Watson, James Dewey


Watson, James Dewey

▪ American geneticist and biophysicist
born April 6, 1928, Chicago, Ill., U.S.
 
 American geneticist and biophysicist who played a crucial role in the discovery of the molecular structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) (DNA), the substance that is the basis of heredity. For this accomplishment he was awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Francis Crick (Crick, Francis Harry Compton) and Maurice Wilkins (Wilkins, Maurice).

      Watson enrolled at the University of Chicago when only 15 and graduated in 1947. From his virus research at Indiana University (Ph.D., 1950), and from the experiments of Canadian-born American bacteriologist Oswald Avery (Avery, Oswald), which proved that DNA affects hereditary traits, Watson became convinced that the gene could be understood only after something was known about nucleic acid molecules. He learned that scientists working in the Cavendish Laboratories at the University of Cambridge were using photographic patterns made by X rays (X-ray) that had been shot through protein crystals to study the structure of protein molecules.

 After working at the University of Copenhagen, where he first determined to investigate DNA, he did research at the Cavendish Laboratories (1951–53). There Watson learned X-ray diffraction techniques and worked with Crick on the problem of DNA structure. In 1952 he determined the structure of the protein coat surrounding the tobacco mosaic virus but made no dramatic progress with DNA. Suddenly, in the spring of 1953, Watson saw that the essential DNA components—four organic bases—must be linked in definite pairs. This discovery was the key factor that enabled Watson and Crick to formulate a molecular model for DNA—a double helix, which can be likened to a spiraling staircase or a twisting ladder. The DNA double helix consists of two intertwined sugar-phosphate chains, with the flat base pairs forming the steps between them. Watson and Crick's model also showed how the DNA molecule could duplicate itself. Thus it became known how genes (genetics), and eventually chromosomes (chromosome), duplicate themselves. Watson and Crick published their epochal discovery in two papers in the British journal Nature in April–May 1953. Their research answered one of the fundamental questions in genetics.

      Watson subsequently taught at Harvard University (1955–76), where he served as professor of biology (1961–76). He conducted research on the role of nucleic acids (nucleic acid) in the synthesis of proteins. In 1965 he published Molecular Biology of the Gene, one of the most extensively used modern biology texts. He later wrote The Double Helix (1968), an informal and personal account of the DNA discovery and the roles of the people involved in it, which aroused some controversy. In 1968 Watson assumed the leadership of the Laboratory of Quantitative Biology at Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, N.Y., and made it a world centre for research in molecular biology. He concentrated its efforts on cancer research. In 1981 his The DNA Story (written with John Tooze) was published. From 1988 to 1992 at the National Institutes of Health, Watson helped direct the Human Genome Project, a project to map and decipher all the genes in the human chromosomes, but he eventually resigned because of alleged conflicts of interests involving his investments in private biotechnology companies.

      In early 2007 Watson's own genome (human genome) was sequenced and made publicly available on the Internet. He was the second person in history to have a personal genome sequenced in its entirety. In October of the same year, he sparked controversy by making a public statement alluding to the idea that the intelligence of Africans might not be the same as that of other peoples and that intellectual differences among geographically separated peoples might arise over time as a result of genetic divergence. Watson's remarks were immediately denounced as racist. Though he denied this charge, he resigned from his position at Cold Spring Harbor and formally announced his retirement less than two weeks later.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Watson,James Dewey — Wat·son (wŏtʹsən), James Dewey. Born 1928. American biologist who with Francis Crick proposed a spiral model, the double helix, for the molecular structure of DNA. He shared a 1962 Nobel Prize for advances in the study of genetics. * * * …   Universalium

  • Watson , James Dewey — (1928–) American biochemist Watson entered the university in his native city of Chicago at the early age of 15, graduating in 1947. He obtained his PhD (1950) for studies of viruses at the University of Indiana and continued this work at the… …   Scientists

  • Watson, James Dewey — ► (n. 1928) Biólogo estadounidense. Fue premio Nobel de Medicina y Fisiología en 1962, compartido con Crick y Wilkins, por precisar la estructura del ácido desoxirribonucleico …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • James Dewey Watson — James D. Watson James Dewey Watson, KBE (* 6. April 1928 in Chicago) ist ein US amerikanischer Biochemiker und Nobelpreisträger. Er entdeckte zusammen mit Francis Crick, Maurice Wilkins und Rosalind Franklin die Molekularstruktur der Desoxyr …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • James Dewey Watson — James D. Watson Méritos: Descubridor junto a Francis Crick y Rosalind Franklin de la estructura del ADN. Supervisor doctoral: Salvador Edward Luria Campo de investigación …   Wikipedia Español

  • James Dewey Watson — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Watson. James D. Watson Naissance 6  …   Wikipédia en Français

  • James Dewey Watson — noun United States geneticist who (with Crick in 1953) helped discover the helical structure of DNA (born in 1928) • Syn: ↑Watson, ↑James Watson • Instance Hypernyms: ↑geneticist …   Useful english dictionary

  • James Dewey Watson — ➡ Watson (II) * * * …   Universalium

  • Medizinnobelpreis 1962: Francis Harry Compton Crick — James Dewey Watson — Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins —   Die drei Forscher erhielten den Nobelpreis für ihre Entdeckungen über die Molekularstruktur der Nucleinsäuren und deren Bedeutung für die Informationsübertragung in lebender Materie.    Biografien   Francis Harry Compton Crick, * Northampton… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Watson — James Dewey …   Scientists


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