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article imageJames Watson sells Nobel Prize after backlash over racist comment

By JohnThomas Didymus     Nov 30, 2014 in Science
New York - James Watson, world-renowned biologist and Nobel laureate, has announced that he is selling the Nobel Prize he was awarded in 1962 for the discovery of the double helix structure of the DNA molecule in 1953.
Watson's decision to auction off his Nobel Prize follows public backlash against the scientist who suggested in a 2007 interview with the UK's Sunday Times that people of black African descent were less intelligent than people of European descent.
According to Watson, he lost his sources of income after he was shunned by the scientific community for comments construed as racist and offensive. He announced last week that he was auctioning his 24 karat gold-plated Nobel Prize medal "because no one wants to admit I exist."
He told the Sunday Times in the Oct. 14, 2007 interview that he was "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."
He said he wished it was true that all races have equal intelligence, but cited anecdotal evidence that those "who have to deal with black employees find this is not true."
He reportedly claimed he was unable to find black scientists intelligent enough to work at his laboratory.
In the public backlash, he was forced to retire in 2007 from the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York where he had worked for several years.
But he tried to defend himself, saying in an interview with the UK Independent that "I have never been one to shy away from stating what I believe to be the truth... this has, at times, got me in hot water."
However, he later apologized "unreservedly," explaining rather clumsily that he was "not a racist in a conventional way."
Retracting his previous statements, he said "there is no scientific basis for such a belief."
"I apologize. . . [the Sunday Times reporter] somehow wrote that I worried about the people in Africa because of their low IQ – and you’re not supposed to say that," he said.
In a Nov. 2014 interview with the Financial Times, the 86-year-old lamented that he has became an "unperson" since publication of the Sunday Times interview.
"Because I was an 'unperson' I was fired from the boards of companies, so I have no income, apart from my academic income," he told the Financial Times,
He expressed hope that he would win public sympathy with the sale of his medal and be allowed to "re-enter public life."
According to the Mail Online, the gold medal will be sold by the auctioneers Christie's.
The Telegraph reports that Christie's said that Watson's medal, with a reserve price of $2.5 million, is the first Nobel Prize to be sold by a living recipient and that it could fetch as much as $3.5 million.
The medal awarded to Watson's colleague, Francis Crick, was auctioned off last year to the Chinese entrepreneur Jang Wang for $2.3 million.
Christie’s Francis Wahlgreen said he believes it would fetch $2.5 million. The auction is set for Thursday in New York and Wahlgreen says he does not expect that the controversy surrounding Watson's comments would affect the sale.
“I think the guy is the greatest living scientist," he said, and added, "There are a lot of personalities in history we’d find fault with – but their discoveries transcend human foibles."
The double helix structure of the DNA molecule
The double helix structure of the DNA molecule
Watson says he would use part of the proceeds from the sale to purchase artwork, including a David Hockney painting. He also said he would donate to the academic "institutions that have looked after me," including his alma mater, the University of Chicago and Clare College, Cambridge.
The discovery of the double spiral structure of the DNA molecule, which carries genetic information, was a major milestone in the evolution of biochemistry. It laid the foundation for emergence of the field of molecular genetics.
But despite his reputation as a brilliant scientist and his "gloomy" concern about the IQ of black Africans, Watson has a reputation among his colleagues for saying "stupid stuff," as one of his colleagues reportedly put it after his black African IQ comments made the headlines in 2007.
He once reportedly caused amazement when he declared a link between sunlight exposure and sexual libido without citing any empirical evidence to back up his claim.
"That's why you have Latin lovers. You've never heard of an English lover; only an English patient," he reportedly quipped.
Once, while delivering a lecture at the University of California in Berkeley, he showed a sad-faced image of the model Kate Moss, which he used as evidence to link thinness with unhappiness and ambition.
"Whenever you interview fat people, you feel bad, because you know you're not going to hire them," Watson said.
More about James watson, Racist, Dna, Nobel prize, black African Iq
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