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James D. Watson

James D Watson

James D. Watson is an American scientist who co-discovered the structure of DNA, for which he received a Nobel Prize in 1962. That extraordinary discovery is perhaps the most important one in the 20th century, as it is laying the grounds for unbelievable scientific advances, which may soon put out of doors most diseases humans are suffering from.

Dr. Watson was born in Chicago, Illinois, on April 6, 1928. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 1947 and later gained his Ph.D. in Zoology at Indiana University in 1950. His growing interest in exploring the structure of DNA was the main focus during his postdoctoral research, and when he met Francis Crick in 1951, the two collaborated and soon, based on additional findings by crystallographer Rosalind Franklin and molecular biologist Maurice Wilkins, made the triumphal discovery. In 1962 Watson and Crick shared a Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine.

Double Helix (for clarinet and violin) is a composition dedicated to the great scientist, on the occasion of his 80th birthday, on April 6, 2008. A musical imitation of the structure of DNA (the double helix), it conveys Edward Manukyan’s deep gratitude and admiration for the heroic and honorable work of Dr. Watson. (Another composition, dedicated to both James Watson and Francis Crick, is "Triumph of Reason", for symphony orchestra, written in 2007.)


Quotes by James Watson

ON SCIENCE
“Science seldom proceeds in the straightforward logical manner imagined by outsiders. Instead, its steps forward (and sometimes backward) are often very human events in which personalities and cultural traditions play major roles.”

Cover of James Watson's book, "Double Helix."
(from a 1991 interview, "Academy of Achievement") - "People keep saying, you know, that you have some special way of perceiving the future. But I think really you have a good command of the facts. I think to do science you have to know the past pretty well. And sort of know the facts that you might have to know to get where you want to go. So sometimes you can just come to the conclusion, you just don't stand a chance, and stay away from it. So you don't even jump into something that seems just an impossible obstacle. Of course, you've got to get one where you have two or three obstacle, and maybe you can jump over all of them, but not too many. And so with time I realized that I've never wanted to do anything if I didn't think I had about a 30 percent chance of getting it done in a year. I'm not a one percent person. You know, I'm not going to Las Vegas trying to get a jackpot. I want to go where, if you've got to sort of out-guess other people who think really, you know, it's impossibly hard to -- you know, it's not impossibly hard, so you jump in. But I don't jump in something just because it's there. I jump in because I think there's a reasonable chance ordinary intelligence will get you through to the answer."

ADVICE FOR YOUNG STUDENTS
“One could not be a successful scientist without realizing that, in contrast to the popular conception supported by newspapers and mothers of scientists, a goodly number of scientists are not only narrow-minded and dull, but also just stupid.”

"Be very persistent to get to the place where it's done the best. When you're young, you don't learn much from your peers. I probably succeeded because my teachers were more important than my school friends. That's a hard thing to get across, but peer pressure when you're young can often just lead to very conventional behavior. My parents were very supportive, so that I never really paid any attention to peer pressure. Not that I wasn't popular, but I think this concept of trying to be popular is a very dangerous one. Popular girls in class, all these social things. When you finally see it, it's pretty ugly."

ON ARROGANCE

Cover of James Watson's 2007 book, "Avoid Boring People."
"Science moves with the spirit of an adventure characterized both by youthful arrogance and by the belief that the truth, once found, would be simple as well as pretty."

"Young people probably -- you know, if they're any good they're thought arrogant. And that means they think they know the truth and they don't believe those above them. So, you know, You're not supposed to be arrogant, but if you're not arrogant, if you don't believe you know how to do something better than someone else, you're probably not doing anything. So you know, it's not that I felt arrogant but I've thought -- well, probably people feel I'm arrogant -- but I'm just thinking that other people aren't doing what they should. Francis Crick used to upset so many people, and that was what I thought his great virtue was. But you know, when you're young and you upset people, you don't get the jobs, you know."






Dr. James Watson's most recent book is called "Avoid Boring People," and it is available from this link.




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