Every generation benefits from the insights and discoveries of the generations who came before. “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,” wrote Isaac Newton. In a special series, the World Science Festival invites audiences to stand on the shoulders of modern-day giants.
This year’s address will be given by James Watson, Chancellor Emeritus of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, who, along with Francis Crick, stunned the world by cracking the code of life. Their Nobel Prize-winning discovery of the double helix in 1953 launched molecular biology and has had a breathtaking impact on modern science and medicine. Watson will speak about what he considers his “most important work since the double helix”—finding the elusive cure for cancer.
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James D. Watson was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1928 and educated at the University of Chicago. In 1953, while at Cambridge University, he and Francis Crick successfully proposed the double helical structure for DNA. They, together with Maurice Wilkins, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. While a professor at Harvard, Watson commenced a writing career that generated The Molecular Biology of the Gene and his autobiographical volume, The Double Helix. While at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Watson was a driving force behind the Human Genome Project that led to his receipt of the Royal Society’s Copley Medal in 1993. Among many honorary degrees and awards are election to the National Academy of Sciences (1962), the Medal of Freedom (1977), the National Medal of Science (1997), the City of Philadelphia Liberty Medal (2000), and the Benjamin Franklin Medal (2001). Queen Elizabeth II proclaimed him an honorary Knight of the British Empire on January 1, 2002. Watson has served the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory since 1968 as its director, president, chancellor, and currently chancellor emeritus.