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James Watson - precocious and fun


James Watson - the bald American
Francis Crick Scientist
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No, curiously enough I don’t remember the first time I met Jim, no. I do remember going home and Odile saying Max - that’s Max Perutz - was around… around here with a young American and you know what, he had no hair, I mean he had a crew cut. It was the first time she’d seen a crew cut. So, that’s the first time Odile must… must’ve… have seen him and I must have seen him very shortly afterwards, but I don’t remember the actual introduction. I don’t see why one should; it would be no notably special thing in first contact. It was only after we’d talked for some days or a week or so, I think, or probably quite soon that we realised how common our interests were and how different our backgrounds were, you see. Because, he didn’t know anything about crystallography by which time I’d known a certain amount – how to solve crystal structures by x-ray diffraction – and I didn’t know much about the phage group which he knew about and all… a lot of the people in America that I had read about, he knew personally. So, we did have different backgrounds, but we had the same interests. We… we both thought that finding the structure of the gene was the key problem whereas my… my two colleagues, Perutz and [John] Kendrew, were merely keen on getting protein structure, they weren’t interested in genes, as such. Of course, they were interested in genes in a general sense, but it wasn’t part of their daily work. Nor was it of mine. It was… it was, you know, done on the side, you might say.

The late Francis Crick, one of Britain's most famous scientists, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. He is best known for his discovery, jointly with James Watson and Maurice Wilkins, of the double helix structure of DNA, though he also made important contributions in understanding the genetic code and was exploring the basis of consciousness in the years leading up to his death in 2004.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: United States of America, James Watson, Odile Crick, Max Perutz, John Kendrew

Duration: 1 minute, 25 seconds

Date story recorded: 1993

Date story went live: 24 January 2008