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Melatonin and the connection between sun and sex?


Sensing where you are in history
James Watson Scientist
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[Q] Your vision for Cold Spring Harbor when you started, did it include building this exceptional, large research institute?

No, no, it was just you know, I learned the rule, you either get bigger or smaller, and like we when monoclonal antibodies came along, we thought well, we have to have a facility to build them. So we built, by any standard, a small edition. We called it the Sambrook Lab, and there, you know, in that building at Harlow they had antibodies and that was the experiment that showed that the Adno E1A protein bound the RB. So, we've finally understand tumor suppressors... So we hadn’t built the building [unclear]. So, good staff will leave, but that then leads to finally you are becoming bigger than... I think that way would work if you didn’t have tenure, but really, every place in the world has tenure and so after a while every place gets too big. You know, finally, I mean just like in a Malthusian way, you will  increase faster than your inherent resources. And so all these new buildings we built, they may stay half empty for the next 20 years. But, you know, if when the recovery occurs you are going to have the buildings and you can go ahead. At Harvard, the reason I could go there with assurance is the bio labs had never been completed. It has space that was never finished. It was built during the Great Depression, you know, a decision, and but then when it was finished there was no money to occupy it. So, we have six buildings just finished now, and we don’t have the money to... I think if we make the decision where we try and cure cancer we could occupy them, but I think we will persist in just going along understanding cancer. It’s going to be very hard, so you’ve got to... you’ve got to always sense where you are in history.



American molecular biologist James Dewey Watson is probably best known for discovering the structure of DNA for which he was jointly awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins. His long career has seen him teaching at Harvard and Caltech, and taking over the directorship of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. From 1988 to 1992, James Watson was head of the Human Genome Project at the National Institutes of Health. His current research focuses on the study of cancer.

Listeners: Walter Gratzer Martin Raff

Walter Gratzer is Emeritus Professor of Biophysical Chemistry at King's College London, and was for most of his research career a member of the scientific staff of the Medical Research Council. He is the author of several books on popular science. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard and has known Jim Watson since that time

Martin Raff is a Canadian-born neurologist and research biologist who has made important contributions to immunology and cell development. He has a special interest in apoptosis, the phenomenon of cell death.



Listen to Martin Raff at Web of Stories



Duration: 2 minutes, 49 seconds

Date story recorded: November 2008 and October 2009

Date story went live: 18 June 2010