Richard Burgess on Jim Watson as a Private Individual
  Richard Burgess     Biography    
Recorded: 23 Apr 2001

I guess I don’t know him at the level that I know what he thinks about things in life. I don’t really have much of a comment on it.

I know that he’s—I have a story. After Sigma was discovered, I was invited to the phage meeting in Cologne by Benno Mueller-Hill, who was there then. When I was there, I traveled around and went to Paris. Benno Mueller-Hill invited me to come and I went to Munich. I went to several labs in Europe. I went to Geneva because I was planning to go there as a post doc. I gave six talks about Sigma. Everybody wanted to hear about Sigma factors and transcription factors. I came home and [Watson] said, “How did it go?” and I said, “Fine, I really had a great time. I met a lot of interesting people and they like my work.” And he said, “Did you tell them about Jeff Roberts’ results on termination factor rho?” I said, “No, I didn’t. It’s Jeff work and besides it’s just preliminary, I mean, he just found it a couple of months ago. Nothing’s written,” and I said, “It’s not my story.” He was quite angry with me and said I shouldn’t withhold information from people. I still believe I did the right thing but that’s one of the few times I’ve ever seen him angry with me, when he thought that I was somehow not sharing important scientific information.

Richard Burgess is a geneticist who has been an important figure in cancer, microbial, and molecular research. He earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University under Jim Watson in 1969 and went on to work with Alfred Tissieres at the University of Geneva, Switzerland.

He is currently researching RNA polymerases, monoclonal antibodies (MAbs), molecular genetics, computer-based sequence and structure analysis, and biochemistry at the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Reaearch at the University of Wisconsin.