1976. In 1968 he became the director of the Cold Spring Biological Laboratories but retained his research and teaching position at Harvard. That same year he published The Double Helix, revealing the human story behind the discovery of the DNA structure, including the rivalries and deceits that were practiced by all.

In l989 Watson was appointed the director of the Human Genome Project of the National Institutes of Health. He resigned in 1992 in protest over policy differences in the operation of this massive project. He continued to speak out on various issues concerning scientific research and upheld his strong presence concerning federal policies in supporting research. In addition to sharing the Nobel Prize, Watson received numerous honorary degrees from institutions, including one from the University of Chicago (1961) when Watson was still in his early thirties. He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter. On July 4, 2000, Watson and Crick were awarded the Philadelphia Liberty Medal. The Liberty Medal was established in 1988 to honor individuals or organizations whose actions represent the founding principles of the United States.

FRANCIS CRICK (1916)

Starting in his childhood in England, Francis Crick developed a fascination with science. After his collaborative work on DNA with James Watson, for which the two received a Nobel Prize, Crick unraveled the mystery of how DNA bases code for the primary sequence of a protein, and in 1957 he introduced its central dogma. Since 1976 Crick has been studying the functions of the human brain.

Valerie Borek

Bibliography

Berry, Andrew, and Watson, James D. (2003). DNA: The Secrets of Life. New York: Knopf.

Gamow, George (1970). My World Line. New York: Viking.

McElheny, Victor K. (2003). Watson and DNA: Making a Scientific Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Perseus.

Watson, James D. (1968). The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA. New York: Atheneum.

Watson, James D. (2002). Genes, Girls, and Gamow. New York: Knopf.

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Watson, James Dewey

Watson, James Dewey

James Watson (1928-) is one of the most famous scientists of the twentieth century. He is recognized as a co-discoverer of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and was a co-recipient of the 1962 Nobel Prize in medicine for his work in genetics.

Watson was born in Chicago, Illinois. He was an extremely intelligent child and used his photographic memory to his advantage. By age ten he was a regular contestant on a popular radio show called The Quiz Kids. He studied zoology at the University of Chicago when he was only 15 years old. By age 19 he was conducting research on viruses at the University of Indiana, where he earned his doctoral degree. He continued his virus work in Denmark for a short period of time before several scientists convinced him to concentrate on genetics and molecular biology. This new direction led him to Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University in 1951. It was here that he first met Francis Harry Compton Crick (1916-).

Watson Meets Crick

A friendship soon developed between Watson and Crick. It didn't take long before Watson's enthusiastic approach to genetic research persuaded Crick to assist him in developing a DNA model. During this time DNA research was not a high priority for most scientists. Watson and Crick entered the race to find the structure of DNA rather late.

With the odds stacked against them, Watson and Crick proceeded to develop their own hypothesis. They believed the DNA structure was actually made of two parallel strands. They obtained structural working models and attempted to fit the pieces together using proven chemical laws and prior studies. Many times the model, which resembled a large tinker-toy ladder, fell apart or simply did not fit previously established evidence. The researchers tedious task was somewhat like trying to put together a model airplane with only a small portion of the instruction sheet and no picture of how the assembled plane should look.

Finally, two major clues fell into place. Watson and Crick knew that the amounts of the base pairs of amino acids (protein elements) which connect the two strands of the DNA molecule, were about the same size and shape. Information supplied by Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Elsie Franklin also suggested that the sugar-phosphate part of the structure was on the outside of the model. Watson noticed that the base pairs fit neatly into the overall twisted ladder or double helix form without any distortion. It also meant that each side of the ladder fit into the other.

This explained how DNA could be precisely copied each time a cell divides. The completed model consisted of a double backbone of sugar and phosphate molecules arranged in repeating units. Between these, like rungs in a ladder, were the flat pairs of bases.

A Discovery Is Announced

In 1953 when Watson was only 25 years old, he and Crick announced their discovery. Almost ten years later, after numerous tests confirmed their results, the research team shared the Nobel Prize with Maurice Wilkins.

Today we know that DNA is the molecule that contains the essential set of directions that each cell needs to perform vital life functions. The details of the DNA molecule are so precise that differences in the microscopic structure could mean the difference between a man and a mouse, or between life and death.

A Busy Man

Since the DNA discovery Watson has published numerous papers, written several genetics textbooks, and taught at the California Institute of Technology and Harvard University. Watson divides his time between two demanding administrative positions. He is director of the prestigious Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York (an institution involved in genetic and cancer research). Since 1988 he has also been a director of the human genome project. The goal of this endeavor is to eventually identify all of the 50,000 to 100,000 human genes. Watson believes that this will make it easier to identify individuals who are at risk of developing a variety of genetically caused diseases.

[See also Gene ]

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Watson, James Dewey

James Dewey Watson, 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 1989 to 1992 he 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 director.

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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Watson, James Dewey

Watson, James Dewey (1928– ) US geneticist and biophysicist. Watson is known for his role in the discovery of the molecular structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), and he shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins. Watson later helped to break the genetic code of the DNA base sequences and found the ribonucleic acid (RNA) messenger that carries the DNA code to the cell's protein-forming structures.

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Watson, James Dewey

Watson, James Dewey (1928– ) US biochemist, who moved to the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, in 1951 to study the structure of DNA. In 1953 he and Francis Crick announced the now accepted two-stranded helical structure for the DNA molecule. In 1962 they shared the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine with Maurice Wilkins (1916– ), who with Rosalind Franklin (1920–58) had made X-ray diffraction studies of DNA.

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Watson, James D.

Watson, James D. (1928–) The American geneticist who, with F. Crick and M. Wilkins, won the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their modelling of the DNA molecule. Watson and Crick worked at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge; since 1994 Watson has been president of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

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Watson, James Dewey

Watson, James Dewey (b. 1928) The American geneticist who, with F. Crick and M. Wilkins, won the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their modelling of the DNA molecule. Watson and Crick worked at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge; since 1968 Watson has been director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

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