James D. Watson

James D. Watson


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James Watson was the co-discoverer of the double-helix structure of DNA.


DNA Discoverer: Blacks Less Intelligent Than Whites

One of the world's most eminent scientists has created a racial firestorm in Britain.

James D. Watson, 79, co-discoverer of the DNA helix and winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize in medicine, told the Sunday Times of London that he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours — whereas all the testing says not really."

He recognized that the prevailing belief was that all human groups are equal, but that "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true."

Acknowledging that the issue was a "hot potato," the lifelong Democrat and avowed secular humanist nonetheless said his beliefs were not an excuse to discriminate against blacks.

"There are many people of color who are very talented," said Watson, "but don't promote them when they haven't succeeded at the lower level."

He told the interviewer, a former student of his, that he had recently inaugurated a DNA learning center near Harlem, and would like to have more black researchers at his lab, "but there's no one to recruit."

Steven Rose, a professor of biological sciences at the Open University in Britain, was quick to dismiss Watson's comments.

"This is Watson at his most scandalous, " Rose told the Times of London. "If he knew the literature in the subject, he would know he was out of his depth scientifically, quite apart from socially and politically."

Watson is the former director and current chancellor of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory biological-research institution on New York's Long Island, and both admired and infamous for bluntly speaking his mind.

In a British television documentary in 2003, Watson advised eliminating low intelligence through gene therapy.

"If you are really stupid, I would call that a disease," said Watson, according to New Scientist magazine. "The lower 10 percent who really have difficulty, even in elementary school, what's the cause of it?

"A lot of people would like to say, 'Well, poverty, things like that.' It probably isn't," he added. "So I'd like to get rid of that, to help the lower 10 percent."

He also touched upon sexual attraction in the same TV program.

"People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty," Watson said. "I think it would be great."

In 2000, he told a lecture audience at U.C. Berkeley that there was a correlation between a population's exposure to sunlight and its sex drive.

"That's why you have Latin lovers," Watson said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. "You've never heard of an English lover. Only an English patient."

The notion that intelligence tests and other scientific evidence shows that racial groups differ in intelligence, at least statistically, is not a new one.

It last gained popular attention in 1994 with "The Bell Curve," a best-selling book written by Harvard psychologist Richard J. Herrnstein (who died before publication) and political scientist Charles Murray, which argued that intelligence was more important than socio-economic background or education in achieving success in American life.

The book does not explicitly ascribe a genetic, racial connection to intelligence, but Murray in his publicity tour to promote the book cited studies that human intelligence could be ranked by ancestry, with East Asians and European Jews leading the way.

That view was more clearly stated in 1995 by British-Canadian psychologist J. Philippe Rushton, whose "Race, Evolution and Behavior: A Life History Perspective" quantified dozens of differences between blacks, whites and Asians.

In the 1970s, electronics pioneer William Shockley, who won the 1956 Nobel Prize in physics, said that the human race would suffer as less intelligent people outbred more intelligent ones, with the greatest damage to occur in the black American population.

Most sociologists, geneticists and psychologists reject the notion of racial differences in intelligence, pointing out that economic and social factors clearly influence IQ test scores.

The issue of race itself is scientifically controversial, with some arguing that it is a meaningless term and others saying that consistent traits occur among individuals of shared ancestry.

Watson is currently in Britain promoting his just-published new volume of memoirs, "Avoid Boring People: Lessons From a Life in Science."

"There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically," he writes. "Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so."


Watson, James D. (1928- )

James D. Watson won the 1962 Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine along with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins for discovering the structure of DNA , or deoxyribonucleic acid , the molecular carrier of genetic information. Watson and Crick had worked as a team since meeting in the early 1950s, and their research ranks as a fundamental advance in molecular biology .

James Dewey Watson was born in Chicago, Illinois, on April 6, 1928, to James Dewey and Jean (Mitchell) Watson. He was educated in the Chicago public schools, and during his adolescence became one of the original Quiz Kids on the radio show of the same name. Shortly after this experience in 1943, Watson entered the University of Chicago at the age of 15.

Watson graduated in 1946, but stayed on at Chicago for a bachelor's degree in zoology, which he attained in 1947. During his undergraduate years Watson studied neither genetics nor biochemistry — his primary interest was in the field of ornithology. In 1946, Watson spent a summer working on advanced ornithology at the University of Michigan's summer research station at Douglas Lake. During his undergraduate career at Chicago, Watson had been instructed by the well-known population geneticist Sewall Wright, but he did not become interested in the field of genetics until he read Erwin Schr ö dinger's influential book What Is Life? It was then, Horace Judson reports in The Eighth Day of Creation: Makers of the Revolution in Biology, that Watson became interested in finding out the secret of the gene .

