More than half a century ago, US scientist Dr James
Watson unlocked the secrets of DNA.
Dr Watson won a Nobel prize in
The discovery, for which he won a
Nobel prize in 1962, is at the root of some of today's most
controversial scientific and ethical issues.
But Dr Watson too is no stranger to
Within scientific circles, the
79-year-old is known as someone who loves debate and discussion.
His latest claim that black people
are less intelligent than white people has prompted London's Science
Museum to cancel a talk by him, saying his views went "beyond the point
of acceptable debate".
In the past, he has said a woman
should have the right to abort her unborn child if tests could
determine it would be homosexual.
Dr Watson, right, and Dr Crick
studied DNA structure at Cambridge
He has also suggested a link
between skin colour and sex drive, proposing a theory that black people
have higher libidos.
In a BBC interview in 2003 to mark
50 years since the discovery of DNA, he spoke about how his findings
could have influenced his own life.
On the subject of discovering
genetic irregularities in unborn children, Dr Watson reflected on what
it could have meant for his own son who suffers from a serious mental
"I think I would be a monster to
want someone to suffer the way he has... so, yes, I would have aborted
him," he said.
He also spoke of how he believed
cancer could be conquered in the next 10 years and future children
could be born resistant to HIV.
'Secret of life'
The scientist was born in Chicago
and studied at the universities of Chicago, Indiana and Copenhagen.
He then moved to Cambridge
University where he met Francis Crick at the Medical Research Council
Unit and they started studying the structure of DNA.
In 1953 came the "Eureka moment"
and together they walked into a pub in Cambridge and declared they had
just discovered "the secret of life".
The two scientists had worked out
the DNA molecule was shaped like a gently twisted ladder - known as a
Their findings were published in a
medical journal and created a storm in scientific communities across
The discovery forms the basis of
some of the most controversial scientific and ethical issues today
including genetic engineering, designer babies, human cloning and
so-called Frankenstein foods.
From 1988 to 1992, Dr Watson
directed the Human Genome Project at the American National Institutes
He was instrumental in obtaining
funding for the project and in encouraging co-operation between
governments and leading scientists.
Dr Watson, now director of the Cold
Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, is in Britain to promote his
latest book, Avoid Boring People: Lessons from a Life in Science.