Recorded: 22 Jul 2003
I think Brenda Maddox’s book is the first three-dimensional treatment of her. She was a rather complex person. And I think a very accomplished—in terms of DNA, she did not want to take the route of model building and the problem would never have been solved without that. And so one can say that if Watson and Crick had not existed, what would have happened? Until somebody like Pauling would come along with a investment in model building as well as the x-ray diffraction diagrams, he wouldn’t have come together. She might have done that herself, but there wasn’t much sign of it before ’53.
…it didn’t seem as important to her as it was and I think she never looked upon it as a pinnacle of science. And I think that she would have—if it hadn’t been for Watson and Crick she would have continued to work on it. And maybe she would have gone to model building and gotten the answer. She was certainly capable. But she didn’t have the fire in the belly that Jim did. And she languished on 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.