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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index W > James Watson Quotes

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James Watson
(6 Apr 1928 - )

American biochemist and geneticist who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of the molecular structure of DNA.


Science Quotes by James Watson (7 quotes)

At lunch Francis [Crick] winged into the Eagle to tell everyone within hearing distance that we had found the secret of life.
— James Watson
Purported remark made at The Eagle pub (28 Feb 1953), near the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, to celebrate the fact that they, Crick and Watson, had unravelled the structure of DNA. Stated by James Watson in The Double Helix (1998), 197. However Francis Crick, in What Mad Pursuit (1990), 77, writes that was 'according to Jim,' but 'of that I have no recollection.' Nevertheless, some quote collections report this incident with a direct quote as 'We have discovered the secret of life!'
Science quotes on:  |  Biochemistry (32)  |  Biology (83)  |  Francis Crick (31)  |  Discovery (360)  |  DNA (50)  |  Secret (44)

Biology has at least 50 more interesting years.
— James Watson
News summaries 31 Dec 1984. Quoted in James Beasley Simpson, Simpson's Contemporary Quotations (1988), 145
Science quotes on:  |  Biology (83)  |  Future (110)  |  Interesting (20)

Formula for breakthroughs in research: Take young researchers, put them together in virtual seclusion, give them an unprecedented degree of freedom and turn up the pressure by fostering competitiveness.
— James Watson
In James Beasley Simpson, Simpson's Contemporary Quotations (1988), 145.
Science quotes on:  |  Breakthrough (9)  |  Freedom (41)  |  Pressure (18)  |  Research (360)

Let's put it this way: I wouldn't buy gene-splicing stock for my grandmother.
Commenting to a reporter in 1981 on his doubt for the short-term possibilities of new gene-splicing companies.
— James Watson
'Shaping Life in the Lab'. In Time (9 Mar 1981).
Science quotes on:  |  Buy (8)  |  Company (14)  |  Gene Splicing (4)  |  Grandmother (2)  |  Invest (3)  |  Stock (3)

One could not be a successful scientist without realizing that, in contrast to the popular conception supported by newspapers and mothers of scientists, a goodly number of scientists are not only narrow-minded and dull, but also just stupid.
— James Watson
The Double Helix (1998), 14.
Science quotes on:  |  Dull (12)  |  Narrow-Minded (3)  |  Newspaper (18)  |  Scientist (237)  |  Stupid (7)  |  Success (114)

Today, the theory of evolution is an accepted fact for everyone but a fundamentalist minority, whose objections are based not on reasoning but on doctrinaire adherence to religious principles.
— James Watson
Molecular Biology of the Gene (1970), 2
Science quotes on:  |  Doctrine (33)  |  Evolution (342)  |  Fact (325)  |  Objection (9)  |  Reasoning (56)  |  Religion (120)  |  Theory (353)

[I doubt that in today's world, I and Francis Crick would ever have had our Eureka moment.] I recently went to my staircase at Clare College, Cambridge and there were women there! he said, with an enormous measure of retrospective sexual frustration. There have been a lot of convincing studies recently about the loss of productivity in the Western male. It may be that entertainment culture now is so engaging that it keeps people satisfied. We didn't have that. Science was much more fun than listening to the radio. When you are 16 or 17 and in that inherently semi-lonely period when you are deciding whether to be an intellectual, many now don't bother.
(Response when asked how he thought the climate of scientific research had changed since he made his discovery of the structure of life in 1953.)
— James Watson
Quoted by Tim Adams in 'The New Age of Ignorance', The Observer (30 Jun 2007).
Science quotes on:  |  Biography (199)  |  Science (875)



Quotes by others about James Watson (9)

It is one of the striking generalizations of biochemistry—which surprisingly is hardly ever mentioned in the biochemical text-books—that the twenty amino acids and the four bases, are, with minor reservations, the same throughout Nature. As far as I am aware the presently accepted set of twenty amino acids was first drawn up by Watson and myself in the summer of 1953 in response to a letter of Gamow's.
'On the Genetic Code', Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1962. In Nobel Lectures: Physiology or Medicine 1942-1962 (1964), 811.
Science quotes on:  |  Amino Acid (8)  |  George Gamow (7)

