James Dewey Watson is most famous for co-winning a Nobel prize along with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins. They built on the work of Rosalind Franklin and Linus Pauling to show that the DNA molecule was a double helix. Many believe that the credit should go primarily to Rosalind Franklin, whose work with X-ray crystallography gave the first good indication of the form that DNA takes.
Luckily, there's more to him than that.
James Watson was born on April 6, 1928 in Chicago, and had a childhood. He was a good student, and entered the University of Chicago when he was 15. He graduated with a degree in Zoology in 1947, and did his graduate work at Indiana University, after being turned down by both Harvard and CalTech. He got his Ph.D. in genetics, and went to work hunting the elusive gene.
In October of 1952, Watson joined the Cavendish Laboratories, where he met Francis Crick and they did the stuff that was later to win them the Nobel prize. In 1968 he published a book, The Double Helix, on his role in the discovery of the structure of DNA.
Watson went to teach at CalTech in 1953, where along with Alexander Rich, he studied RNA by way of x-ray diffraction. Watson next headed over to Harvard, where he researched RNAs role in protein synthesis. In 1968 became the director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York. Under his direction, the scientists there discovered the molecular nature of cancer and identified cancer genes for the first time. He is still working there today, as the president of the laboratory.
Also notable, Watson was the director of The Human Genome Project from 1988 to 1992. He is also a bird watcher.