Matthew Meselson on Jim Watson’s Family: Bonnie Jean and Betty
  Matthew Meselson     Biography    
Recorded: 17 Jul 2002

I knew Jim Watson’s mother. Oh, she was a wonderful woman. She was the Registrar of Students at the University of Chicago. One thing that’s characteristic of her—during those special days of registration when students have to carry their cards and get them all signed. She moved her desk out into the hallway so as to be more accessible to the students.

And it’s hard to explain, but there was just something about Mrs. Watson that was just enormously reassuring, especially for someone who is new coming to this college. We were younger than typical college students because we hadn’t finished high school yet.

Jim’s sister was a student in the college at the University of Chicago, Betty. I knew her before I knew Jim. Long before. Betty is a very elegant woman. I never had any real conversations with her so I can say only that. She was very elegant. I thought she was very elegant. She stood out from the other ladies at the University of Chicago who were wearing ragged clothes and hair in strings and Levis. She was elegant.

Matthew Meselson earned his Ph.D. degrees from the University of Chicago in 1951 and from the California Institute of Technology in 1957 under the tutelage of Linus Pauling.

In 1958 with Frank Stahl, Meselson experimentally showed the semi-conservative mechanism of DNA replication as predicted by Watson and Crick.

He is currently the Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences in Harvard University's Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. His laboratory studies sexual reproduction and genetic recombination, and how and why they are maintained in evolution.

Since 1963 Meselson has been interested in chemical and biological defense and arms control, has served as a consultant on this subject to various government agencies and is a member of the Committee on International Security and Arms Control of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

Meselson has received the Award in Molecular Biology from the National Academy of Sciences, the Public Service Award of the Federation of American Scientists, the Presidential Award of the New York Academy of Sciences, the Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award of the American Association of the Advancement of Science, and the 1995 Thomas Hunt Morgan Medal of the Genetics Society of America. Dr. Meselson is presently a member of the Committee on International Security and Arms Control of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.