Our Guest of Honour- James Watson
James D. Watson is a Nobel Prize-winning biophysicist and researcher credited with co-discovering the double-helix structure of DNA.
Born on April 6, 1928, in Chicago, Illinois, James D. Watson worked at the University of Copenhagen and the Cavendish Laboratory before formulating the theory of a double-helix structure for DNA along with Francis Crick. Watson received a 1962 Nobel Prize and went on to do work in cancer research and mapping the human genome.
Crick's and Watson's first serious effort toward learning the structure of DNA came up short, but their second attempt, concluded in the spring of 1953, resulted in the pair putting forth the double-helical configuration, which resembles a twisting ladder. Their model also showed how the DNA molecule could duplicate itself, thus answering one of the constant fundamental questions in the field of genetics.
In 1955, Watson moved on to Harvard University (1955-76), where he taught biology for 15 years and conducted research. While there, he published Molecular Biology of the Gene, which would go on to become one of the most extensively used biology texts.
Over the course of his long career, James D. Watson has been honored numerous times, taking home the John Collins Warren Prize of the Massachusetts General Hospital (1959, with Crick), the Lasker Award (1960, with Crick and Maurice Wilkins) and the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1962, with Crick and Wilkins), among others.
February 28th, 1953. The Eagle pub in Cambridge. And a bold declaration by Old Millhillian, Francis Crick: “We have discovered the secret of life!”
As indeed they had. That was the date that Crick and James Watson completed the DNA ‘jigsaw’ they had been working on for so long. It was hailed as one of the most significant scientific breakthroughs in history and Crick, Watson and their colleague Maurice Watkins were all awarded the Nobel Prize for their work some nine years later.
The Crick family has always enjoyed a strong connection with Mill Hill. As a boy Francis used to live just down the road from the entrance and his father, three uncles and brother all attended the School. Francis himself had a love of science from an early age and suggested that his stunning career was grounded in the excellent science teaching he received at Mill Hill.
Today – in addition to our commemorative ‘Add Your DNA’ campaign - the Crick connection is still strong. Francis’s daughter (Gabrielle) and grandson (Mark) attended our Francis Crick Honorary Mill Hill Dinner in 2013. Another attendee was Old Millhillian, Professor Nick Franks FRS, who recalled Crick’s intellectual energy, modesty and sense of humour with great fondness. All have offered their full support to the Foundation’s fundraising efforts and we hope that they will remain regular visitors in the future.
Francis Crick. (Ridgeway 1930-34)