James Watson


Early Life
James Dewey Watson was born on April 6, 1928 in Chicago, Illinois. James’ family did not have a lot of money, so he went to Chicago’s public schools. When James was 15, he got a scholarship to study zoology at Chicago University. It was hard for James to make friends in college because he was so different from everyone else. James stayed at Chicago University for all four years and he graduated in 1947. After graduating, he won a graduate study at Indiana University where he got his Ph.D. in zoology in 1950.

Science at its Best
After college, James decided to start investigating nucleic acids and proteins structural chemistry. James learned that scientists used photos of x-ray diffraction patterns of protein crystals to study the structure of protein molecules. James worked at the University of Copenhagen after college. In 1951, James moved to the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. There he met Francis Crick and they started investigating the structure of DNA. James was a biologist, geneticist, and zoologist.
The Discovery
James and Francis seized on the key role of DNA as the basic material of heredity. The two made a model of DNA based on its properties that are known. Watson and Crick discovered that the DNA structure had to be a “double helix” construction. The “double helix” construction is like a twisting ladder. After months of hard work, Watson and Crick finally discovered the structure of DNA. Crick and Watson published their first paper on DNA in 1953.
DNA has all the information about a living thing and how it functions. Have you ever heard someone say “You look just like you mom” or something like that? Well they are saying that you have part of your mom’s DNA. Each piece of information is split into sections called genes. Your DNA is 6 feet long, but it fits into one cell nucleus. DNA is made out of sugar, phosphate, adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine. The DNA bases make the genetic code. DNA’s structure is a double helix construction.
After the Discovery
James won the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins. After the discovery of DNA, James became a professor at Harvard University. In 1968, James went and worked at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory of Quantitative Biology in Long Island, New York. After a few years, James was named the director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory of Quantitative Biology. He helped direct the Human Genome Project. The Human Genome Project was set to figure out every gene in the human chromosomes. Right after that project ended in 2007, James retired. James Watson is still going at the age of 85.
  • Allaby, Michael and Derek Gjertsen. Makers of Science: Volume 5. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print.
  • Edelson, Edward. Francis Crick and James Watson and the building blocks of life. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.Print.
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