Part of:
James D. Watson Collection
  • Archives and manuscripts

Collection contents

About this work


The Lectures subseries contains manuscripts (drafts of lectures which were written prior to delivering the talk), transcripts (transcriptions of the talk, published after the lecture was delivered), correspondence with organizers (typically related to travel arrangements and itineraries), handwritten notes, programs, clippings, posters, and other publications. These talks were presented at scientific meetings, universities, and other special events and award ceremonies. The subseries also contains several transcripts of testimony given before the U.S. Congress. It is arranged chronologically by the date of the talk.

Early talks were strictly scientific (subjects include DNA, RNA, genes, phages, etc.). In the 1970s he began almost exclusively lecturing on the controversy surrounding recombinant DNA, arguing that the public’s fear of the unknown was leading to unnecessary restrictions on scientific research. Watson provided similar testimony before several Congressional committees during this time, which is also included in this subseries. Throughout the 1980s cancer cells were the primary subject of his lectures. In 1988 he assumed leadership of the National Center for Human Genome Research, and he often gave talks on the Human Genome Project. By the 1990s his talks became increasingly autobiographical, and the discovery of the double helix is often a topic of discussion.

The earliest lecture files (1950s-1960s) consist primarily of handwritten notes. Later files are mostly composed of transcripts, manuscripts, and a large amount of correspondence. Starting in the 2000s Watson began using Powerpoint presentation software to deliver his speeches. Files from this era typically include print-outs of slides created with this software (labeled “slide handout” in the finding aid notes).

Of note is the file on the meeting held at Ravello, Italy in September 1963. The European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) was created at this meeting. The file contains correspondence, reports, and handwritten and typed lecture notes by Watson. Another significant portion of the Lectures series concerns Watson’s trip to East Africa, sponsored by the Ford Foundation in 1965-1966. It includes a report entitled “Observations on the Situation in East and Central Africa” (April 1965). Related files can be found in the Memorabilia and Ephemera series (JDW/2/12).



Physical description

17 boxes

Copyright note

Please note that CSHL holds copyright in writings by Watson that are held within Watson's archive in the CSHL Library and Archives, but does not hold copyright in Watson's writings held outside the CSHL Library and Archives. Copyright of material created by persons other than Watson, published or unpublished, is retained by its original author or rightsholder.

Terms of use

Open and available at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Library and Archives.

Location of duplicates

A digitised copy is held by the Wellcome Library as part of Codebreakers: Makers of Modern Genetics.

Where to find it

Location of original

The original material is held at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Library and Archives. This catalogue is held by the Wellcome Library as part of Codebreakers: Makers of Modern Genetics.

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