Recorded: 01 Jan 2001
You know, Jim started writing The Double Helix, I think, Just about as soon as he had found, published the paper with Francis that—you know, I had actually met Jim before he went to Cambridge. He had been a graduate student with Luria in Illinois, and I was a graduate student at Yale. His uncle, Willy Watson, was chair of the physics department at Yale and the head of the biophysics program at Yale, Ernie Polland (??) was a pioneer in radiation biology which is now, you know, sort of a defunct area of biophysics. But in any case, Jim’s thesis was on radiation inactivation of bacteriophage so he had occasion to visit. Actually, I think that I probably heard Jim on the radio back in the 1930s because, you know, he was one of The Quiz Kids. And I remember Joel Kupperman, who was sort of the star of The Quiz Kids. And Jim wasn’t so much a notable member of that crew.
I think as a scientist, a young scientist that I think he was certainly admired and respected. But as a person, his sort of infatuation with young women, that I know that at Caltech the young women in the office there found him a comic figure. They referred to him as “bug eyes.” But, yeah, the way he dressed at meetings with his shorts, untied shoelaces, and what not—this sort of calling attention to himself.
It’s a tremendous admiration for his intellect that I, not always such admiration for his sound manner of dealing with people, but it’s obviously been very effective…
Donald Caspar, structural biologist and crystallographer, is a professor emeritus of Biological Sciences at the Institute of Molecular Biophysics at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida and is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
Born on January 8, 1927, he received his B.A. in Physics from Cornell University in 1950, and his his Ph.D. in Biophysics from Yale University in 1955. Caspar is interested in protein adaptability, virus assembly, protein plasticity and x-ray diffraction. He currently researches the mechanics of protein movements by executing structural studies.
He has attended many symposia at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, starting in 1961, and worked with Watson at Caltech and Harvard. He is a member of the National Academy of Science. Dr. Casper is a long-time friend and colleague of Dr. James D. Watson as well as many of the early pioneers in molecular biology, including Dr. Rosalind Franklin.