Book of Abstracts: Albany 2003

category image Albany 2003
Conversation 13
Abstract Book
June 17-21 2003

Watson at Harvard (1956-1976)

Jim Watson?s arrival at Harvard in the autumn of 1956 was a miracle of unique timing ? for Watson, for Harvard and for the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory which he began building into a world-class research center while still at Harvard.

His arrival coincided with the beginning of the transformation that established Molecular Biology at Harvard. It is of interest to trace his involvement in this enterprise ? from the initial difficulties of his initial appointment through his building a productive research group and playing a leading role in the ?molecular wars?, gaining tenure, pioneering in writing textbooks and the famous ?Double Helix? and yet failing to achieve the scale of commitment to the new biology at Harvard that he visualized.

Although the founding of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 1968 promised an increased rate of development the seed of transforming Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory came into view at the same time. The competition between these two avenues dominated his last years at Harvard.

Moving forward to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the structure of DNA, one sees that it has turned the searchlight onto the interplay of inputs that gave rise to the discovery. Attempts to assess these have become a major parlor game deserving of some comment.

Paul Doty

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