Waclaw Szybalski on Jim Watson
  Waclaw Szybalski     Biography    
Recorded: 11 May 2001

Jim Watson was serving on tables in Blackford Hall during the summer first when I was here invited. And I wouldn’t have noticed if not that when he served we started a conversation and I found out he was a scientist, etc. And then later he was coming for summer here and he was always, he was Luria’s student, and he was coming, and he was very characteristic. He had extremely short shorts, which at that time was not acceptable. And he was sitting always in front row and most time on the floor back to the speaker (laughter). I asked, “Jim, why do you sit back to the speaker?” He said, “Because this idiot when I look at him it disturbs my concentration.” So you realize I notice him very soon. So, I had an appreciation for him cause I like characters. So he was definitely a character. So we know each other from his very, very, beginning student, cause he’s much younger than me. I don’t know how much, seven or eight years, or something like that.

I saw him this morning. Yeah, I mean whenever I come. Last year I come, today, I stopped shortly because I was busy but I came a day early before, so he said, “Waclaw, let’s go for a lunch for two hours in Oyster Bay.” And we talked about everything and he—yeah, he often asks me something, like historical etc., at that time, when he wanted to talk about our vector, because he wanted that for [Richard] McCombie, etc. We had to make some arrangement etc., and then when he was at genome since he was supporting our research and talking a long time and so when there was the 50th anniversary of [the] phage course I failed but I was supposed to bring a volume for that occasion. I worked very hard for two or three years but whenever I got people…they said all right…they were dying (laughter). Thirty days, dies, some other dies. So it was very difficult. So I wrote myself some short volumes, short, with one or two more, but I couldn’t get all this group because they were just getting too old. I was thinking that I’m still young cause I remember them young, but they were very difficult to mobilize.

Waclaw Szybalski is an authority on molecular biology, genetics and microbiology. He earned his Ph.D. at the Gdansk Institute of Technology in Poland and joined the University of Wisconsin in the mid-1950s where he is now Professor Emeritus of Oncology in the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research.

Szybalski is known for the many significant contributions he has made throughout his career, beginning with his studies on mutagenesis and continuing through his contributions to genomics. He was among the first to formulate the concept of multi-drug antibiotic therapy.

Szybalski has also participated in the Human Genome Project.

Szybalski is the founder and head of many editorial boards including that of the journal Gene.

A long-time meeting and course participant at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Szybalski was a friend and contemporary of many pioneers in the field of genetics, including Alfred Hershey, Martha Chase, Max Delbrück, and Barbara McClintock.