(Chicago, 1928) American geneticist and biochemist. The awarded Nobel Prize for Physiology and medicine in 1962 by the discovery of the molecular structure in double helix of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), and its meaning as molecule transmitter of biological inheritance. He directed the human genome project from 1988 until 1992, year in which resigned in protest the possibility of genes to be patented. He is considered one of the fathers of molecular biology.
James D. Watson
James D. Watson
He studied in his hometown and in Indiana. In 1947, he was the equivalent of a Bachelor's degree in zoology and in 1950 earned a doctorate in zoology by Indiana University. At this University he met geneticists and microbiologists who sparked his interest in genetics and microbiology; his thesis, which was directed by the Italian biologist Salvatore E. Luria, already concerned about the effects of X rays on the multiplication of bacteriophages.
He subsequently completed his studies with a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Research Council of Copenhagen, where is carrying out research on the structures of large biological molecules; There he became interested in the structural chemistry of nucleic acids, and worked in the DNA of infectious viral particles. He met, at a symposium held in the city of Naples, the work of the researcher Maurice Wilkins, and it made him focus the course of their investigations into the discovery of structural chemistry of biological molecules.
He worked at the University of Cambridge, where investigated, along with Francis Crick, the structure of DNA, noting the essential components of this acid: four organic bases that were to be linked by pairs (adenine with thymine and guanine with cytosine). The Deoxyribose sugar chains appeared United these organic bases and phosphate groups. Base components of the DNA information had already been provided by scientists like Chargaff, and by the biophysical Rosalind Franklin and Mauricie Wilkins, which had already been used x-ray Crystallographic techniques to photograph the DNA molecule.
With this information and animated by the techniques of work of Franklin and Wilkins, Watson and Crick discerned the helical structure of a molecule of DNA, which was made up of two chains of linked nucleotide bases in the form of a double helix; the double helix presented outwards the molecules of sugar and phosphate, and inland bases paired on a complementary basis. This molecular model in the DNA Double-Helix molecule allowed doubled, since the two strands of the propeller were complementary, and constituted the basis of the mechanisms of transfer of biological information. With this, one could understand the hereditary material of a few generations is transmitted to others. This discovery is considered as one of the main scientific events of the 20th century, which changed the course of Biochemistry and ushered in a new discipline, molecular biology.
Later, Watson worked at the California Institute of technology in Pasadena and at Harvard University, where he taught Biochemistry and molecular biology. He finally helped to decipher the genetic code contained in DNA sequences and discovered that the messenger RNA was responsible for transferring the genetic code of the DNA (from which had been synthesized) forming cell structures of proteins, by a process called translation. In 1962 he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or medicine, shared with Francis Crick and Mauricie Wilkins. In 1968 he directed the laboratory of quantitative biology at Cold Spring Harbor in New York. From 1988 to 1992 he led the human genome project, in which it has mapped the complete sequence of human DNA, but Watson left him for being contrary to the economic interests of trying to patenting genes, which it considered a world heritage site.
His works include Molecular Biology of Gene (1965) and The Double Helix (1968). He has to his credit several awards and honours of various universities and institutions and is American honorary member of many associations, societies and scientific academies, such as the Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.