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James Watson (Oral History), 2003-07-25

 Item — Box: AV03, miniDV: CSHL1189
Oral History | James Watson
Oral History | James Watson

Scope and Contents

James D. Watson, Nobel Prize winning scientist best known for his discovery with Francis Crick of the double-helical structure of DNA, is interviewed by Mila Pollock and Jan Witkowski in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, on July 25, 2003. The videorecording is part of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives Oral History Project.

Dr. Watson recalls the individuals, meetings and conversations which occurred during the mid-1980s surrounding the nascent human genome initiative. He speaks about the politics of establishing the Human Genome Centers, his position as director of the Human Genome Project, and personal events during those years which influenced his participation in the project. Dr. Watson talks about his approach to writing, and specifically his thoughts about the "Double helix," and his textbook, "Molecular biology of the gene."

James D. Watson discusses the following in his interview: Scene 1. Involvement in genomics -- Scene 2. The 1986 Symposium: The Molecular Biology of Homo Sapiens -- Scene 3. Involvement in the Human Genome Project -- Scene 4. Surprises in the Human Genome Project -- Scene 5. Jim Watson, Director of the Human Genome Project -- Scene 6. Mechanics of the Human Genome Project -- Scene 7. Dangers of genomic research -- Scene 8. The future of genomic research -- Scene 9. Advice to young scientists -- Scene 10. Jim Watson, writer -- Scene 11. Jim Watson, writer: "Molecular biology of the gene" -- Scene 12. Jim Watson, writer: "The double helix" -- Scene 13. Ray Gesteland -- Scene 14. John Cairns -- Scene 15. Rich Roberts -- Scene 16. Joe Sambrook.


  • Creation: 2003-07-25


Conditions Governing Access

Portions of this collection have been digitized and are available online: Select tapes have been digitized thanks to support from CLIR Recordings at Risk Grant awarded in 2021, these tapes are available for research online via our Oral History Website and in person at CSHL Archives. Please contact CSHL Archives with any questions regarding availability.

Biographical / Historical

Dr. James D. Watson is best known for his discovery of the double-helical structure of DNA, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine in 1962 with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkens. He has focused his research on understanding the structure of molecules in order to elucidate how they function. James Dewey Watson was born in Chicago in 1928, and earned his B.S. from the University of Chicago (1947) and his Ph.D. from Indiana University (1950). In 1955, he joined the Harvard faculty, and in 1961, he became a Harvard professor. Dr. Watson was crucial in implementing the large-scale project to sequence the human genome and in the late 1980s he was appointed associate director and subsequently director of the National Center for Human Genome Research of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Watson was both director (1968) and president (1994) of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He also served as chancellor until 2007. Under his direction, the once financially strained institution grew into a major center for biochemical, neuroscience, and cancer research.


1 Cassettes (Camcorder footage) : MiniDV - CSHL1189

1 Optical Disks (Talking science with James Watson) : DVD ; 52 min.

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English