Paul Doty on Jim Watson, “Lucky Jim”
  Paul Doty     Biography    
Recorded: 22 Jul 2003

Oh, there’s probably never been luckier in all of history of science there was never so much discovered for so little work as far as so little preparations go. That’s a dimension of luck that no one else has ever experienced. And, of course, it produced a little bit of envy among those who labored much harder and produced much less. But that was real luck.

No, I think that—for example, he became a member of the Society of Fellows here which was—as a senior fellow whose main job is to select young people from across the whole academic board. He was invited because he had demonstrated such a range of interests.

Paul Doty (1920-2011), biophysical chemist and activist was an emeritus professor at Harvard University in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and in the Kennedy School of Government. He was also founder of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. Experimenting with isotope separation as a graduate student at Columbia University, he became an advocate for nuclear war prevention. Subsequently, he served as a consultant to the President’s Science Advisory Committee and as a member of the President’s Arms Control Advisory Group.

Doty’s scientific research is focused on elucidating the structure and function of large molecules by optical methods. Responsible for hybridizing single strands of DNA to reform an active double-stranded molecule, his laboratory work helped provide the basis for DNA recombination.

Doty met Jim in 1952 in Cambridge. Four years later he had encouraged Jim to join the Harvard Faculty. Their combined insight and innovation was crucial in determining the fate of the newly created molecular biology department. Doty remained on the Harvard Faculty for over forty-two years.