This morning I have conveyed to the Trustees of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory my desire to retire immediately from my position as its Chancellor, as well as from my position on its Board, on which I have served for the past 43 years. Closer now to 80 than 79, the passing on of my remaining vestiges of leadership is more than overdue. The circumstances in which this transfer is occurring, however, are not those which I could ever have anticipated or desired.
That the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is now one of the world's premier sites for biological research and education has long warmed my heart. So I am grateful that its Board now will allow me to remain along my beloved Bungtown Road. Forty-nine years ago, as a newly appointed young Assistant Professor at Harvard, I gave my first course on this pernicious collection of diseases of uncontrolled cell growth and division. Cancer, then an intellectual black box, now, in part because of research at the Laboratory, is almost full lit. Though important facts remain undiscovered, there is no reason why they should not soon be found. Final victory is within our grasp. Strong in spirit and intensely focused, I wish to be among those at the victory line.
The ever quickening advances of science made possible by the success of the Human Genome Project will also soon let us see the essences of mental disease. Only after we understand them at the genetic level can we rationally seek out appropriate therapies for such illnesses as schizophrenia and bipolar disease. For the children of my sister and me, this moment can not come a moment too soon. Hell does not come close to describing the impact of psychotic disorders on human life.
This week's events focus me ever more intensely on the moral values passed on to me by my father, whose Watson surname marks his long ago Scots-Irish Appalachian heritage; and by my mother, whose father, Lauchlin Mitchell, came from Glasgow and whose mother, Lizzie Gleason, had parents from Tipperary. To my great advantage, their lives were guided by a faith in reason; an honest application of its messages; and for social justice, especially the need for those on top to help care for the less fortunate. As an educator, I have always striven to see that the fruits of the American Dream are available to all.
I have been much blessed.
James D. Watson One Bungtown Road Cold Spring Harbor, New York October 2007Too bad JW's obstinate belief in genetic determinism has tarnished the occasion with controversy and overshadowed a fitting tribute to the man's incredible contributions to science.