Francis Collins on Jim Watson, Personality and Influence
  Francis Collins     Biography    
Recorded: 31 May 2003

Everybody has Watson stories! Well, I’m a Watsonophile, How can you not be? He is just, you know, a larger than life character. And I’ve been the beneficiary of his having started a program which people still think of as his program as well they should, and that’s fine with me. I don’t have any trouble with that at all. There are a few moments when Jim’s approach to problems has given me a headache now and then. Certainly I remember one time when we tried to have the first Watson lecture and the vice-president had just decided that he had another commitment and he wasn’t going to give the lecture with Watson’s name on it. And I spent I guess an hour on the phone with Jim where he said every bad word that I’ve ever heard and some that I don’t even know because he was so insulted, so furious about this. Yeah, Jim can be upset when he’s upset, I think some of us have experienced that. And clearly Jim and I come at the sort of ethical legal and social issues particularly when it comes to sort of traits and enhancement and all that very different directions. Jim and I have probably as about as far as apart views on faith as you can imagine. But that’s okay, I think, I certainly respect his views. I think he respects mine. We have a very good relationship. And I feel very comfortable calling him up and asking for advice when I need it.

It’s not easy to argue with Jim Watson. You can start down that pathway. But usually you discover that you’re not going to get too far in changing his mind.

Francis Collins earned a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Virginia (1970), a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Yale University (1974), and an M.D. from the University of North Carolina (1977). While a researcher at the University of Michigan (1984-1993), he pioneered “positional cloning” methods which resulted in the Collins team and their collaborators isolating the genes responsible for cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease, neurofibromatosis, and others.

In 1993 he accepted leadership of the Human Genome Project (HGP) by becoming Director of the National Center for Human Genome Research (NHGRI). With Dr. Collins as head of the NHGRI, the HGP attained its goal of sequencing all 3 billion base pairs of the human genome.

He has attended all of the Cold Spring Harbor meetings on genomics.