James Dewey Watson is an American geneticist who, with Francis Crick, discovered the double helical structure of the DNA molecule. For this work he received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1962 together with Crick and Maurice Wilkins. In 1968 he became director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Long Island NY and in from 1988 helped direct The Human Genome Project. He is described as brilliant, outspoken and eccentric and that he is elitist about intelligent people.
Rosalind Franklin attribution
His personal and informal account of this discovery "The Double Helix" aroused some controversy with its frank account of the competitive nature of scientific research. In particular, he revealed that the X-ray diffraction pattern image in "Photo 51", a image created by Rosalind Franklin's team, informed him of the alpha helix structure of the DNA molecule. After Franklin had announced her plans to leave the Kings College lab, Wilkins showed Watson the image. Wilkins had concluded that Franklin would appropriately be leaving her data to her successors. Neither Watson nor Wilkins opted to contact Franklin for permission, not did they inform her later of their action. Franklin died before the Nobel Prize was awarded.
Final moment of great insight
Watson and Crick worked in an office aggregating and integrating all the known knowledge that they could about what was then known about DNA chemistry. They worked with molecular models rather than doing research in a laboratory. Watson had his great insight at their Cavendish Laboratory office in Cambridge on February 28, 1953. He had constructed the flat cardboard models of the four base pairs. The base pairs consisted of purines adenine and guanine and the pyrimidines thymine and cytosine. He began trying different orientations of them, flipping them over and sliding them around on the office table. He saw a potential for hydrogen bonding between the adenine and thymine. He then oriented the guanine and cytosine in a similar way and saw the same hydrogen bonding pattern. He then compared the two aggregates and saw that they were similar in shape and he soon realized that they would be appropriate as perhaps rungs on a ladder and quickly became confident that he had made the final breakthrough.