October 23, 2013 Library of Congress Celebrates 60th Anniversary of Discovery of DNA Structure

Nobel Laureates James D. Watson and Carol Greider to Participate in Panel

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The Library of Congress will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the discovery of the DNA structure with a panel discussion that will include Nobel Laureate James D. Watson, the world-renown molecular biologist, who—in collaboration with several other scientists—discovered the structure of DNA.

Cracking the DNA structure initiated a scientific revolution and changed the field of medicine. The discovery explained how the fundamental unit of inheritance—the gene—worked, and with that knowledge, scientists could understand how genes could be damaged and why such mutations could lead to harmful diseases.

The one-hour panel discussion titled “Translational Medicine: Advancing from Bench to Bedside” will start at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 7 in the Montpelier Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. Sponsored by the Library’s Science, Technology and Business Division, the program is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required, but space is limited and early arrival is advised.

In addition to Watson, the panel will include Nobel Laureate Carol Greider of Johns Hopkins University and Robert Clarke of Georgetown University. Orla Smith, managing editor of Science Translational Medicine, will moderate the panel.

The panel discussion will focus on translational medicine, which takes basic scientific discoveries in the laboratory (bench) and uses it in the field (bedside) to produce new drugs, devices and treatment options. The biological processes brought about by understanding the structure of DNA have been opening doors to new medical research and treatments.

Watson is chancellor emeritus of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, New York. After earning his doctorate at Indiana University (1950) under Salvador Luria and obtaining postdoctoral training (as a Merck Fellow of the National Research Council) in Copenhagen, Watson then moved to the University of Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory in England, where he met Francis Crick. In 1962, Watson, Crick and Maurice Wilkins were awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material.”

Since 1968, Watson has served in various capacities—director, president, chancellor and his current position—at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. From 1990 to 1992, Watson also served as head of the Human Genome Project at the National Institutes of Health. He has written many science and popular books, including “Molecular Biology of the Gene” (1965) and “The Double Helix” (1968).

Greider is the Daniel Nathans Professor and Director of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Johns Hopkins University. In 1984, as a graduate student of Elizabeth Blackburn at the University of California, Berkeley, Greider discovered the enzyme telomerase. Greider pioneered research on the structure of telomeres, the ends of chromosomes. In 2009, Greider, Blackburn and Jack W. Szostak received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their discovery that telomeres are protected from progressive shortening by the enzyme telomerase.

Clarke, an internationally recognized leader in breast cancer research, is the Dean of Research and a professor in the Department of Oncology at the Georgetown University Medical Center. He is co-director of the Breast Cancer Program at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. Clarke studies how hormones, growth factors and other related molecules affect breast cancer. Clarke also leads several multinational molecular medicine studies in breast cancer.

The Library’s Science, Technology and Business Division will sponsor an additional event addressing genetics—a book talk on the 19th century Silesian friar Gregor Johann Mendel, considered the “father of modern genetics.” At 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 8, in the Montpelier Room, Jan Klein will discuss his book “Solitude of a Humble Genius – Gregor Johann Mendel: Volume 1 – Formative Years.” Klein is director emeritus of the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science and is currently the Frances R. and Helen M. Pentz Visiting Professor of Science in the Department of Biology at Pennsylvania State University.

The Library of Congress maintains one of the largest and most diverse collections of scientific and technical information in the world. The Science, Technology and Business Division provides reference and bibliographic services and develops general collections of the Library in all areas of science, technology, business and economics. For more information, visit www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 155 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at www.loc.gov.


PR 13-184
ISSN 0731-3527