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posted by LaminatorX on Tuesday December 02 2014, @10:30PM   Printer-friendly
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.”

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  • (Score: 2) by moondrake on Wednesday December 03 2014, @10:50AM

    by moondrake (2658) on Wednesday December 03 2014, @10:50AM (#122188)

    Not to argue against your main point, but I find the sentence about Watson silly. He is not a masterful scientist, nor is he lost to the world (and even if he were, he is not really productive anymore).

    What did the guy ever do for it. Ah yes, he came up with the double-helix model for DNA. At least...He claims so. Though the actual experiments where done by Rosalind Franklin, who was, at the time Watson published, aware of the structure herself as it was a rather logical step combining her work with previous knowledge. And Watson himself (did you read his book?) has always claimed Crick was the one with the brains anyway.

    Also..DNA structure...what is it good for anyway? It is not like it influences the genetic info. It is sort of nice to know how the molecule looks like, but it is not very important for all the subsequent work (well, it is important sometimes, but not overly so, certainly not worth of a Nobel).

    Lost to the world...bah..Most Nobel-graduates tour the world to give silly philosophical talks (I saw Watson's one, it was underwhelming). Interesting, but not that important. And they get overpaid jobs and prestigious institutes and committees. Usually they are not really qualified, it just looks good to have a Nobel graduate their. Honestly, we good do with losing a few more of them...

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