Watson enrolled at Indiana University to perform graduate work in 1947. Indiana had several remarkable geneticists who could have been important to Watson's intellectual development, but he was drawn to the university by the presence of the Nobel laureate Hermann Joseph Muller, who had demonstrated 20 years earlier that x rays cause mutation. Nonetheless, Watson chose to work under the direction of the Italian biologist Salvador Edward Luria, and it was under Luria that he began his doctoral research in 1948.

Watson's thesis was on the effect of x rays on the rate of phage lysis (a phage, or bacteriophage , is a bacterial virus). The biologist Max Delbr ü ck and Luria — as well as a number of others who formed what was to be known as "the phage group" — demonstrated that phages could exist in a number of mutant forms. A year earlier Luria and Delbr ü ck had published one of the landmark papers in phage genetics , in which they established that one of the characteristics of phages is that they can exist in different genetic states so that the lysis (or bursting) of bacterial host cells can take place at different rates. Watson's Ph.D. degree was received in 1950, shortly after his twenty-second birthday.

Watson was next awarded a National Research Council fellowship grant to investigate the molecular structure of proteins in Copenhagen, Denmark. While Watson was studying enzyme structure in Europe, where techniques crucial to the study of macromolecules were being developed, he was also attending conferences and meeting colleagues.

From 1951 to 1953, Watson held a research fellowship under the support of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, England. Those two years are described in detail in Watson's 1965 book, The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA. An autobiographical work, The Double Helix describes the events — both personal and professional — that led to the discovery of DNA. Watson was to work at the Cavendish under the direction of Max Perutz, who was engaged in the x-ray crystallography of proteins. However, he soon found himself engaged in discussions with Crick on the structure of DNA. Crick was 12 years older than Watson and, at the time, a graduate student studying protein structure.

Intermittently over the next two years, Watson and Crick theorized about DNA and worked on their model of DNA structure, eventually arriving at the correct structure by recognizing the importance of x-ray diffraction photographs produced by Rosalind Franklin at King's College, London. Both were certain that the answer lay in model-building, and Watson was particularly impressed by Nobel laureate Linus Pauling's use of model-building in determining the alpha-helix structure of protein. Using data published by Austrian-born American biochemist Erwin Chargaff on the symmetry between the four constituent nucleotides (or bases) of DNA molecules, they concluded that the building blocks had to be arranged in pairs. After a great deal of experimentation with their models, they found that the double helix structure corresponded to the empirical data produced by Wilkins, Franklin, and their colleagues. Watson and Crick published their theoretical paper in the journal Nature in 1953 (with Watson's name appearing first due to a coin toss), and their conclusions were supported by the experimental evidence simultaneously published by Wilkins, Franklin, and Raymond Goss. Franklin died in 1958. Wilkins shared the Nobel Prize with Watson and Crick in 1962.

After the completion of his research fellowship at Cambridge, Watson spent the summer of 1953 at Cold Spring Harbor, New York, where Delbr ü ck had gathered an active group of investigators working in the new area of molecular biology. Watson then became a research fellow in biology at the California Institute of Technology, working with Delbr ü ck and his colleagues on problems in phage genetics. In 1955, he joined the biology department at Harvard and remained on the faculty until 1976. While at Harvard, Watson wrote The Molecular Biology of the Gene (1965), the first widely used university textbook on molecular biology. This text has gone through seven editions, and now exists in two large volumes as a comprehensive treatise of the field. In 1968, Watson became director of Cold Spring Harbor, carrying out his duties there while maintaining his position at Harvard. He gave up his faculty appointment at the university in 1976, however, and assumed full-time leadership of Cold Spring Harbor. With John Tooze and David Kurtz, Watson wrote The Molecular Biology of the Cell, originally published in 1983.

In 1989, Watson was appointed the director of the Human Genome Project of the National Institutes of Health, but after less than two years he resigned in protest over policy differences in the operation of this massive project. He continues to speak out on various issues concerning scientific research and is a strong presence concerning federal policies in supporting research. In addition to sharing the Nobel Prize, Watson has received numerous honorary degrees from institutions and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter. In 1968, Watson married Elizabeth Lewis. They have two children.

