Watson-inspired innovation in research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

June 09, 2008

COLD SPRING HARBOR, N.Y. - The appointment of James Watson as Director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 1968 set off an explosive development of research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), as he recruited widely and wisely teams of investigators with diverse scientific interests. In a new book, Life Illuminated, essays by the scientists involved tell the stories of research carried out during Watson's directorship. In addition, 34 research papers published during that golden period in CSHL's history are presented in full on an accompanying CD.

"It is hard to believe that there were only six full-time laboratories at Cold Spring Harbor in 1963," write the editors in the Preface to the book. "These papers document how Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory grew from a small institute known for the research of a handful of scientists and for its annual Symposium to a world-class research powerhouse."

The book is divided into seven sections, each of which represents a research program that Watson developed as Director of CSHL. Each theme is introduced in the context of the science of the time, and each paper has a commentary by, in most cases, one of its authors. Topics include mobile genetic elements; DNA replication and cell-cycle regulation; cell behavior and architecture; tumor induction and cancer genetics; neuron biology; and the invention of techniques.

Life Illuminated is the second volume of an intellectual history of the science done at CSHL. The first volume, Illuminating Life, showed that genetics became the dominant theme of research at CSHL by as early as 1904. Later, with the advent of the "phage group" in the 1940s and subsequent work in the 50s and 60s on DNA and chromosomes, CSHL contributed significantly to the birth of molecular biology. As the era covered in the current volume began, CSHL was thus poised to make significant progress in several new and exciting areas of research.

The subsequent 20 years of Cold Spring Harbor research produced remarkable results. More than 1500 papers were published by the Laboratory during this period. From these papers, the editors of this volume selected 34 that opened a new avenue of scientific investigation, marked an important milestone in a field's development, or brought a field to intellectual closure. Life Illuminated is therefore an authentic story of scientific innovation and achievement, told in the words of the investigators themselves.
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About the book:Life Illuminated: Selected Papers from Cold Spring Harbor, Volume 2, 1972-1994 (© 2008 by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press) was edited by Jan A. Witkowski, Alexander Gann, and Joseph F. Sambrook. It is available in hardcover (ISBN 978-087969804-1), is 242 pp. in length, and includes illustrations from original articles, name and subject appendices, and a CD. For additional information, please see http://www.cshlpress.com/link/illumlifv2.htm.

About the editors: Jan Witkowski is the Executive Director of the Banbury Conference Center, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Alex Gann is the Editorial Director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. Joe Sambrook is the Director of Research at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Center, Melbourne.

About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press is an internationally renowned publisher of books, journals, and electronic media, located on Long Island, New York. Since 1933, it has furthered the advance and spread of scientific knowledge in all areas of genetics and molecular biology, including cancer biology, plant science, bioinformatics, and neurobiology. It is a division of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, an innovator in life science research and the education of scientists, students, and the public. For more information, visit www.cshlpress.com.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

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