Philip Green on Jim Watson, Writer: Molecular Biology of the Gene
  Philip Green     Biography    
Recorded: 31 May 2003

So, I guess that the thing that really impressed me coming from mathematics was he had an incredibly clear writing style. He started back at the basics and he had chapters on, you know, basically the chemical background you needed, the basic physical laws and physical principles, and then proceeded quickly into the biological applications. But he laid it out with amazing clarity and really presented it as, you know, a coherent picture of what was going on in the cell. And I just found that very inspiring.

As I got into biology I discovered that most of the problems, the day to day work that biologists have to do, there are a lot of messy issues. There are things that look good on paper, don’t’ work out in practice. And so, in a sense, I mean people are found of saying that you have to be careful of the picture you give in textbooks because it’s not real biology. But at the same time it’s true, I think it’s very important to have a clear, clean elegant picture of the underlying biological principles to sort of keep you inspired and have sort of an abstract portrayal of what’s going on even at the risk of oversimplifying some aspects and leaving out the messy details. And I thought Jim’s book was great at that.

In my case, I had not studied biology. Well, I think I had a seventh grade biology course. I had not taken it in college. And I had done some general reading, but his book was really my first introduction to, certainly, to molecular biology and, actually to, you know, many aspects of biology like bacteria, viruses and phage I just knew nothing about prior to reading his book. And human cells, causes of cancer, those kinds of things, I really learned about for the first time.

Philip Green is a professor of genome sciences, an adjunct professor of the Computer Science and Engineering Department at the University of Washington, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, and was recently elected into the National Academy of Sciences.

Green designs software packages which aid in making genetic maps and identifying genes within the genome. He is concerned with constructing computational tools to understand cell functioning at a molecular level. Green has created the program Phred, which manages the data generated by the Human Genome Project and which is being used to help determine the most common variations in human DNA. Green’s laboratory is working to construct a gene-annotated genome sequence. His lab has modified the number of genes thought to be in the human genome—it is substantially fewer than had been previously believed.

Green spoke at the 68th Cold Spring Harbor Symposium focused on the Genome of Homo Sapiens.