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AMERICAN MASTERS: Decoding Watson

(l to r) Francis Crick and James Watson in 1953.
Courtesy of A. Barrington Brown, Gonville and Caius College / Science Photo Library
(l to r) Francis Crick and James Watson in 1953.

Airs Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Friday, Jan. 4 at Noon on KPBS 2

James Watson, the Man Behind the Double Helix, Confronts His Complex Legacy

Thrust into the limelight for discovering the secret of life at age 25 with Francis Crick, influential Nobel Prize-winning scientist James Watson has thrived on making headlines ever since.

His discovery of DNA’s structure, the double helix, revolutionized human understanding of how life works.

(l to r) James Watson and Francis Crick photographed with a DNA model in the Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge, May 1953.
Courtesy of A. Barrington Brown, Gonville and Caius College / Science Photo Library
(l to r) James Watson and Francis Crick photographed with a DNA model in the Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge, May 1953.

He was a relentless and sometimes ruthless visionary who led the Human Genome project and turned Harvard University and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory into powerhouses of molecular biology.

With unprecedented access to Watson, his wife Elizabeth and sons Rufus and Duncan over the course of a year, AMERICAN MASTERS explores Watson’s evolution from socially awkward postdoc to notorious scientific genius to discredited nonagenarian, also interviewing his friends, his colleagues, scientists and historians.

Controversial and unapologetic, Watson still thrives on competition and disruption.

The film uncovers his signature achievements, complexities and contradictions, including his penchant for expressing unfiltered and objectionable points of view.

James Watson (right) receiving the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1962 for discovering the structure of DNA. He shared the prize with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins.
Courtesy of Associated Press
James Watson (right) receiving the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1962 for discovering the structure of DNA. He shared the prize with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins.

WATCH ON YOUR SCHEDULE:

This film will be available to stream on demand for a limited time after broadcast beginning Jan. 3, 2019. Extend your viewing window with KPBS Passport, video streaming for members ($60 yearly) using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn how to activate your benefit now.

The film is available on DVD and you can pre-order it at ShopPBS.org.

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CREDITS:

A production of ROOM 608 INC. and THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC’s AMERICAN MASTERS for WNET. Directed and produced by Mark Mannucci. Hannah Meagher is co-producer. Alex Ricciardi is editor. Scott Sinkler is director of photography. For ROOM 608 INC., Jonathan Halperin is executive producer. For AMERICAN MASTERS, Michael Kantor is executive producer.