James Dewey Watson
Born: 6 April 1928, Chicago, IL, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
Prize motivation: "for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material"
Field: genetics, molecular biology
Prize share: 1/3
In 1944, Oswald Avery proved that DNA is the bearer of organisms' genetic code. Further explanation was provided when James Watson and Francis Crick determined the structure of the DNA molecule in 1953. This structure - a long double helix - contains a long row of pairs of four different nitrogen bases, which allow the molecule to function like a code. The molecule's structure also explains how it is able to copy itself. The nitrogen bases always pair in the same constellations, so that if a molecule is split, its halves can be supplemented so that they form copies of the original molecule.