Nobel-prize winning scientist stripped of honors over ‘reprehensible’ race comments

Katie Ramirez
January 14, 2019

Nobel Prize-winning American scientist James Watson has been stripped of his honorary titles after repeating comments about race and intelligence.

In the 2007 interview, Watson said that while he hopes everyone is equal, 'people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true'.

After his remarks were widely condemned by scientists and he was forced into retirement from the laboratory, Dr Watson has stayed largely absent from the public eye up until the documentary's release earlier this year.

Dr James Watson, the 1962 Nobel Prize victor for co-discovery of the DNA double helix. "The Laboratory condemns the misuse of science to justify prejudice", the laboratory said in a statement Friday.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, which Watson once headed, explained in a statement that its move to strip the scientist of his titles as Chancellor Emeritus, Oliver R Grace Professor Emeritus and honorary trustee, is in response to comments he made in a recently-aired PBS documentary.

Watson's family told the New York Times that he was unable to respond to the PBS interview, as he is under medical care after a vehicle accident last October.

However, the laboratory's decision to revoke Watson's honours and titles is the result of American Masters: Decoding Watson, a PBS documentary that aired in the U.S. earlier this month.

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"Dr Watson's statements are reprehensible, unsupported by science", the laboratory said in a statement, adding that they effectively reverse his apology.

In the article, the geneticist said he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because he believed intelligence level of the native population was inherently lower than that of Europeans - due to genetics. The laboratory revoked three honorary titles, including chancellor emeritus.

This isn't the first time that Watson has made racist remarks.

"In 1997, Britain's Sunday Telegraph quoted him as 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". He also suggested in 2000 that there might be a link between a person's weight and ambition, and between an individual's skin color and sexual prowess, Gizmodo reports.

In 1953, Dr Watson and Dr Francis Crick deduced the structure of the DNA double helix in Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory, following on from the experiments of Rosalind Franklin. The scientist said at the time that he chose to sell the award in an attempt to redeem his reputation after his comments in 2007, The New York Times reported.

'My dad's statements might make him out to be a bigot and discriminatory, ' he said, but that's not true.

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