A few days after the White House announcement that scientists had finished mapping the first working draft of the human genome (see page 1), James Watson came to Philadelphia to accept another award in his long, illustrious career. But it wasn't a science award. Philadelphia awarded Watson and Francis Crick the 2000 Liberty Medal on the 224th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

The discoverers of the structure of DNA became the first scientists to receive the Liberty Medal since its establishment. The city first awarded the big, golden prize in 1989 to Lech Walesa, who, as leader of a trade union, sparked Poland's freedom from the Soviets and eventually became its president. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter received the medal in 1990, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in 1992, and Korean President Kim Dae-Jung in 1999.

Why Watson and Crick? According to Martin Meyerson, president emeritus...

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