Nobel Peace Prize Winner Shamed For Racist Statements Auctions Off Prize For Charity
James D. Watson’s 1962 Nobel Prize medal for sharing in the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA, the foundation of the new science of genomics, sold for $4.1 million at auction on Thursday.
The price for the gold medal, sold at Christie’s in Manhattan, came in higher than the house’s estimate of $2.5 million to $3.5 million, and was a record for a Nobel sold at auction, Christie’s said.
The medal sold to an anonymous buyer who bid by phone. Including the buyer’s premium, which goes to the auction house, the total price was $4.76 million.
Dr. Watson, 86, watched the auction open-mouthed from the back of the room with his wife and one of his sons as the bidding, which began at $1.5 million, rose steadily by $100,000 increments, eventually coming down to two phone bidders who pushed the price above $4 million. He said before the sale that he wanted to give much of the proceeds to educational institutions that had nurtured him, to “support and empower scientific discovery.”
After the sale, he said: “I’m very pleased. It’s more money than I expected to give to charity.”
The sale also became symbolic of a quest for redemption after he became what he called an “unperson” in the scientific community seven years ago; he had told The Sunday Times of London Magazine in an interview that he was pessimistic about 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.”
Dr. Watson apologized at the time for those remarks: “To those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologize unreservedly. That is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief.”
Hmmm, he seems remorseful. Do you think this makes up for the things he said?