watson.jpg (1590081 bytes) James D. Watson Archives
    Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives

The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives houses the entire, extensive collection of scientific and personal materials of CSHL President, Nobelist James Watson (CSHL Director 1968-94, CSHL President 1994- present).  In   2001 and 2002 the major part of this collection was generously donated to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. With support from the Lehrman Institute, the Archives was able to rehouse and is now processing the  collection.

James D. Watson Collection: Photographs

James D. Watson Collection: Personal Papers - 1928-2002

The collection is organized into 12 series:

1. Biographical

2. Correspondence

3. Manuscripts

4. Articles and Clippings

5. Teaching Files

6. Laboratory and Course Notebooks

7. Subject Files

8. Lectures, Speeches, Interviews

9. Nobel Prize

10. Reprints

11. Videotapes

12. Memorabilia

James D. Watson Collection: Institutional Papers

1. Administrative

Within these series, the materials may be arranged alphabetically, chronologically, or, topically.  Please see individual series descriptions for specific arrangement schemes.

Access Restrictions

The James D. Watson Collection is a non-circulating archival collection.  Researchers may use the materials only on site at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives.  For a complete description of the rules and regulations governing research at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives, please consult the Regulations Governing the Usage of Archives.

Use Restrictions

If you wish to request the use of materials from the CSHL Archives, please consult our Permission and Copyright Statement and Fee Schedule, then fill out a Materials Use Request Form.

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection.  For more information, contact: archives@cshl.edu or (516) 367-8491

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following forms:

Identification of item, date (if known); The James D. Watson Collection; box number; folder number, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives.

Processing Notes

This Guide to the James D. Watson Collection represents an initial listing of materials available for research.  While the entire collection has not yet been processed, there may be some materials unavailable for research.  A complete finding aid and specific listing of materials made be made available as soon as the physical processing of the entire collection is finalized. 

Processed by Teresa Kruger, Meredith Bouchard, Cara Brick

Collection Overview

Series 1:  Biographical, 1928-present-day

The biographical material within this series includes Dr. Watson’s curriculum vitae, personal family mementos including Christmas cards, award certificates, passports, and items relating to his sixtieth birthday celebration.

Series 2:  Correspondence, 1949-2000

The correspondence series includes 17 linear feet of handwritten and typed letters, carbon copies, postcards and notes dating from 1949 to 2000.  Materials are arranged alphabetically  by author unless otherwise noted. 

The bulk of the material covers Watson’s sojourn in Cambridge (1951-54), Harvard (1956-1968) and as Director (1968-1994) and President of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (1994-presentday).  Watson’s career at the Copenhagen Crystallography Lab and time at California Institute of Technology are touched upon as well.  The concerns addressed in the body of this series are the results and problems with experiments, fundraising and planning for meetings, and comments on manuscripts.  The issue of scientific ethics is addressed through his correspondence with David Baltimore; Norton Zinder discusses recombinant DNA; and Robert Cook-Deegan deals with the Human Genome project.   Many letters, such as the correspondence with his father, James, are personal in tone and discuss social activities, travel plans, and advice, during the Cambridge and Harvard years.

Correspondents include, but are not limited to, the immediate family, personal friends, university professors, biologists, geneticists, students, publishing firms, medical doctors, and businessmen.

This series also contains a fair number of letters of recommendation and award nominations for scientists such as Mark Ptashne, Nancy Doe Hopkins, Amar Klar and David Baltimore.

This series contains several subseries.  The subseries are as follows:  Public Affairs, Student Letters, General Public, Autograph Requests, Declined Invitations, and Permissions.

The Public Affairs sub-series includes letters directed to the Public Relations office of CSHL.  The sub-series concerns James D. Watson as a public figure and includes lecture requests from universities, participation in media projects, signature requests from humanitarian and political organizations.

Student Letters contains requests for information and impressions of James Watson’s writings, life, and work.  Arranged chronologically.

The General Public subseries includes letters and other correspondence from a diverse population.  The correspondence ranges from “fan” letters which profess admiration to opinion letters in which the writers offer their personal thoughts on much heavily debated scientific topics. The sub-series is further divided into recurring topics: AIDS, Cloning, Human Embryology, Cancer, Abortion, and the Human Genome Project.  Arranged chronologically.

Permissions include formal requests for permissions to use James Watson’s work for other publications.  Arranged chronologically.

further information on Series 2.

Series 3:  Manuscripts, 1965-1987

The Manuscripts series is made up of handwritten and typed manuscripts, typescripts, reprints, articles, correspondence, contracts, book reviews, and illustrations relating to the production of monographs and articles for which James Watson is the primary author.  The following titles are represented in this series:  DNA Story (co-authored with John Tooze); The Double Helix; Molecular Biology of the Gene, Editions 1-4; Recombinant DNA:  A Short Course (co-authored with John Tooze and David T. Kurtz.)