In his book, The Double Helix, Watson confirms that never avoided controversy. His candor about his colleagues and his combativeness in public forums have been noted by critics. On the other hand, his scientific brilliance is attested to by Crick, Delbr ü ck, Luria, and others. The importance of his role in the DNA discovery has been well supported by Gunther Stent — a member of the Delbr ü ck phage group — in an essay that discounts many of Watson's critics through well-reasoned arguments.

Most of Watson's professional life has been spent as a professor, research administrator, and public policy spokesman for research. More than any other location in Watson's professional life, Cold Spring Harbor (where he is still director) has been the most congenial in developing his abilities as a scientific catalyst for others. Watson's work there has primarily been to facilitate and encourage the research of other scientists.

See also Cell cycle (eukaryotic), genetic regulation of Cell cycle (prokaryotic), genetic regulation of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) DNA chips and micro arrays DNA hybridization Genetic code Genetic identification of microorganisms Genetic mapping Genetic regulation of eukaryotic cells Genetic regulation of prokaryotic cells Genotype and phenotype Molecular biology and molecular genetics


First a hero of science and now a martyr to science: the James Watson Affair - political correctness crushes free scientific communication

In 2007 James D. Watson, perhaps the most famous living scientist, was forced to retire from his position and retreat from public life in the face of international mass media condemnation following remarks concerning genetically-caused racial differences in intelligence. Watson was punished for stating forthright views on topics that elite opinion has determined should be discussed only with elaborate caution, frequent disclaimers, and solemn deference to the currently-prevailing pieties. James Watson has always struck many people as brash however this blunt, truth-telling quality was intrinsic to his role in one of the greatest scientific discoveries. Much more importantly than 'good manners', Watson has consistently exemplified the cardinal scientific virtue: he speaks what he understands to be the truth without regard for the opinion of others. The most chilling aspect of the Watson Affair was the way in which so many influential members of the scientific research community joined the media condemnation directed against Watson. Perhaps the most egregious betrayal of science was an article by editorialists of the premier UK scientific journal Nature. Instead of defending the freedom of discourse in pursuit of scientific truth, Nature instead blamed Watson for being 'crass' and lacking 'sensitivity' in discussing human genetic differences. But if asked to choose between the 'sensitive' editors of Nature or the 'crass' genius of James D. Watson, all serious scientists must take the side of Watson. Because when a premier researcher such as Watson is hounded from office by a vicious, arbitrary and untruthful mob all lesser scientists are made vulnerable to analogous treatment at the whim of the media. A zealous and coercive brand of 'political correctness' is now making the biological truth of human genetic differences intolerably difficult to discover and discuss in US and UK. This needs to change. My hope is that truth will prevail over political correctness and James Watson will not just be exonerated but vindicated as an exemplar of the true morality of science: that scientific communication needs to be allowed to be clear, direct - even crass - in the pursuit of truth. James Watson has been a hero of science for the achievements of his career, and also a martyr for science at the end of his career.


James Watson and the Insidiousness of Scientific Racism

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Molecular biologist James Watson, together with Francis Crick, won the Nobel Prize in 1962 for discovering the double-helix structure of DNA. Bettmann/Getty Images

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Scientific pedigrees are like any genealogical tree: When shaken, they can reveal family secrets. Most often, academic connections are divulged informally potential employers want to know who you published with and who they can call to get a personal reference. But sometimes they reveal much more.

C. Brandon Ogbunu is an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University and a computational biologist interested in disease.

My career began as a research assistant in the laboratory of Susan Gottesman at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD. A pioneering microbiologist, Gottesman is best known for her foundational work in bacterial gene regulation. Early in her own career, however, Gottesman was an undergraduate research assistant in the lab of James Watson, the famed co-discoverer of the double-helix structure of DNA. In effect—through his direct connection to Gottesman and because Watson’s work helped establish my fields of study—James Watson can be considered my academic ancestor.

While Watson has always been a curious character, it wasn’t until 2007 that his personality caught up to his mythology. That year he made comments about, among other things, the dim prospects for the continent of Africa and its descendants, a fate he attributed to inferior intelligence. Shortly afterwards, he issued an apology, telling the Associated Press, “There is no scientific basis for such a belief." But earlier this month, he doubled down on this sentiment during the PBS documentary American Masters: Decoding Watson. His comments led Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the renowned research institution that Watson has been long associated with, to strip him of his honorary titles.

That one person separates me, an African-American computational biologist, from James Watson—Nobel Laureate and mouthpiece of racist opinions—presents a quandary. For years, I have reveled in the powers of DNA, yet one of the people most associated with its discovery has made abhorrent comments about my race. The dilemma raises several questions: How does it feel to be a black scientist who owes much to James Watson in general, and in my case, is linked to his specific pedigree? Is it much ado about nothing, or might the black scientist occupy a special place in modern conversations about scientific racism?

