from the come-here-I-need-you dept.
Nicholas St. Fleur writes at The Atlantic that in the sad final chapter to a career that traces back to racist remarks he made in 2007, James Watson, the famed molecular biologist and co-discoverer of DNA, is putting his Nobel Prize up for auction, the first Nobel laureate in history to do so. Watson, best known for his work deciphering the DNA double helix alongside Francis Crick in 1953, made an incendiary remark regarding the intelligence of black people that lost him the admiration of the scientific community in 2007 making him, in his own words, an "unperson". That year, The Sunday Times quoted Watson as saying that he felt “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours—whereas all the testing says not really.” Watson added that although some think that all humans are born equally intelligent, “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.” Watson has a history of making racist and sexist declarations, according to Time. His insensitive off-the-cuff remarks include saying that sunlight and dark skin contribute to “Latin lover” libido, and that fat people lack ambition, which prevents them from being hired. At a science conference in 2012, Watson said of women in science, “I think having all these women around makes it more fun for the men but they’re probably less effective.” To many scientists his gravest offense was not crediting Rosalind Franklin with helping him deduce the structure of DNA.
Watson is selling his prized medallion because he has no income outside of academia, even though for years he had served on many corporate boards. The gold medal is expected to bring in between $2.5 million and $3.5 million when it goes to auction. Watson says that he will use the money to purchase art and make donations to institutions that have supported him, such as the University of Chicago and Watson says the auction will also offer him the chance to “re-enter public life.” “I’ve had a unique life that’s allowed me to do things. I was set back. It was stupid on my part,” says Watson “All you can do is nothing, except hope that people actually know what you are.”
Nobel Prize-winning American scientist James Watson has been stripped of his honorary titles after repeating comments about race and intelligence.
In a TV programme, the pioneer in DNA studies made a reference to a view that genes cause a difference on average between blacks and whites on IQ tests. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory said the 90-year-old scientist's remarks were "unsubstantiated and reckless". Dr Watson had made similar claims in 2007 and subsequently apologised.
He shared the Nobel in 1962 with Maurice Wilkins and Francis Crick for their 1953 discovery of the DNA's double helix structure.
Dr Watson sold his gold medal in 2014, saying he had been ostracised by the scientific community after his remarks about race. He is currently in a nursing home recovering from a car accident and is said to have "very minimal" awareness of his surroundings.
Previously: Disgraced Scientist is Selling his Nobel Prize
Spotted over at The Scientist is the report that the winning bidder will return Watson's Nobel prize medal following the auction last week.
It turns out that James Watson’s Nobel Prize medal, which he won in 1962 for co-discovering the structure of DNA, will be staying with the biologist after all. The Russian entrepreneur Alisher Usmanov, who paid $4.1 million for the medal at an auction last week (December 4), will return the prize to its original owner, The New York Times reports.
The New York Times' report adds:
Mr. Usmanov said his father had died of cancer, so he valued Dr. Watson’s contributions to cancer research. “It is important for me that the money that I spent on this medal will go to supporting scientific research,” [Usmanov] said, “and the medal will stay with the person who deserved it.”