Irish America Hall of Fame: Dr. James Watson
He helped map the structure of DNA. Next up is a cure for cancer.
That is incredibly exciting.
Oh it is very exciting and for the first time we can sort of write down on paper how we can do it.
Wow, so the idea that cancer can be cured would obviously be a real breakthrough.
Yes. I think that people might then treat scientists like, uh, basketball players.
And pay them as well.
I saw the Lakers in Los Angeles on Friday night. I thought, boy, what a basketball player that Kobe Bryant is.
He’s a great player. Absolutely. The Knicks are looking good too.
You have said that you’re an atheist, can you talk about that?
Yeah, I’m an atheist. [I’ve found] no evidence for God. On the other hand, I’ve always liked Jesus. I don’t think he’s son of God, but, you know, I was in a Catholic hospital in Santa Monica that was run by the Sisters of Charity. You know, of all the virtues, the greatest is charity. I don’t think the Crusaders were very good and the Inquisition was pretty awful, but the Sisters of Charity do wonderful work.
When people actually ask me if I am a Christian [I say that] I follow these beliefs. It’s a set of values. I don’t feel my values are any different from [Christian] people because I was brought up on these values.
So what’s after cancer? What’s left?
I’ll leave that to someone else, I think.
Time magazine had a piece recently saying that one could conceivably have a lifetime of 150 years.
I’d like to make 90 in good shape and then I’m willing to give up.
You seem like you’re in great shape.
I can still play singles’ tennis and I’m still hitting back, not super big serves, but hitting back. I’m still living as if I’m 30, you know.
Do you have a favorite possession?
I have this painting by Ireland’s best artist, Bobby Ballagh, which shows Patrick Pearse and James Connolly. So I personally own one of Ballagh’s most famous paintings. I bought it from a catalogue. He painted my portrait when I was lecturing on genetics at Trinity College and I’ve formally given [the portrait] to the college. I wanted it to be in Trinity so people realize that I’m as much Irish as I am Scottish.
My mother, I’d call her not an Irish Catholic, I’d call her always an Irish Democrat. She was a faithful member of the Chicago Irish tribe
I have always followed my Irish side. I know all about what has happened with the Irish economy. I know things are bad over there, the German bankers should have to endure some of that pain of the lost money they lent those Irish bankers. I mean it’s going to be tricky. Finance Minister Brian Lenihan promised to pay all the bankers off, but Ireland can’t pay those taxes and the realization has dawned that it is a case where you can’t get blood from stone. There was a level of irresponsibility, but now one needs a very good government.
Both the Financial Times and the Economist basically said the bondholders have to lose some money
Absolutely, absolutely. You have to renegotiate, and it will take a year, but until it’s done, no one can move forward.
But Ireland will survive. They are a tough people and have survived much worse. I’m sure of that. They are a wonderful people.
Thank you, Dr. Watson.
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