James D. Watson

American molecular biologist, geneticist, and zoologist
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James Dewey Watson (born April 6, 1928) is an American molecular biologist and zoologist.

James D. Watson
James D. Watson
Born (1928-04-06) April 6, 1928 (age 96)
Alma materUniversity of Chicago, Indiana University
Known forDNA structure, Molecular biology
AwardsNobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1962); Copley Medal (1993)[1]
Scientific career
InstitutionsCold Spring Harbor Laboratory; Harvard University; University of Cambridge; National Institutes of Health
Doctoral advisorSalvador Luria

Watson is of British ancestry. He is best known as one of the discoverers of the structure of DNA with Francis Crick in 1953.

Watson, Crick, and Maurice Wilkins were awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material".[2]

He studied at the University of Chicago and Indiana University and later worked at the University of Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory. He met Crick at the Cavendish and they became friends.

Watson has received 19 honorary doctorates.

Criticism of Watson


Watson has always been a controversial figure, especially in the United States. The main cause is a long-running argument as to what causes the small difference in the average IQs of black and white people in the U.S.A.

Watson has repeatedly said that differences in average measured IQ between blacks and whites are due to genetics.[3][4][5] [6][7][8] Watson said his intention was to promote science, not racism

An excerpt from Watson's memoir, Avoid Boring People: Lessons from a Life in Science page=102 goes as follows:

"As we find the human genes whose malfunctioning gives rise to such devastating developmental failures, we may well discover that sequence differences within many of them also lead to much of the observable variation in human IQs. A priori, there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our desire to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so".[9]

An editorial in Nature said that his remarks were "beyond the pale".[10] Because of the controversy, the Board of Trustees at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory suspended Watson's administrative responsibilities.[11] Watson issued an apology,[12] then retired at the age of 79 from CSHL after what the lab called "nearly 40 years of distinguished service".[13][14] Watson attributed his retirement to his age and to circumstances that he could never have anticipated or desired.[15][16][17]

Watson has published a number of books.

  • 1968. The double helix: a personal account of the work with Francis Crick ISBN 0-393-95075-1 2018: later version.
  • 2002. Genes, Girls, and Gamow: after the double helix (autobiography) ISBN 0-375-41283-2
  • 2003. DNA: The secret of life. Knopf.
  • 2003. The molecular biology of the gene, 5th ed. ISBN 0-8053-4635-X (co-author with five others)
  • 2007. Avoid boring people: lessons from a life in science (autobiography) ISBN 978-0-375-41284-4
  • The molecular biology of the cell
  • Recombinant DNA: a short course. 1983 to 2017 editions.


  1. James Watson to receive Othmer gold medal Archived 2008-09-06 at the Wayback Machine retrieved 29 September 2009
  2. The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1962. Nobel Prize Site for Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1962.
  3. "Fury at DNA pioneer's theory: Africans are less intelligent than Westerners". October 17, 2007.
  4. Crawford, Hayley. "Short Sharp Science:James Watson menaced by hoodies shouting 'racist!'". New Scientist. Archived from the original on January 10, 2018. Retrieved April 24, 2014. ... he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours, whereas all the testing says not really.
  5. Harmon, Amy.James Watson had a chance to salvage his reputation on Race. He made things worse. (older title: James Watson Won't Stop Talking About Race), New York Times, January 1, 2019. Retrieved January 1, 2019.
  6. Hunt-Grubbe, Charlotte (October 14, 2007). "The elementary DNA of Dr Watson". The Times. London.
  7. Milmo, Cahal (October 17, 2013). "Fury at DNA pioneer's theory: Africans are less intelligent than Westerners". The Independent. London. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
  8. Peck, Sally (October 17, 2007). "James Watson suspended over racism claims". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  9. Jerry A. Coyne, "The complex James Watson", Times Literary Supplement, December 12, 2007
  10. " Watson's folly", Nature, October 24, 2007. Retrieved September 27, 2008.
  11. Watson, J.D. "James Watson: To question genetic intelligence is not racism", Independent, October 19, 2007. Retrieved October 24, 2007
  12. van Marsh, A. "Nobel-winning biologist apologizes for remarks about blacks", CNN, October 19, 2007. Retrieved October 24, 2007.
  13. "Dr. James D. Watson Retires as Chancellor of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory" (Press release). Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. October 25, 2007. Archived from the original on February 27, 2014. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
  14. "Announcement by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory". New York Times. October 25, 2007. Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  15. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. October 18, 2007. Statement by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Board of Trustees and President Bruce Stillman, PhD Regarding Dr. Watson's Comments in The Sunday Times on October 14, 2007. Press release. Retrieved October 24, 2007. Archived September 10, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  16. Wigglesworth, K. DNA pioneer quits after race comments, LA Times, October 26, 2007. Retrieved December 5, 2007
  17. "Nobel prize-winning biologist resigns.", CNN, October 25, 2007. Retrieved on October 25, 2007.