Ironically, I was introduced to the scientific legacy of James Watson by my mother, an African-American woman raised in west Baltimore in the 1940s and ’50s, the granddaughter of a woman born in North Carolina near the time of emancipation. That my mother would have been a scientist under different circumstances is a good guess, and I inherited her love of mathematics and adoration for scientists. Her copy of Watson’s The Double Helix shared the same bookshelf with the works of James Baldwin and Toni Morrison. She spoke glowingly of the DNA structure discovery and emphasized that teamwork and perseverance can solve some of the world’s biggest problems. I mostly listened. I applied that belief to my graduate work in evolutionary biology, a field that was transformed by genomics (an outcome that Watson predicted with impressive prescience).

James Watson is a DNA enthusiast. Not only is this stance understandable, it isn’t controversial, and many people who are not scientific racists are also DNA enthusiasts. (I might even be described as such.) The question of whether the biological basis of complex life is about genes or the environment is partly an empirical one. And (spoiler alert) thus far we know that genes can authoritatively craft the raw material of many morphological, behavioral, and disease-associated traits. Other explanations for the basis of life are at least as eminent, and not necessarily in conflict with the centrality of DNA—history, context, and environment turn the knobs on how genes are built, how they do their job, and how traits manifest in a dynamic world.

These are fascinating and important questions that James Watson might be interested in. The problem is that his controversial claims about black people do not grapple with those questions. Watson is not in the news for being interested in the genes associated with educational attainment. He is not radioactive for suggesting that the color you paint your toddler’s bedroom won’t make them more creative adults. Watson was stripped of his titles not for talking about group differences but because his comments displayed a reckless misuse of science.

The furor over Watson has spawned a reactionary backlash. His critics have raised rhetorical questions of whether what James Watson says actually matters to anyone. Others have suggested that he’s been treated unfairly, hinting that the fuss is just virtue signaling, the illiberal left at it again. But they all miss the mark.

Yes, the racist comments hurt people. Yes, they affect the way many of us see ourselves and interact with our peers. And yes, this even applies to those of us who have been called “exceptional,” usually because we’ve existed in professions with few other black bodies.

Black exceptionalism is a popular and complicated idea. It asserts that a monolithic “average” black identity exists, and that by transcending this average, one is exceptional. While the idea isn’t welded to black achievement, it is related. Successful members of the black community who somehow avoided the regression to the (black) mean are presented as paragons, exceptional ones of their kind. There are backhanded compliments, and then there is black exceptionalism—a racist idea lightly dressed in a pat-on-the-back.

Some of us, in a naïve or perfunctory manner, wear black exceptionalism as a badge of honor, even under the guise of progress: “I will show them what we are capable of.” Good intentions be damned, because to adopt this stance is to walk directly into a pernicious trap. The most effective racist ideas rarely deny the existence of exceptional members of the out-group to which undesirable features are attributed.

On the contrary, the most destructive ideas embrace high-performing members for statistical cover. In order to argue that the mean performance of an out-group is lower for a desirable trait, there should be some high performers. High-performing black people are essential for racism like James Watson’s, and even he might predict a statistical and genetic exceptional negro, because they can’t all be incompetent.

The problem with this argument isn’t only that it avoids critical discussions about the possible sources of group differences, but also that it uses the notion of the exceptional individual to justify racist ideas towards others in the out-group. In general, armchair appeals to statistics often conceal negative feelings that people already have, attitudes forged in the fires of fear and bias, not science.

In the end, the privilege of working in areas where one's genetic ancestors were historically unwelcome is the product of centuries of sacrifices that built a stage for our genes to act on. Many of us have observed analogous examples within our own lives: friends who were smarter than we are but went to the wrong school or were derailed by family trauma. Neighbors who put their love of algebra aside, opting to focus on the sprinter speed that they felt more valued for. Bright young women openly discouraged from pursuing higher education. This isn’t hyperbolic, storytelling fluff. These are actual lives. And they define the environments in which our genes, whatever their composition, are expressed.

In reflecting on scientific racism this way, being black and an academic descendent of James Watson leads me to a new, radical conclusion: Black scientists are in the best position to understand what is so broken about the ideas of Watson and his army. We exist because our environments gave us, and not our ancestors, the opportunity to flourish. And while history has provided enough data to support this point, we can punctuate it with a poignant thought experiment.

