Watson in SF

last wed i got to see James Watson at the city arts/lecture series… his first choice for grad school was Caltech but he ended up going to his backup school (U-Indiana at bloomington). he said getting to work with linux pauling was the main attraction at Caltech but that Bloomington had three really good geneticists which probably made it a better experience.

he wrote a new book “avoid boring people” and then he was asked to explain the title. it came about because he had a boring title (like “science”) and his colleagues came back with this new title after thinking about it for a few hours. “boring” can be an adjective or a verb, and he means it as the verb form so it could also be called avoid boring *other* people J when he was in college he read the book “what is life?” based on lectures by physicist Schrödinger that guided him going forward.

his three lessons for a life in science are

  1. don’t be the smartest person in the room – he always sought to be in environments where others knew more than him. at the age of 22 he went to Cambridge to learn crystallography with sir Lawrence bragg at cambridge, and he was thrilled when they let him in.
  2. don’t go it alone when you’re on the hairy edge of science. crick was an expert at interpreting and reconstructing structure from x-ray crystallography images.
  3. talk to your competitors and even people who seem unreasonable because they may have data that would be useful to you – this is what gave watson an edge over pauling who incorrectly proposed the single strand RNA for the structure of the DNA. because pauling was less interested in science than politics at that point he didn’t talk to the people who could have provided data who were on the same cruise ship with him and could have steered him in the right direction. he also suggested that Rosalind franklin was autistic, she thought her nobel prize winning advisor was useless, and didn’t understand the significance of her x-ray crystallography data when she gave it to others because she didn’t think they were worth talking to. controversial.

at his age of 79, he still plays tennis and his hero is roger federrer.

update on October 18. It looks like Watson may have made some unfortunate and offensive comments, Nobel Winner in ‘racist’ claim row

at least he was maintaining an appearance of skepticism about race and intelligence in this recent essay in 02138 magazine when discussing larry summers. he’s apparently back-tracking now on his comments about Africa, intelligence, and testing — he may have realized his very serious mistake.

** Lab suspends DNA pioneer Watson **

Nobel Prize-winner James Watson is suspended by his research institution after making comments on the subject of race and intelligence.


James Watson Retires After Racial Remarks


Published: October 25, 2007

Dr. Watson, who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for describing the double-helix structure of DNA, and later headed the American government’s part in the international Human Genome Project, was quoted in The Times of London last week as suggesting that, overall, people of African descent are not as intelligent as people of European descent. In the ensuing uproar, he issued a statement apologizing “unreservedly” for the comments, adding “there is no scientific basis for such a belief.”


One Response to “Watson in SF”

  1. n.d Says:

    I believe knowledge is the UNIVERSAL TRUTH that already exists. Research brings it into lime light. Researhers (inventors, innovators) are rewarded according to their perception of the truth, and its acceptance by the comunity.

    “Lessons for SCIENCE” ….. What I understood from Dr. Watson’s advice (in 3rd lesson) is: business and manipulation are needed rather than mere Quest for the Truth in scientific research and recognition.

    ROSALIND FRANKLIN’S research findings are crucial to the realization of the phenomenon of DNA (The Double Helix) ! Was she AUTISTIC ? Or was she MISCREDITED?

    Is it not NOBLE to accept the Truth and acknoledge the “Nobelity” of others’ findings ? They should have awarded the NOBEL PRIZE to ROSALIND also!

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