1968: A Banner Year for Watson

Letter from Robert Langridge to Watson
congratulating him on the three major events of 1968

1968 was a momentous year in the life of James D. Watson, perhaps only eclipsed by 1953, the year of his famous co-discovery. Coincidentally, three major events occurred during the year, each of which would shape the course of his life to come. 

First, his personal account of the discovery of the structure of DNA was published and became a surprise bestseller.  Watson had been interested in writing for much of his life (influenced by his mother and father, both avid readers), and he viewed the success of his memoir as one of his great accomplishments.  As of 2012, he has written a number of non-fiction works, including a sequel to his 1968 memoir (Genes, Girls, and Gamow).

1968 was also the year that Watson took over as Director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.  It's former director, John Cairns, had almost single-handily saved the lab from certain financial doom during his brief tenure in the mid-1960s.  While its finances had been stabilized, it was up to Watson to drum up enough money to rehabilitate the lab's facilities and hire a new generation of scientists to work on the new major problems in biology.  It was Watson who decided the research focus of the lab should be cancer and with grant money flowing from the "War on Cancer" he was able (with the help of Joseph Sambrook) to build new laboratories and initiate a tumor virus program to rival any other research institution.  It was here, on the north shore of Long Island, that Watson honed his skills as a spokesman and fundraiser for scientific research.

Finally, it was also the year of his marriage to Elizabeth Lewis.  Watson had famously remained a bachelor until well into his late-30s, despite all efforts find the perfect bride.  He was rewarded for his patience, and has been happily married ever since.  The couple still live on campus at CSHL in their residence "Ballybung."

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