Nancy Hopkins on Jim and Liz Watson
  Nancy Hopkins     Biography    
Recorded: 09 Apr 2001

Well, this is so interesting because this was one person he never told me about. I guess, by then, let’s see—I was working in Mark’s lab so I was not in his [Jim’s] lab at the time and we were still good friends and so forth. But I suppose, maybe by then, he was seriously involved with her so he was maybe not going out to dinner with so many different people. So I really didn’t know much about her. She was this nice young woman who was working part-time in his lab. She was a student at Harvard and he did say how much he liked her. She was very young; he thought that she was young but I said, “Age doesn’t matter.” I mean, this is something I learned from Jim: What does age matter? And then one day I received this postcard signed “Jim and Liz” and it said it came from California and said something like “Well, now you’re going to have to throw a real party!” And I thought “Wait a minute! Signed Jim and Liz?” Well, in that era you would never sign two names unless you were married. So I thought, “They must be married. Is this possible?” So I went to work and other people had gotten postcards like this, too. Each one said something different, but signed Jim and Liz, and we knew that they were married and we were all quite shocked. It had taken us by surprise. But it was very exciting.

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.