James Watson (1967) - RNA Viruses and Protein Synthesis

James Watson (1967)

RNA Viruses and Protein Synthesis

James Watson (1967)

RNA Viruses and Protein Synthesis

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When a 39-year old James Watson lectured at the Lindau Meeting in 1967, he was the second youngest Nobel Laureate to do so. The youngest had made his entrance into the Lindau Meetings two years earlier: Rudolf Mößbauer, Nobel Laureate in Physics 1961, gave his first Lindau lecture at the unusually low age of 36. But when Mößbauer continued lecturing on the average every three years for the rest of the 20th Century, Watson so far only returned to Lindau in 1981. Judging from the lecture he gave in 1967, this is a real pity! The audience at the Lindau Meetings typically consists of several hundred young scientists and having a Nobel Laureate lecturer only a few years older must have been an extra bonus. But not only his low age speaks for him but also the way he delivered the lecture. In 1967, James Watson was finalising the manuscript for his book “The Double Helix”, published early 1968. The book is his very personal account of how the structure of DNA was resolved and today it belongs to the classics of (popular) science. But the manuscript met criticism from several colleagues, some who threatened to sue if it was published, and he had problems finding a publisher. Nothing of this stress factor can be heard in the lecture, which begins with an excellent 15-minute historical overview, presented without a manuscript and in such a laid-back way that one could imagine that a much older and more experienced lecturer delivered it. When the 15 minutes are gone, Watson starts unravelling the secrets of RNA viruses and protein synthesis using the blackboard and finally also shows some slides. Even if you are not interested in the scientific core of the lecture, at least listen to the intro!

Anders Bárány

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