Recorded: 09 Apr 2001
Cold Spring Harbor today was created by Jim [Watson], in his own image, with his own vision – there is no question about it. I mean, when Jim went there, the laboratory was very different. It had good scientists, but it was basically a nice place for people to go in the summer. The pace of science was very different then, as well, and it was a place for meetings. It was a place for relaxation, but it didn’t have the same intensity, it didn’t have the same productivity, it didn’t have the same financial base. Jim basically took a good, pleasant, and historic institution, if you will, and made it into a vital force in modern biology. It was a big difference in style and a big difference in impact and it was clearly Jim. There was no one else who did that. He did it: he brought in the people, he brought in the money, he decided on the direction. He decided in making it a center for tumor virology and cancer research more generally, it was Jim. And what it is today, is still Jim. That’s it: Jim defined it.
H. Robert Horvitz received his Ph.D. in 1974 from Harvard University, under the tutelage of Jim Watson. He joined the MIT Department of Biology faculty in 1978, and was named David Koch Professor of Biology in 2000. He is also Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and was appointed Investigator at the McGovern Institute in 2001.
Horvitz is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and a recipient of the Gairdner Foundation International Award, the Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. Prize from the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Neuroscience. In 2002, he was award the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine with Sydney Brenner and John Sulston “for their discoveries concerning 'genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death'."
Horvitz currently studies how genes control the development of the nervous system and how the nervous system controls behavior. He has elucidated a molecular genetic pathway for programmed cell death (apoptosis), which is fundamental to nervous system development in all animals.