James D. Watson, the former director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (which was once the base of the Eugenics Record Office), has successfully sold his 1962 Nobel Prize for the discovery of DNA’s double-helix for $4.1 million. Watson, who was director of the genetic research facility at CSHL beginning in 1968, and later served as president, chancellor and chancellor emeritus, is planning on giving the proceeds to several universities and CSHL.
Watson is trying to revamp his image, which was tarnished by controversial statements about race and intelligence in recent years. In a 2007 interview with The Sunday Times of London Magazine, Watson, discussing Africa stated, “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 went on to suggest that black employees were not equal to whites. As a consequence, Watson says, he has been shunned by the academic community.
In an interesting turn of events, the medal was purchased by Russian mogul Alisher Usmanov, who plans to return the medal to Watson. “In my opinion, a situation in which an outstanding scientist has to sell a medal recognizing his achievements is unacceptable,” Usmanov said in a statement. “James Watson is one of the greatest biologists in the history of mankind and his award for the discovery of DNA structure must belong to him.”
James Watson Puts Nobel Medal on Auction Block (New York Times)