President, Cold Spring
James D. Watson is known for his discovery of the structure of DNA, for which he shared a 1962 Nobel Prize with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins. Their elegant image of the double helix inspired the development of modern biology and led to a new industry, biotechnology.
In 1968 Dr. Watson became director and in 1994 president of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, New York. He steered the laboratory into the field of tumor virology, from which emerged our present understanding of cancer genes and the molecular basis of cancer. In addition to high-level research on cancer, plant molecular biology, cell biochemistry, and neuroscience, the Laboratory functions as a postgraduate university on DNA science.
Between 1988 and 1992, Dr. Watson directed the US Human Genome Project, a multi-million dollar effort to map human genes and to sequence the human genome.
Dr. Watson's book The Double Helix has been translated into over 20 languages. His first textbook, The Molecular Biology of the Gene, set a new standard in biology textbooks. He co-authored The Molecular Biology of the Cell and Recombinant DNA.
Dr. Watson's honors include the Eli Lilly Award in Biochemistry, the Albert Lasker Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Copley Medal of the Royal Society of London, and the Charles A. Dana Distinguished Achievement Award in Health. In addition to degrees from the University of Chicago and Indiana University, he has received 18 honorary degrees. His memberships include the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Royal Society of London, and the Academy of Sciences, Russia.