Magazine article Oceanus

Biologist, Businessman, Benefactor

Magazine article Oceanus

Biologist, Businessman, Benefactor

Article excerpt

Institutional buildings are usually named after a person for one of two reasons: the namesake has achieved great things on behalf of the institution, or he or she is a generous benefactor. Stanley Watson was both to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Watson, who died in 1995 following a 35-year career at WHOI, was a microbiologist whose research interests foreshadowed the cross-disciplinary field of biogeochemistry. He was instrumental in uncovering the importance of bacteria in ocean food webs and in the nitrogen cycle.

He collaborated with John Waterbury, now a senior scientist in the Biology Department, in a momentous discovery. On a 1977 cruise in the Arabian Sea, he found extremely small, previously unknown photosynthetic cells in seawater. They turned out to be one of the most numerous organisms on the planet: the cyanobacteria Synechococcus.

Watson also refined and patented a test for bacteria in seawater, using an extract from the blood of horseshoe crabs that reacts with toxins that bacteria release. …

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