Don Caspar on Jim Watson as a Young Man
  Don Caspar     Biography    
Recorded: 01 Jan 2001

One of Jim’s problems in his attitude toward women that, you know, the title of his book, Genes, Girls and Gamow that he—he has this infatuation with Christa Mayr and my impression was that, you know, his attitude towards her was more as sort of an object rather than a person, but—

It sort of reminds me a bit of Dante and Petrarch. Dante had his Beatrice and Petrarch his Laura, and they were sort of intellectual constructions and not real people and but one of the things again, that was sort of very obvious in the book that he was—that he was clearly trying to mold her into the character that he wanted her to be and that, I think, that very sensibly she wanted to be her own person. I never met Christa, but as you say, my impression was always that she was more a sort of creation of his intellect than, you know, a real person to him…

So Jim sent me a copy of the letter that he had written to Christa and again, I would say you know this correspondence with Christa was sort of an antithesis of romantic correspondence. It’s sort of record of all what various people were doing in Cambridge that I think would have been better not to have documented.

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.