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Watson Sounds Off on 'Photograph 51'

A Scientific American reporter was recently schooled in "WASP conventions" over dinner at Manhattan's The River Club with James Watson, the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's Jan Witkowski, and the CSHL Press' Alex Gann. As Witkowski and Gann "share Watson's sense of humor, his appetite for gossip, and most of his research interests ... the restaurant conversation shifted from the sex lives of various scientists, to debates over the relevance of left-handed DNA, and back to the legacy of the double helix." Of Anna Ziegler's off-Broadway play Photograph 51, which details the work of Rosalind Franklin and the story behind her famous X-ray image, Watson says that "the story can stand on its own as a Shakespeare drama." The SciAm reporter says that while her dining companions agree that the theatrical portrayal of the double-helix discovery "bears little resemblance to actual events," they did say that they enjoyed the play "for what it was." Over dessert — "profiteroles complemented with silver pitchers of chocolate sauce," to be precise — Watson told SciAm that researchers can "cure" diseases with resources that are currently available. And though his manuscript in which he argues his case — which is "his first scientific paper in nearly 40 years" — has already been rejected once, Watson says he plans to resubmit.