James Watson is a molecular biologist and geneticist who revolutionised the field of biochemistry through his 1953 co-discovery of the structure of DNA, the molecule that underlies the development and functioning of all life. For this accomplishment, James was jointly awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
His research answered one of the fundamental questions in genetics: by understanding the double helix structure of DNA, scientists were able to demonstrate how DNA is involved in cell division and in maintaining genetic characteristics. In turn, James’s discovery led to a greater understanding of how genes replicate, mutate and are expressed and is regarded as a major turning point in science.
From 1968–2007, James served as Director, and later President, of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, a research and education institution at the forefront of molecular biology and genetics. He has written many bestselling books, including the textbook Molecular Biology of the Gene (1965), The Double Helix (1968) and his colourful memoir, Avoid Boring People: Lessons from a Life in Science (2007).
In recognition of his tireless pursuit of DNA, from the elucidation of its structure to the social and medical implications of the sequencing of the human genome.
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Jointly with Francis Harry Compton Crick and Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material.