Paul Doty on Jim Watson, Scientific Career
  Paul Doty     Biography    
Recorded: 22 Jul 2003

Well, looking back on these many years that I’ve known Jim. I think that two or three things stand out. One, that he and Francis made the most remarkable discovery without putting in much labor, a year or two. No one else has ever come close to that ratio of output to input. So he was very lucky. And I think in many cases a person having that luck would have dropped out or slowed down. But Jim used it as a stepping stone. He continued his intense concern with great problems. And even though he failed occasionally, it worked out.

So I think the lesson is to keep your eye on what’s important. And don’t worry about upsetting a tradition getting what you think is the real goal. There he had it.

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.