Nancy Hopkins on Jim Watson, Personality
  Nancy Hopkins     Biography    
Recorded: 09 Apr 2001

I think eternal curiosity and eternal optimism about the drive to understand the world around you, to know things, to learn, to constantly keep learning, to know and understand things, to get to the truth of things, to get to the factual base of things, not to have any nonsense, just to have facts, the reality. I think a kind of fundamental simplicity about the kind of no pretense, the basic essence of what really matters to him, anyway, which is really, in the end, science and truth. I think also a quality about him, it’s a funny thing but you wouldn’t think of a person like this maybe as having been, over so many years, maybe almost your truest friend. Maybe your truest friend. He has been the most loyal person, towards his family, towards his wife, towards his children, to his friends, towards his students, towards his colleagues. He is forever. He’s completely loyal to his relationships to an unusual degree. Sometimes he gets mad and when he gets mad he sometimes says things he probably regrets later. And some people are focused on this aspect of him because he can say things that shock people, and I think if you don’t know him, you can sometimes perhaps be hurt by these things. But if you know him, you know he is fundamentally one of the finest people I’ve known, in terms of his integrity and goals and beliefs. It’s a fundamental set of beliefs that we would like most people to have.

Nancy Hopkins is a developmental biologist and the Amgen, Inc. Professor of Biology at MIT. Working under Jim Watson and Mark Ptashne, Hopkins earned her Ph.D. from Harvard in 1971. As a postdoctoral fellow she moved to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory where she continued working under Watson researching DNA tumor viruses. In 1973 she joined the MIT faculty as an assistant professor in the Center for Cancer Research, where she researched the mechanisms of replication and leukemogenesis by RNA tumor viruses for 17 years.

Hopkins has also led an ongoing effort to end discrimination against women in science. In 1995 she was appointed Chair of the first Committee on Women Faculty in the School of Science at MIT, and in 2000 she was appointed Co-Chair of the first Council on Faculty Diversity at MIT. Hopkins co-authored the fourth edition of Molecular Biology of the Gene. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.