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Born on April 6, 1928, in Chicago, Illinois, James D. Watson worked at the University of Copenhagen and the Cavendish Laboratory before formulating the theory of a double-helix structure for DNA along with Francis Crick. Watson received a 1962 Nobel Prize and went on to do work in cancer research and mapping the human genome. He later came under fire for several controversial remarks on subjects ranging from obesity to race-based intelligence.
James Dewey Watson was born in Chicago, Illinois, on April 6, 1928, and spent his childhood there, attending Horace Mann Grammar School and South Shore High School before winning a scholarship to the University of Chicago and enrolling at age 15. In 1947, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology and then went on to attend Indiana University in Bloomington, where he received his Ph.D. in zoology in 1950. His Ph.D. thesis was a study of the effect of hard X-rays on bacteriophage multiplication, and he became interested in the work of scientists working at the University of Cambridge with photographic patterns made by X-rays.
This firsthand account of the discovery of DNA dispels a lot of the notions that ousiders have about how science really works. Watson's descriptions of the competition, politics, dead ends, personality clashes, mistakes, and eventually inspiration reveal that discovery is not as clear-cut a process as it sometimes might seem.
Watson is honest in his introduction that his account is just that, the story told through his own point of view, complete with possible faulty memories and personal prejudices. I was intrigued by the portrayals of the personalities of so many famous figures that I've been learning about for years in my biology and genetics classes - Francis Crick, of course, along with Maurice Wilikins, Rosalind Franklin, Linus Pauling, and many more. I was touched by Watson's admission at the end of the book that his unfavorable impressions of Rosalind Franklin stemmed from the fact that she was a woman trying to make a name for herself in the male-dominated world of scientific research in the 1950s.
There is quite a bit of biological jargon in this book, and though it could probably be read by someone without any knowledge of genetics, it will be appreciated more by readers with some background. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in genetics and science.