September 18, 2007
DNA Double Helix Scientist visits UCD

Dr James D. Watson, one of the most influential figures in 20th century science, addressed delegates in the William Jefferson Clinton Auditorium, UCD, on September 4 during a symposium organised in honour of Irish-born scientist J.D. Bernal.

At the age of 25, Watson and his co-worker Francis Crick published a landmark paper in the journal Nature describing the double helix structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA. By establishing that DNA carries "the secrets of life", this discovery has hugely influenced not only science but policy, philosophy and religion. Along with Maurice Wilkins, the two scientists received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962.

Photo of Dr James Watson speaking at the Bernal symposium at UCD on September 4, 2007

Dr James Watson speaking at the Bernal Symposium on
Protein Crystallization at UCD on September 4

In his lecture Rules for doing high-level science, Dr Watson recounted his early career and described the personalities, conflicts and controversy surrounding the discovery of the double helix structure. Advising young scientists to go to where the best science is being done, he recommended "Never be the brightest person in the room, as being self-reliant will just slow you down".

Dr Watson is also an influential science writer and thinker; his first book The Double Helix, published in 1968, gives his own account of the discovery of the structure of DNA.

The Bernal Symposium on Protein Crystallization was held at UCD on September 3-4, 2007. J.D. Bernal was a prominent crystallographer and political activist, born in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary. Andrew Brown, author of J.D. Bernal: The Sage of Science, gave a plenary lecture at the symposium describing Bernal's brilliant, colourful, and bohemian life. Twelve speakers from industry and academia spoke on modern techniques in protein crystallograpy as well as on Bernal's legacy and influence on the discipline.

The symposium was held in conjunction with the Irish/British Association for Crystal Growth (IACG/BACG) conference organised by Dr Brian Glennon, UCD School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering and the Centre for Synthesis and Chemical Biology (CSCB).

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