The manuscripts are arranged by title, chapters, and date of draft.  Materials pertinent to the drafting, preparation, and final publication of the work supplement the manuscripts.  This information includes correspondence with publishers and peer scientists, research materials, sketches, galleys, comments for revisions, and book reviews.  Articles are in chronological order.

further information on Series 3.

Series 4:  Articles and Clippings, 1953-2002

This series contains articles and newspaper clippings about James D. Watson.  The articles and clippings date from the time of the double helix discovery to the present-day.  This is an extensive series that has not been entirely processed.  Please consult an archivist for further information regarding this series.

Further information on Series 4.

Series 5:  Teaching Files, 1956-1976, bulk dates 1962-1976

The teaching files include 8 linear feet of materials from James Watson’s years as Associate Professor of Biology (1958), and as Professor of Microbiology (1961-1976) at Harvard University.  Records consist of course materials such as syllabi, exams, grades, lab applicants, class lectures and correspondence generated from the Biology Department.   Exams have hand-written comments by Professor Watson.  Records include grades of notable scientists such as Mark Ptashne, Ray Gesteland, Mario Capecchi, and Nancy Hopkins.

Further information on Series 5.

Series 6:  Laboratory and Course Notebooks, 1947-1951, 1958-1961

This series consists of James D. Watson’s handwritten graduate school course notebooks and laboratory research notebooks between 1947 and 1951. It is divided into three subseries: Subseries 1: Ph.D. Courses and Dissertation Research, Indiana University; 1947-1950, Subseries 2: Copenhagen Laboratory Research, 1950-1951; and Subseries 3: Harvard Medical School Research, 1959-1961. Of note, there are approximately 2.5 cubic feet of additional laboratory notebooks dated 1949-1950 that are currently unprocessed and will later be added to Subseries 1. Arranged chronologically.

Further information on Series 6.

Series 7:  Subject Files

This series contains files kept by Dr. Watson relating to his various activities within the scientific community, public sphere and business sector.  Represented within this series is his work with the Human Genome Project, cancer research, and various roles as board member for several pharmaceutical companies.  This is an extensive series that has not been entirely processed.   Please consult an archivist for further information regarding this series.

Further information on Series 7, Human Genome Project.

Series 8:  Lectures, Speeches and Interviews, 1968-2001, bulk dates 1973-1979

Records include various lectures presented at various institutions including universities, medical centers, and public schools.  Collection consists primarily of correspondence relating to the lectures, speeches and/or interviews.   Speeches include subjects such as Recombinant DNA, tumor viruses, and the Human Genome Project.  Highlights include testimonies given before the House of Representatives and the Senate Subcommittee on the Quality of Medical Care (1973).  7 linear feet.

Further information on Series 8.

Series 9:  Nobel Prize, 1962-1968, bulk dates 1962-1963

The Nobel Prize series consists of congratulatory letters and telegrams, correspondence, Harvard University News Office press releases, newspaper clippings, postcards, and items related to the awards dinner such as Dr. Watson’s handwritten notes of his speech, the Nobel itinerary, and photographs.  Telegrams and congratulatory letters include those sent by prominent scientists such as Alfred D. Hershey, Salvador Luria, and Sydney Brenner.  Also included within these congratulatory messages are those sent by politicians including Edward Kennedy.

Further information on Series 9.

Series 10: Reprints, 1940-1990, bulk dates 1942-1980

Extensive collection consisting of approximately 1700 offprints and reprints, mostly signed by James Watson (some annotated), some inscribed and signed by various scientific authors.  Also included are galley proofs, and photocopies of research papers written by scientists, including James Watson, Sydney Brenner, Max Delbruck, Rosalind Franklin, Al Hershey, Linus Pauling and Max Perutz.  This collection contains important papers in the history of Genetics significant the career of James D. Watson.  6 linear feet.

Further information on Series 10.

Series 11: Videotapes, 1978-2000, bulk dates 1995-2000

This series contains a small collection of videotapes relating to subject matters of scientific discoveries DNA, genetics, molecular biology, and the Human Genome Project.  There are commentaries by Dr. Watson as well as an interview of Dr. Watson conducted by Charlie Rose.  All tapes are recorded in English.

Series 12: Memorabilia

Artifacts and ephemera collected during the life and travels of James D. Watson.  This series includes postcards, airline boarding passes, matchboxes, and other assorted artifacts.

Further information on Series 12.


James D. Watson Collection: Institutional Papers

Series 1:  Administrative : Reports

The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archive’s institutional records contain texts of the Director’s Reports in various stages of manuscript creation and publication. With the current exception of four copies of Annual Reports created by John Cairns (Director, 1964-1967), the bulk of the materials are reports created by Dr. James D. Watson during his tenure as Director or President of the institution.

Further information on Series 1.

©2002 James D. Watson Collection, CSHL Archives.All rights reserved

Please consult our Permission and Copyright Policies for any materials you wish to use.

updated 12/01/04