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James Watson

James Watson

American molecular biologist, geneticist, and zoologist.

James Watson along with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins shared a 1962 Nobel Prize for discovering that DNA was a double helix in 1953, which was key to understanding how genetic material works. Watson was director of Cold Spring Harbor in 1968, president in 1994 and later chancellor and has a school at the lab named after him.

Watson made controversial comments to a British journalist in 2007 about genetics and unequal intelligence between people of European descent and people of African descent, which were deemed offensive by Cold Spring Harbor and they relieved him of administrative duties and his role as Chancellor. Watson made an apology and retraction for his comments.

Watson repeated his views about race and genetics in a documentary, “American Masters: Decoding Watson” that aired on PBS in January 2, 2019, which Cold Spring Harbor viewed as an effective reversal of Watson’s previous apology and incompatible with their mission, values and policies. Cold Spring Harbor lab also stated that Watson's statements in the documentary are not supported by science. In response, Watson’s honorary titles of Chancellor Emeritus, Oliver R. Grace Professor Emeritus and Honorary Trustee were revoked.


April 6, 1928
James Watson was born in Chicago.


Further Resources


How I discovered DNA - James Watson


July 26, 2013


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NEW YORK (AP) -- James Watson, the Nobel Prize-winning DNA scientist who lost his job in 2007 for expressing racist views, was stripped of several honorary titles Friday by the New York lab he once headed. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory said it was reacting to Watson's remarks in a television documentary aired earlier this month. In the film, Watson said his views about intelligence and race had not changed since 2007, when he told a magazine that 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 -- where all the testing says not really."


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