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James Watson

Later Accomplishments

Watson remained active in the study of DNA and RNA for a number of years after the publication of the DNA structure. He joined the faculty of Harvard University in 1955, and remained there until 1976. During this time, he wrote an influential textbook, Molecular Biology of the Gene, and an enormously popular (and colorful) account of his and Crick's discovery, called The Double Helix.

In 1968 Watson became the director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, New York, and he became president of the laboratory in 1994, a position he continues to hold. Watson revitalized this laboratory, helping it become one of the premier genetics research institutions in the world. His organizational drive was also called upon in 1988, when he spearheaded the launch of the U.S. Human Genome Project, dedicated to determining the sequence of the entire three billion bases in the genome. He headed the project from 1988 to 1992.

Throughout his career, Watson has invariably been described as "brash," reflecting his capacity to take on big projects and big ideas, and his enthusiasm for making daring, occasionally outrageous predictions about the causes of an unexplained phenomenon or the direction science will take. Explaining this tendency in relation to his work on DNA, Watson wrote, "A potential key to the secret of life was impossible to push out of my mind. It was certainly better to imagine myself becoming famous than maturing into a stifled academic who had never risked a thought."

Richard Robinson


Judson, Horace F. The Eight Days of Creation, expanded edition. Cold Spring Harbor, NY: Cold Spring Harbor Press, 1996.

Watson, James. The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA. New York: New American Library, 1991.

———. Genes, Girls, and Gamow: After the Double Helix. New York: Knopf, 2002.

Internet Resource

"Biographical Sketch of James Dewey Watson." <http://nucleus.cshl.org/CSHLlib/archives/jdwbio.htm>.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaGenetics in Medicine - Part 4James Watson - Early Life And Training, The Structure Of Dna, Later Accomplishments