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Dr. James D. Watson retires as Chancellor of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

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Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) today announced that Dr. James D. Watson, 79, has retired after nearly 40 years of distinguished service to CSHL. He had stepped down as President of CSHL in 2003 and most recently served as Chancellor.

In 1968, Watson became Director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, transforming a small facility into one of the world’s great education and research institutions. Initiating a program to study the cause of human cancer, scientists under his direction have made major contributions to understanding the genetic basis of cancer. Having served as home to a total of seven Nobel Prize-winning scientists, CSHL expanded its research portfolio over the years to programs that now include a broad cancer program, plant biology, neuroscience, and computational biology. CSHL has also expanded its science educational programs under Watson’s direction to include the famed Banbury Center and the DNA Learning Center that teaches middle and high school students, and their teachers.

Eduardo Mestre, Chairman of the Board of CSHL, said, “For over 40 years, Dr. Watson has made immeasurable contributions to the Laboratory’s research and educational programs. His legacy as 1962 Nobel Prize laureate for describing the structure of DNA will continue to influence biomedical research for decades to come. The Board respects his decision to retire at this point in his career. We have great confidence in Dr. Bruce Stillman, who since 1994 has served as Director, then President. His leadership of CSHL’s 400 scientists will ensure the best environment for groundbreaking research.”

Dr. Stillman said, “Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has been at the forefront of research ever since its founding in 1890, but Jim Watson created a research environment that is unparalleled in the world of science. It was that environment that attracted me here 28 years ago. As one of the most highly rated research institutions in the world today, our many award-winning researchers are well positioned to continue to make new research breakthroughs thanks to the extraordinary, young talent working here. We all owe Jim and his wife Liz a great deal of gratitude for devoting much of his professional career and all of their married life to building up Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory into a leading research center. Jim’s legacy will not only include CSHL and the double helix, but his pioneering efforts that led to the sequencing of the human genome and his innovations in science writing and education.”

Written by: Communications Department | | 516-367-8455

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About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Founded in 1890, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has shaped contemporary biomedical research and education with programs in cancer, neuroscience, plant biology and quantitative biology. Home to eight Nobel Prize winners, the private, not-for-profit Laboratory employs 1,000 people including 600 scientists, students and technicians. The Meetings & Courses Program annually hosts more than 12,000 scientists. The Laboratory’s education arm also includes an academic publishing house, a graduate school and the DNA Learning Center with programs for middle, high school, and undergraduate students and teachers. For more information, visit