Imagine an alternate reality in which James Watson was identical except for possessing physical traits associated with being phenotypically black. In this world, Watson—with equal talent, but raised black in Chicago in the 1930s—would almost certainly have read about Linus Pauling’s or Rosalind Franklin’s eventual discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA, and dreamed of a world that gave him the chance to do the same.


James D. Watson

Dr. James D. Watson is widely regarded as the father of DNA science. He was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1928 and educated at the University of Chicago. In 1953, while at Cambridge University, he and Francis Crick successfully proposed the double-helical structure for DNA, an insight described by Sir Peter Medawar as the greatest achievement of science in the twentieth century. For this work, Watson and Crick together with Maurice Wilkins were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. While a professor at Harvard, Watson commenced a writing career that generated the seminal text Molecular Biology of the Gene, the best best-selling autobiographical volume The Double Helix, and most recently, Avoid Boring People.

As Director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) from 1968 to 1994, he was a driving force behind creation of the Laboratory’s cancer genetics and neuroscience programs and played a seminal role in organizing the Human Genome Project. For the latter work he was awarded the Copley Medal in 1993 by the Royal Society. For his leadership in promoting the concept of the personalized genome, Dr. Watson is honored this evening with a Double Helix Medal. A pioneer in this and other aspects of genome science, he is one of only two individuals to date to have had his own genome sequenced in full. Importantly, he subsequently published the sequence on the CSHL website (www.cshl.edu), a boon to public understanding of genomics and its promise in disease research.

Dr. Watson was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1962 and in 1977 received the Medal of Freedom from President Ford. He has received honorary degrees from many universities including The University of Chicago (1961), Harvard University (1978), Cambridge University (1993), University of Oxford (1995), Trinity College (2001), and Uppsala University (2007). He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1981. Dr. Watson received the National Medal of Science in 1997, the City of Philadelphia Liberty Medal in 2004, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal awarded by the American Philosophical Society in 2001. Queen Elizabeth proclaimed him an honorary Knight of the British Empire in 2002. In addition to his service as its Director, Dr. Watson has served CSHL as President (1994-2003) and Chancellor (2003-2007) and is now Chancellor Emeritus.


James D. Watson - History

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Yes, absolutely [I remember my first meeting with him.] It’s stuck in my brain very clearly. I was a graduate student in Canberra at the Australia National University in Australia. I was there from 1976 to 1978. My supervisor was Alan Bellett who was a fantastic scientist. I learned a lot from him. He was invited to the Cold Spring Harbor Symposium in 1978, and two days before the meeting he got sick and couldn’t come. There was a lot of discussion about whether first of all I, as a graduate student—there were only two graduate students in his laboratory. Alan was supposed to talk about my work. So the issue was whether I could substitute for him, whether Cold Spring Harbor [Laboratory] would let me. And the other was whether I could actually do it. I didn't even have an active passport at that time. So the chairman of the department called Cold Spring Harbor [Laboratory]. I think he spoke to Ahmad Bukhari who was co-organizing the meeting with Tom Broker and Jim [Watson.] And they quite nicely said "Yes," I could come and speak in his place. And then what happened is—we were in the national capital in Canberra, so through connections that people had, I got whisked away to the Department of Defense and got a passport in almost no time at all. Then we went straight to the American Embassy and I got a visa, just like that. And that day I left. Actually, because of the international date line, I arrived in Hawaii the same day that I got my visa, which was bizarre because you have to fly through Hawaii. I arrived at Kennedy [Airport] at 5:30 in the morning after flying from Sydney, and got to Cold Spring Harbor on a Thursday, the morning after the meeting started. When I got out here I went to the first session that started at 9:00. And that day I sat all the way through the sessions until 11:30 at night because I was absolutely wired, so I didn't have to sleep. I first met Jim at the coffee break that morning. He was talking to Arthur Kornberg. I wanted to go and thank him for—I mean I had never met him, I’d never been in Cold Spring Harbor. But I wanted to thank him for allowing me to come. There was an opportunity. He was just standing there and I just happened to be near him, so I went up and introduced myself. Then he introduced me to Arthur Kornberg. I didn’t know it was Arthur Kornberg. He had spoken the evening before but I wasn’t there. And so I met Jim and Arthur at the same time. It’s kind of very bizarre because Jim and Arthur Kornberg are so different, scientifically. I mean they are poles apart. And yet, both extremely influential. So I’ll never forget that.

