James D. Watson
|(1928 - )
Watson, born in Chicago, Illinois, attended the University of Indiana. He completed his postgraduate work at the Cavendish Laboratory of the University of Cambridge, and in the process, working with Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA.
Watson's most notable accomplishment came early in his career in 1953 when he and Francis Crick discovered the double helix structure of DNA using X-ray diffraction methods originally implemented by physicist Maurice Wilkins. Watson and Crick's explanation of the structure of DNA, which remained unproved by physical experiment at the time of their 1953 publication, was termed the Watson-Crick Hypothesis. Experimental proof confirming the hypothesis was later provided by Arthur Kornberg. For this monumental discovery, Watson, along with Crick and Wilkins, was awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology.
Watson became a Harvard faculty member in 1955, and in 1968 he became the director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory of Quantitative Biology in New York. He also assisted in the direction of the Human Genome Project while working the National Institutes of Health.
The discovery of DNA was a landmark achievement. It immediately gave rise to the new study of molecular biology and also led to increased research in genetics and the development of genetic engineering in the upcoming decades.
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