Watson has retired from his post following the controversy surrounding his comments on race and intelligence a few days previously.
Dr Matt Ridley, biographer of Francis Crick, said:
“Jim Watson made a great discovery, wrote a great book, led a great genome project and built a great research tradition at Cold Spring Harbor.”
Dr Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust, said:
“Jim Watson has had an exceptionally distinguished and extraordinary career in science, as co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, as co-instigator of the human genome project, as leader of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and through his textbook and popular science writing. Although the immediate events surrounding his retirement were controversial and sad, it should not be forgotten that it was Jim Watson who arranged that 3 to 5% of the US expenditure on the human genome project was devoted to study of the important ethical, legal and social issues related to human genome research. Jim Watson will be remembered as a unique and iconic scientist of the 20th century.”