Watson

It’s funny how certain names seem to gravitate toward particular meanings. Take the name “Watson”, a name that was in the news lately because of the Jeopardy playing IBM computer.

But of course there was a reason this computer was given its particular name. Twas named for the eponymous Thomas J Watson, who while president of the company now known as International Business Machines from 1914 to his death in 1956 built it into one of the largest and most successful corporations in history. The name IBM became so synonymous with computers it inspired the name of the most famous computer villain in history (as well as, arguably, the most likable). Know who I mean? :-)

Yet the name Watson also shows up in the person of James D. Watson, one of the two men credited with discovering that DNA forms a double helix — a structure which is key to the mechanism of genetic replication. Notice that I said one of two men. Often left out of the story is the woman, Rosalind Franklin, who should have shared the Nobel prize (you see boys, the hydrophilic molecular backbone goes on the outside).

And then of course there is John H. Watson, M.D., friend and chronicler extraordinaire of one Sherlock Holmes. He was the very model of the scientifically minded Victorian gentleman, but also not one to shy away from a fight, should the situation call for it. Evidently an excellent doctor and surgeon, Watson was ever in thrall to Holmes’ scientific approach to criminal investigation.

So here we have three notable figures, all named Watson, all representing a peculiarly western vision of science — science as a kind of vigorous boys club, decidedly masculine and pointedly brash.

Of course every rule has its exception. The best version I’ve ever seen of Sherlock Holmes’ friend and confidente Dr. Watson was played by a woman. Extra points if you can identify the actress and the film.

2 Responses to “Watson”

  1. Joshua Ellis says:

    And, of course, there’s Thomas Augustus Watson, who was the recipient of the very first phone call ever. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_A._Watson

  2. admin says:

    Ah, brilliant. Thanks!!!

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