James Watson, Pioneer of DNA, Stripped of Honors After Racist Comments

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James Watson, the Nobel Prize-winning molecular biologist who co-discovered the double helix structure of DNA, has been stripped of his titles after yet another round of racist comments. Watson recently starred on a PBS documentary as part of the American Masters series, which profiles those who have influenced American culture. In the film, Watson claims that the genetic makeup of black people dictates that they have a lower average IQ than white people. He has repeatedly expressed this hypothesis.

The Cold Spring Harbor Lab, where Watson led as chancellor and director for years, has responded to Watson’s claims as “reprehensible,” “unsubstantiated,” “reckless personal opinion,” and “unsupported by science.” Watson has now been revoked of all honors after decades of questionable libel made on public news sources.

Watson was born on April 6, 1928, in Chicago, Illinois. In 1953, Watson and his partner Francis Crick proposed their discovery of DNA’s double helix structure, exposing the pair to science’s limelight and bringing them great acclaim. Watson, Crick, and their collaborator, Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins, were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962.

However, in December 2014, Watson auctioned off his Nobel Prize for $4.1 million. He told The New York Times that this controversial profit would be used to raise funds “to support and empower scientific discovery,” as well support himself and his family. The man who purchased the award at the auction later returned it to Watson stating, “These kinds of awards must remain with their original recipients.”

In 2007, Watson told the British Sunday Times newspaper 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.” However, this is completely based off Watson’s biased opinion, rather than substantiated scientific fact as he claimed it to be. Although Watson apologized for these statements in 2007, he revealed on the PBS documentary, which aired on January 2 of this year, that his views have not changed.

In addition to his controversial comments on race, Watson has made a series of homophobic and sexist remarks throughout his career. According to CNN, Britain’s Sunday Telegraph quoted Watson in 1997 saying that “women should be allowed to abort a child for any reason, such as if a gene for homosexuality were found in the fetus.”

The scientist’s son, Rufus Watson, defended his 90-year-old father’s recent comments on race. Rufus told The Associated Press that his father is recovering from a car accident and that his father’s comments are the result of “very minimal” awareness of his surroundings. “[My dad’s statements] just represent his rather narrow interpretation of genetic destiny.”

Watson’s racist remarks, whether due to loss of cognitive inhibition or simply prejudiced beliefs, have stripped him of all honors. This is dramatic news to the science community, which for years revered Watson as one of the greatest minds of the 20th century.

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