"Decoding Watson" Uncovers the Nobel Prize-Winning Scientist James Watson's Signature Achievements, Complexities and Contradictions

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30 December 2018
American Masters: Decoding Watson
Courtesy of A. Barrington Brown, Gonville and Caius College/Science Photo Library
“American Masters: Decoding Watson”
Premieres Wednesday, January 2 at 10 PM ET on PBS
(Check your local listings)
        Thrust into the limelight for discovering the secret of life at age 25 with Francis Crick, influential Nobel Prize-winning scientist James Watson has thrived on making headlines ever since. His discovery of DNA’s structure, the double helix, revolutionized human understanding of how life works. He was a relentless and sometimes ruthless visionary who led the Human Genome project and turned Harvard University and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory into powerhouses of molecular biology.
American Masters: Decoding Watson
Courtesy of Associated Press
        With unprecedented access to Watson, his wife Elizabeth and sons Rufus and Duncan over the course of a year, American Masters explores Watson’s evolution from socially awkward postdoc to notorious scientific genius to discredited nonagenarian, also interviewing his friends, his colleagues, scientists and historians. Controversial and unapologetic, Watson still thrives on competition and disruption. The film uncovers his signature achievements, complexities and contradictions, including his penchant for expressing unfiltered and objectionable points of view.

Film Interviewees
  • Sydney Brenner, Salk Institute for Biological Studies 2002 Nobel Laureate
  • Francis Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health
  • Nathaniel Comfort, Science Historian, Johns Hopkins University
  • Robert Cook-Deegan, Author of “The Gene Wars;” Professor, Arizona State University
  • Soraya De Chadarevian, Department of History, Institute for Society and Genetics, UCLA
  • Joseph Graves, Jr., Evolutionary Biologist & Author, North Carolina A&T State University
  • Nancy Hopkins, Molecular Biologist, MIT
  • Andrea Morris, Molecular Biologist; Administrator, Rockefeller University
  • Laura Otis, Professor of English, Emory University
  • Joan Steitz, Molecular Biologist, Yale University
  • Bruce Stillman, President & Cancer Researcher, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
  • Lloyd Trotman, Cancer Researcher, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
  • Duncan Watson, James Watson’s son
  • Elizabeth Watson, James Watson’s wife
  • James Watson
  • Rufus Watson, James Watson’s son
  • Carl Zimmer, Author & Columnist, The New York Times

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