Bruce Stillman on On Jim Watson as a Writer
  Bruce Stillman     Biography    
Recorded: 14 Aug 2003

Well, my first experience with Jim as a writer of course was reading The Molecular Biology of the Gene, which I have a copy of, the copy that I’ve had, right behind me here. The 1965 edition. And it was a beautifully written text and very clear. As a student I remember there were other texts that I had, when I was doing genetics particularly, as an undergraduate at Sydney University, that were almost impenetrable. And this book was very, very clear. So that was my first exposure to Jim as a writer. I actually struggle to write, I think. I am jealous of Jim and his ability to write as clearly as he does. The other thing that I can actually comment about Jim as a writer [are his Director's Reports] in the Annual Reports of Cold Spring Harbor [Laboratory]. He wrote some of the most prophetic and also best essays that I’ve ever read about science. And he really took the time to use that vehicle [to write] an essay. [For] many directors or presidents of institutions, their introductions are a page and a half of, you know, Oh we’re still doing great, and by the way, you know, this is what happened in the last year, and nothing really substantial. Jim, I think, showed the way by writing about topics in science that were on his mind and on the minds of people in the scientific community. And those essays, which were eventually published in a book, A Passion for DNA, were extraordinary. One of my challenges is to keep that up; that’s the thing I struggle with every year is what I’m going to write in the Director’s Report of the [CSHL] Annual Report. And I keep thinking of Jim all the time.

Molecular biologist and biochemist, Bruce Stillman, received his Ph.D. from the John Curtain School of Medical Research at the Australian National University in 1979. His long affiliation with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory began in 1979 when he arrived as a postdoctoral fellow. He became a member of the scientific staff (1981), Senior Scientist (1985), Assistant Director (1990), Director and Chief Executive Officer (1994), and President (2003), the position he currently holds. Stillman has also been Director of the Cancer Center at CSHL since 1992.

His research concerns DNA replication, yeast genetics, cell cycle and chromatin structure. His work has elucidated the reason why DNA sequences and silenced states of chromatin are pass through generations. His lab is concerned with understanding the mechanisms and regulation of DNA replication in eukaryotic cells, a process that ensures accurate duplication and inheritance of genetic material from one cell generation to the next.

Bruce Stillman has received numerous awards and honors and research awards. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society (1993), and as a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (2000).