It has not escaped our notice that the specific pairing we have postulated immediately suggests a possible copying mechanism for the genetic material.
[Concluding remark in the paper by Watson and Crick announcing discovery of the structure of DNA.]
In J.D. Watson and F.H.C. Crick, 'A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid,' Letter in Nature (25 Apr 1953), 171, 738. Quoted in Francis Crick, What Mad Pursuit (1990), 66.
Science quotes on:  |  Genetics (79)  |  Reproduction (34)  |  Structure Of DNA (4)

We wish to suggest a structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid (DNA). This structure has novel features which are of considerable biological interest.
[Opening remark in the paper by Watson and Crick announcing discovery of the structure of DNA.]
In J.D. Watson and F.H.C. Crick, 'A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid,' Letter in Nature (25 Apr 1953), 171, 737. Quoted in Diane Dowdey, The Researching Reader: Source-based Writings Across the Disciplines (1990), 203.
Science quotes on:  |  Structure Of DNA (4)

The major credit I think Jim and I deserve ... is for selecting the right problem and sticking to it. It's true that by blundering about we stumbled on gold, but the fact remains that we were looking for gold. Both of us had decided, quite independently of each other, that the central problem in molecular biology was the chemical structure of the gene. ... We could not see what the answer was, but we considered it so important that we were determined to think about it long and hard, from any relevant point of view.
What Mad Pursuit (1990), 74-75.
Science quotes on:  |  Answer (96)  |  Autobiography (48)  |  Credit (10)  |  Discovery (360)  |  Importance (106)  |  Molecular Biology (19)  |  Problem (180)  |  Structure Of DNA (4)

If Watson and I had not discovered the [DNA] structure, instead of being revealed with a flourish it would have trickled out and that its impact would have been far less. For this sort of reason Stent had argued that a scientific discovery is more akin to a work of art than is generally admitted. Style, he argues, is as important as content. I am not completely convinced by this argument, at least in this case.
What Mad Pursuit (1990), 76.
Science quotes on:  |  Content (17)  |  Discovery (360)  |  Impact (9)  |  Importance (106)  |  Gunther Siegmund Stent (2)  |  Structure Of DNA (4)  |  Style (5)

Jim and I hit it off immediately, partly because our interests were astonishingly similar and partly, I suspect, because a certain youthful arrogance, a ruthlessness, an impatience with sloppy thinking can naturally to both of us.
What Mad Pursuit (1990), 66.
Science quotes on:  |  Arrogance (6)  |  Autobiography (48)  |  Impatience (4)  |  Ruthlessness (3)  |  Thinking (166)  |  Youth (32)

The fundamental biological variant is DNA. That is why Mendel's definition of the gene as the unvarying bearer of hereditary traits, its chemical identification by Avery (confirmed by Hershey), and the elucidation by Watson and Crick of the structural basis of its replicative invariance, are without any doubt the most important discoveries ever made in biology. To this must be added the theory of natural selection, whose certainty and full significance were established only by those later theories.
In Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1971), 104.
Science quotes on:  |  Oswald Avery (4)  |  Biology (83)  |  Confirmation (8)  |  Francis Crick (31)  |  Definition (86)  |  Discovery (360)  |  DNA (50)  |  Elucidation (4)  |  Fundamental (59)  |  Gene (49)  |  Heredity (43)  |  Identification (7)  |  Importance (106)  |  Invariance (2)  |  Gregor Mendel (18)  |  Natural Selection (57)  |  Replication (3)  |  Structure (104)  |  Theory (353)  |  Trait (10)

I think that the formation of [DNA's] structure by Watson and Crick may turn out to be the greatest developments in the field of molecular genetics in recent years.
‘Discussion des rapports de M Pauling’, Rep. Institut International de Chemie Solvay: Conference on Proteins, 6-14 April 1953 (1953), 113.
Science quotes on:  |  Francis Crick (31)  |  Development (122)  |  DNA (50)  |  Formulation (14)  |  Genetics (79)  |  Greatest (23)  |  Molecule (82)  |  Structure (104)  |  Thinking (166)

And now the announcement of Watson and Crick about DNA. This is for me the real proof of the existence of God.
In Playboy Magazine (Jul 1964), as cited in Alan Lindsay Mackay, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1991), 66.
Science quotes on:  |  Announcement (5)  |  Francis Crick (31)  |  DNA (50)  |  Existence (150)  |  God (234)  |  Proof (136)  |  Real (28)


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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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