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James D. Watson looks back on his extraordinary and varied career - from its beginnings as a schoolboy in Chicago's South Side to the day he left Harvard almost 50 years later, world-renowned as the co-discoverer of DNA - and considers the lessons he has learnt along the way.
The result is both an engagingly eccentric memoir and an insightful compendium of lessons in life for aspiring scientists. Watson's 'manners' range from those he learnt bird-watching with his father during the Great Depression ('Avoid fighting bigger boys and dogs' and 'Find a young hero to emulate') to the manners appropriate for a Nobel Prize ('Have friends close to those who rule'). He evokes his time as a graduate student in the 1940s ('Hire spunky lab helpers'); the excitement of working in DNA for the first time as well as having his first dates; his time working as a White House advisor; and at Harvard in the '70s.
Avoid Boring People is a quirky, original, wise, and infuriatingly un-put-downable blend of candid anecdotes and revealing insights into the life of one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century.
1. Manners acquired as a child (Chicago's South Side); 2. Manners learned while an undergraduate; 3. Manners picked up in graduate school; 4. Manners followed by the Phage Group; 5. Manners passed on to an apprentice scientist; 6. Manners needed for important science; 7. Manners practiced as an untenured professor; 8. Manners deployed for academic zing; 9. Manners noticed as a dispensable White House advisor; 10. Manners appropriate for a Nobel Prize; 11. Manners demanded by academic ineptitude; 12. Manners behind for readable books; 13. Manners required for academic civility; 14. Manners displayed to hold two jobs; 15. Manners felt reluctantly leaving Harvard; Epilogue
The story is frank, personal, revealing and sometimes entertaining. Peter Lawrence, Literary Review ...an engaging writer... Dr Henry Gee, Focus ...a deliciously detailed account of his life...Watson remains one of the most fascinating scientists of our time, as iconic in some respects as his double helix. Nature