Molecular biologist and biochemist, Bruce Stillman, received his Ph.D. from the John Curtain School of Medical Research at the Australian National University in 1979. His long affiliation with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory began in 1979 when he arrived as a postdoctoral fellow. He became a member of the scientific staff (1981), Senior Scientist (1985), Assistant Director (1990), Director and Chief Executive Officer (1994), and President (2003), the position he currently holds. Stillman has also been Director of the Cancer Center at CSHL since 1992.

His research concerns DNA replication, yeast genetics, cell cycle and chromatin structure. His work has elucidated the reason why DNA sequences and silenced states of chromatin are pass through generations. His lab is concerned with understanding the mechanisms and regulation of DNA replication in eukaryotic cells, a process that ensures accurate duplication and inheritance of genetic material from one cell generation to the next.


6 beloved scientists who were actually total jerks

When you've spent your life as a famous scientist, historians tend to forget your bad personality traits. It makes sense: If you're out there curing the black plague, who really cares if you have a problem with skin fungus or hookers (or both)?

Despite this, the six scientists in this article were such abominable jerks that even their incredible contributions to humanity couldn't eclipse their contributions to the world of douchebaggery.

Thomas Edison

Why Do We Love Him So Much?

Working sleepless hours in his lab, Edison made a light bulb that could be produced for the masses. Finally, people were able to stay awake late enough to watch The Tonight Show. His numerous patents changed human life and inspired this really creepy memorial page.

But He Was Actually a Total Jerk Because .

He had a fondness for electrocuting animals.

Thomas Edison popularized and "sold" direct current for electric power. In what was probably the nerdiest battle in history, Edison got into it with George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla in what was dubbed the "War of Currents." Judging solely by the name, one might think these men battled with strange devices that shot electricity at each other. But no, instead Edison toured the country using his competitor's "alternating current" to electrocute animals. In a famous video that is in absolutely no way safe for work at all, Edison electrocuted an adorable elephant named "Topsy."

Edison was propelled by furious rage coming from the fact that Tesla had once been Edison's employee but left because Edison didn't understand Tesla's alternating current experiments. In fact, the reason Tesla left was because Edison had promised him $50,000 but reneged on the deal. To get him back, Tesla harnessed Niagara Falls to produce alternating current, proving he had the superior electricity. Alternating current is now standard in American homes today and is never involved in accidental elephant deaths.

In addition to all this dickery, Edison also had film technicians steal copies of the groundbreaking film Le Voyage dans la lune. Edison distributed the bootlegs for a tidy profit, while the revolutionary director was left bankrupt, with no way to return his significant investments. It takes a lot to look like a jerk by Hollywood standards, but Edison definitely fit the bill.

James D. Watson

Why Do We Love Him So Much?

Along with his LSD-induced partner, Watson discovered DNA. In terms of human self-understanding, they pretty much touched the monolith.

But He Was Actually a Total Jerk Because .

He refused to stop saying stuff that was vaguely racist, vaguely sexist and totally creepy.

Watson's mouth had a veritable double helix of tongues, able to twist any scientific conference into an offensive sound bite. He first started raising eyebrows when he claimed that fetuses that test in the bottom 10 percent of intelligence should be aborted. Controversial, but it could easily be argued that he was making a statement for compassion and mercy, just in a really garbled way.

Unfortunately, that idea was soon put to bed when Watson started saying things that weren't controversial, just flat-out weird. He made the statement that he had no problem with using genetic engineering to make all girls pretty. In his own sad, demented words, "Whenever you interview fat people, you feel bad because you know you're not going to hire them." Always the epitome of compassion, that James D. Watson.

Watson's foot-in-mouthery doesn't stop there. In 2000, he gave a presentation at a conference where he linked skin color with sex drive. Showing blown-up slides of bikini-clad women, Watson claimed that melanin was linked directly to sex drive, and used it to explain why Latins make better lovers than Englishmen. The final straw came when he complained that the intelligence of Africans was lower than their non-African counterparts. Intense pressure forced him to resign his job, he no doubt spends his ample leisure time engineering an army of supermodels.

Antoine Lavoisier

Why Do We Love Him So Much?

One of the greatest minds of all time, Lavoisier discovered and named the element oxygen and made the metric system. So every time you suck in a deep breath because some American doesn't understand what a kilogram is, think of Antoine Lavoisier.

But He Was Actually a Total Jerk Because .

He was a ruthless merchant who didn't mind making a buck off of poor people.

As administrator of France's premier pre-revolutionary aristocratic council, Lavoisier's economic policies were sometimes contradictory. On the one hand, he introduced taxation reform with the aim of helping the peasants. On the other hand, he tried to build a freaking wall around the city to keep poor people from smuggling in food and clothes.

