James D. Watson to recieve 2005 Othmer Gold Medal

February 23, 2005

PHILADELPHIA -- The Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) has selected James D. Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, to receive the 2005 Othmer Gold Medal. The award ceremony and the annual Othmer Gold Medal Luncheon will headline Heritage Day 2005, a full day of honors and awards for achievement in chemistry and the molecular sciences, which will take place at CHF in Philadelphia on Thursday, 9 June.

"Nobel laureate, writer, leader, innovator, iconoclast, and extraordinary man of science, James Watson fulfilled the alchemists' dream," said Arnold Thackray, president of CHF. "All of mankind is indebted to Jim. His scientific imagination and intellectual drive have opened the way to countless new therapies and the possibility of longer, healthful lives."

In 1953 Watson and his colleague Francis Crick successfully proposed the double-helical structure for DNA, a feat considered by many to be the greatest achievement of science in the 20th century. For this work, Watson and Crick, together with Maurice Wilkins, were awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Watson was a driving force behind setting up the Human Genome Project, a major factor in his receipt of the 1993 Copley Medal from the Royal Society. All through his career, he has found time to share his insights, writing important texts for those in the sciences and also popular works, some of them best sellers, that describe his life and work for those with no technical background.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1928, Watson received a B.S. in 1947 from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in 1950 from Indiana University; both degrees were in zoology. Following a National Research Fellowship in Copenhagen and a National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis Fellowship at the University of Cambridge, England, he spent two years at the California Institute of Technology. He joined the faculty of Harvard University in 1955 and became professor in 1961, moving in 1976 to New York to become full-time director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. In 1988 he was appointed associate director for human genome research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and in 1989 he was appointed director of the NIH's National Center for Human Genome Research. In 1992 Watson returned to Cold Spring Harbor, after successfully launching a worldwide effort to map and sequence the human genome.

In 1977 Watson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He has also received honorary degrees from many universities, including the University of Cambridge (1993) and the University of Oxford (1995). He holds the National Medal of Science, the Philadelphia Liberty Medal, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the American Philosophical Society. Queen Elizabeth II has proclaimed him an honorary knight of the British Empire. Today he serves as chancellor of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

Watson has also achieved great success as a writer. While a professor at Harvard, he wrote the seminal text Molecular Biology of the Gene and the best-selling autobiographical volume The Double Helix; he recently published DNA: The Secret of Life and Genes, Girls, and Gamow: After the Double Helix.

Chemical Heritage Foundation

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