Leroy Hood on Jim Watson, Personality and Influence
  Leroy Hood     Biography    
Recorded: 29 May 2003

I’ve always been amazed at what a commanding sense of the future Jim [Watson] has had. I think that Molecular Biology of the Gene was really a book that just transformed how we taught biology. I was always impressed with his ability to recruit talent. And even more recently to be able to raise the resources that make Cold Spring Harbor the exceptional kind of institution it is. And I was always struck by his enormously good taste in science and if you go back and look at the titles of all the Cold Spring Harbor Symposia I think they very nicely are a summary of what are the hot topics across this whatever it is, fifty year period that the symposia has been going on and so forth. And finally I thought Jim played a really pivotal role in the Human Genome Project in that one: he brought it respectability, two: he was really responsible I think for recruiting some of the very good people that played a central role in getting the project finished. And I think three: he showed remarkable foresight in thinking about the ethical, social and legal questions early on, and being able to say the genome project was essentially the first biological project ever that actually spent some five percent of its income to deal with these kinds of issues. So I think Jim in all regards has been quite a remarkable scientist quite apart from the science we are all celebrating in this fiftieth anniversary of the structure of DNA.

Leroy Hood, a leading scientist in molecular biotechnology and genomics, received his M.D. from Johns Hopkins Medical School (1964) and his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Caltech (1968). In 1992, after more than 20 years as a faculty member at Caltech, where he and his colleagues revolutionized genomics by developing automated DNA sequencing, he relocated to the University of Washington to establish the cross-disciplinary Department of Molecular Biotechnology.

Dr. Hood is currently President of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle where he leads efforts to pioneer systems approaches to biology and medicine. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has received the Lasker Award for his studies on the mechanism of immune diversity.

Sharing an interest in the study of antibody diversity, Hood and Watson met in 1967 when Hood attended his first meeting at CSHL. Leroy has been working on the genome since the late 70’s. He went to the first official genome meeting in Santa Cruz in 1985 and has attended all of the subsequent meetings which have been held at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.