When the French revolution came, it was not the best of times for Lavoisier. He was accused of selling watered-down tobacco, which is just wrong. Speaking of just wrong, when he was 28, he married a 13-year-old (some sources say 14, which isn't any better). In addition, he was literally accused of trying to cut off Paris' air supply by building the aforementioned wall around the city. The irony of this ridiculously non-scientific conclusion probably would've made Lavoisier's head explode, if it wasn't lying in a bucket.

Aristotle

Why Do We Love Him So Much?

For thousands of years, Aristotle's views on science were considered the foundation for human experimentation. Before Aristotle, the answer to almost any question was pretty much "The gods did it," which made quiz shows unbearably easy.

But He Was Actually a Total Jerk Because .

He may have been more racist than Hitler.

Now, to just flat-out fingerpoint at an ancient person for being racist is silly. During Aristotle's time, there weren't even that many other races to speak of, and it was quite common to look at others as barbarians. That said, Aristotle had such a derogatory opinion of other creeds that it even freaked out his fellow racist peers. Rumor has it even Alexander, not known for his tolerance of other cultures, wrote Aristotle a letter asking him to back off. Aristotle did not back off he was bent on telling the world that other races deserved to be enslaved and that interbreeding meant poisoning one's blood.

Adding to the body of evidence that Aristotle was kind of an overprivileged dillhole was his hilarious views on women. Women at the time were regarded as inferior to men, but Aristotle went so far as to try to make a science of it, claiming:

− Women are colder than men
− Women are like infertile men
− Women remember things longer than men (score one for women)

Aristotle had a whole caste-esque ranking of how important people were, based solely on race, gender and nobility. In fact, he often scribed that lower-class men would never reach their full potential, and fought to refuse voting rights to manual laborers. Aristotle's vision of hell would probably closely resemble a NASCAR race.

Hans Geiger

Why Do We Love Him So Much?

His invention, the Geiger counter, has saved countless lives by giving an advanced warning for radiation. Designed in 1925, it is still being used in many capacities today. Who knows how many lab technicians would've accidentally been transformed into irradiated supervillains if not for the Geiger counter?

But He Was Actually a Total Jerk Because .

He was an unrepentant Nazi.

Hans Geiger seemed all right before World War II. He even authored a paper urging the Nazis to leave scientists alone, and presented it to Hitler.

But World War II flipped Geiger like it was the Stanford prison experiment. Geiger turned in his Jewish scientist colleagues, some who had worked alongside him before the war.

Despite a professed dislike for the military, Geiger supported the Nazi effort like a baseball fan during a pennant run. He worked adamantly to build a nuclear bomb. Despite the onset of rheumatism, Geiger continued to work on the project until a lack of uranium forced its cessation. Now, if there only were a meter that could detect weirdos like him.

Benjamin Franklin

Why Do We Love Him So Much?

Ben "C-Note" Franklin practically embodies the American spirit of unbridled adventure. He flew a kite in a rainstorm, he co-authored the Constitution, and he loved beer. He freed the colonists, freed his slaves and freed his mind with a little hemp now and then. What's not to love about Benjamin Franklin?

But He Was Actually a Total Jerk Because .

He was an insufferable, petty whore of a man whom his peers loathed. Also, he may or may not have let people saw up dead children in his home.

Ben Franklin was not a guy you wanted to get in an argument with. He established a lengthy pattern of going to extreme lengths to win petty squabbles. Once Franklin tried to get the entire government switched from proprietary to royal, just to grab some land from William Penn. His antics annoyed fellow legislators to the point where he would get kicked out of assemblies. Franklin was one of those geniuses whose ideas were sometimes revolutionary and most of the time awful: He once tried to sell Noah Webster on the concept of replacing six letters in the alphabet. Ben Franklin certainly had tenacity, whether he was trying to liberate America or just annoy the crap out of people.

Ben Franklin was also a notorious lech, even for the colonial equivalent of a rock star. He had an illegitimate son, then disowned him for supporting the king of England. He wrote a lengthy letter to a friend giving detailed advice on how to choose a mistress (hint: Franklin seems to be into cougars). In a famous rumor, Franklin allegedly tried desperately to win the sexual affections of a married woman 40 years younger than he.


Lab revokes honorary titles for Nobel Prize winner James Watson after repeated racist comments

Nobel Prize-winning scientist James Watson, who helped discover the structure of DNA, was stripped of several honorary titles last week after his recent comments linking race and intelligence to genetics.

