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Born in Chicago, Illinois on April 6, 1928, James Watson was an only child and was quite intelligent. His father and mother were James D. Watson and Jean Mitchell. Today, we know James Watson as a successful scientist, discovering the structure of DNA. However, it took endless amounts of work to figure it out. During Watson’s childhood, he gained an abundance of his knowledge from the World Almanac, he won $100 on “Quiz Kid”, a popular radio program. Watson and his father’s hobby was bird-watching, so he used that money to buy binoculars.
He attended Horace Mann Grammar School for 8 years and South Shore High School for 2 years. In 1943, Watson entered the University of Chicago, after receiving his tuition scholarship. His main courses of interest were in biology, zoology, and ornithology. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in zoology in 1947. In Watson’s senior year at the University of Chicago, his interest started to shift towards genetics. He attended Indiana University to receive his Ph.D. in zoology in 1950. In 1951, influenced by geneticists and other scientists in Indiana, he seized the opportunity to study more about genetics. Watson first went to Copenhagen, studying bacterial viruses with biochemist Herman Kalckar and afterward continued to study with a microbiologist by the name of Ole Maaloe.
In the spring of 1951, Watson met Maurice Wilkins while visiting the Zoological Station at Naples with Kalckar. Wilkins showed them for the first time crystalline DNA’s X-ray diffraction pattern. Watson later moved his research to the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge in England, where he met Francis Crick, a molecular biologist with the same interest in solving the DNA structure. Their first effort in 1951 failed, however, they continued to try. Using X-ray pictures and the works by Rosalind Franklin, provided by Maurice Wilkins to give them ideas on the DNA structure, Crick and Watson gained valuable information that supported them with their research. The two worked together, and they soon reached a conclusion.
In 1953, Watson and Crick published the structure of the DNA molecule, a double-helical configuration. This finding to this day is known as one of the world’s greatest scientific discoveries. The scientists had used Franklin’s pictures and work without her permission or knowledge, and four years after she died of ovarian cancer, Watson, along with Crick, Wilkins, and Franklin received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1962. Watson pursued his passion for science by moving to Harvard University in 1955 as a biology teacher for 15 years, conducting research.
He later served as a director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 1968. While simultaneously directing in Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, he also ran the Human Genome Project from 1988 to 1992. Elizabeth Lewis married Watson in 1968 and bore two sons named Rufus and Duncan. In conclusion, I find it unethical that Franklin’s pictures and unpublished works were being used without permission, and that she did not receive proper recognition, despite largely contributing to the success of their research. Nonetheless, the discovery that Watson and Crick made, along with Wilkins, was very valuable. His findings have helped scientists expand their knowledge of the concept of genetics.
Without Watson’s contributions to the field of science, the information currently in our science books would’ve been non-existent. His interest in science and his perseverance assisted him in becoming the successful scientist he is today.
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