Recorded: 09 Sep 2003
I first came to Cold Spring Harbor in 1996. I had met Jim for the first time a couple of years before when I chaired a debate between Jim and Stephen Rose at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. And I gave Jim a copy of my book, The Red Queen. And he really liked it. And he asked me to come and give a talk about it at the President’s Council in 1996.
I knew all about Cold Spring Harbor before then. I didn’t know what to expect. But for me it was very exciting to actually—to come here and find the extraordinary informality and sort of rural nature of this, almost capital of biology where so many things had happened was very exciting. And then to learn the history of how, you know, this place existed because of being cool in the summer so people wanted to come here. That raison d’être disappeared, and then raison d’être for this place became Jim Watson’s presence, really, with his extraordinary ability to get the best out of so many other people.
Matt Ridley is a journalist and a leading science writer. He earned his Ph.D. in zoology from Oxford University in 1983. He worked as a correspondent and editor for The Economist, a columnist for Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph and as editor of The Best American Science Writing 2002.
His books include Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature; Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation; Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters ; Nature via Nurture: Genes, Experience, and What Makes Us Human; and Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code. His books have been short-listed for many literary awards.
He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. Ridley is the honorary life president of the International Centre for Life, Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s park devoted to life science that he founded in 1996. He is chairman of Northern Rock plc, and other financial services firms.
In 1996, Ridley first visited Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and made James D. Watson’s acquaintance. In 2006 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and is a visiting professor at the lab.