Nobel Prize-winning scientist James Watson has been stripped of his honorary titles at the laboratory he once led after doubling down on racist comments.

Watson, who discovered DNA’s double helix structure alongside Francis Crick and Rosalind Franklin in the 1950s, said that genes cause a difference on IQ tests between blacks and whites, in a recent PBS documentary "American Masters: Decoding Watson."

The leaders of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island said in a statement his comments were “reprehensible, unsupported by science.”

This isn't Watson’s first controversial comment about race. He lost his position as chancellor at the lab in 2007 after he told the Sunday Times he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours, whereas all the testing says not really."

He added that although he wished everyone were equal, “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.”

James Watson, founder of the DNA structure and winner of the 1962 Physiology and Medicine Nobel Prize, has had his honorary titles revoked by the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. (Photo: Jose Mendez, EPA-EFE file photo)

His comments in the documentary “effectively reverse the written apology and retraction Dr. Watson made in 2007,” the lab’s statement read. As a result, the lab stripped him of his titles of Chancellor Emeritus, Oliver R. Grace Professor Emeritus and Honorary Trustee.

Watson became the first person to sell his Nobel Prize in 2014 as part of an attempt to restore his reputation, the New York Times reported.

His son Rufus told the Associated Press that his 90-year-old father is recovering at home from a car crash in October and has “very minimal” awareness of his surroundings.

“My dad’s statements might make him out to be a bigot and discriminatory,” he said. "They just represent his rather narrow interpretation of genetic destiny.”


James D. Watson - History


DNA by Jerome Walker and Dennis Myts
  • Occupation: Molecular biologists
  • Born:
    Crick: June 8, 1916
    Watson: April 6, 1928
  • Died:
    Crick: July 28, 2004
    Watson: Still alive
  • Best known for: Discovering the structure of DNA

James Watson was born on April 6, 1928 in Chicago, Illinois. He was a very intelligent child. He graduated high school early and attended the University of Chicago at the age of fifteen. James loved birds and initially studied ornithology (the study of birds) at college. He later changed his specialty to genetics. In 1950, at the age of 22, Watson received his PhD in zoology from the University of Indiana.


James D. Watson.
Source: National Institutes of Health

In 1951, Watson went to Cambridge, England to work in the Cavendish Laboratory in order to study the structure of DNA. There he met another scientist named Francis Crick. Watson and Crick found they had the same interests. They began working together. In 1953 they published the structure of the DNA molecule. This discovery became one of the most important scientific discoveries of the 20th century.

Watson (along with Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin, and Maurice Wilkins) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 for the discovery of the DNA structure. He continued his research into genetics writing several textbooks as well as the bestselling book The Double Helix which chronicled the famous discovery.

Watson later served as director of the Cold Spring Harbor Lab in New York where he led groundbreaking research into cancer. He also helped to form the Human Genome Project which mapped out the human genetic sequence.

Francis Crick was born in Weston Favell, England on June 8, 1916. His father was a shoemaker, but Francis soon found a love for learning and science. He did well in school and attended the University College London. Crick had won several awards for his research when he met James Watson at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, England. They soon made their famous discovery of the DNA double helix in 1953.

After making the discovery and winning the Nobel Prize in 1962, Crick continued his research into genetics at Cambridge. He later worked as a research professor at the Salk Institute in California for many years. Crick died of colon cancer on July 28, 2004.

Discovering the Structure of DNA

In the early 1950s, scientists had learned a lot about genetics, but they still didn't understand the structure of the DNA molecule. Scientists needed to understand the structure of DNA in order to fully understand genetics. The Cavendish Laboratory had put together a team to try and solve the problem before an American team led by the famous biochemist Linus Pauling could. It became a race to see who could figure it out first!

When Crick and Watson met at Cambridge they quickly learned that they had the same passion for solving the DNA structure. They both had similar ideas as well on how the problem could be solved. Despite having very different personalities, they became good friends and respected each other's work.


DNA model template used by Crick and Watson.
Source: Smithsonian. Photo by Ducksters.

Using stick-and-ball models, Watson and Crick tested their ideas of how the DNA molecule might fit together. Their first attempt in 1951 failed, but they kept at it. They also used information from X-ray pictures to give them ideas for the structure. Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins were two scientists that were experts in taking these pictures. Crick and Watson were able to gain some valuable information by studying pictures taken by Franklin and Wilkins.

In 1953, Crick and Watson were able to put together an accurate model of the DNA structure. The model used a twisting "double helix" shape. This model would help scientists throughout the world in learning more about genetics.


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