Published: Mon, January 14, 2019
Research | By Raquel Erickson

Nobel victor James Watson stripped of titles over 'reprehensible' views on race

Nobel victor James Watson stripped of titles over 'reprehensible' views on race

Nobel Prize-winning American scientist James Watson, who helped discover the stranded double-helix of DNA, has had several honorary titles stripped from him by the laboratory in which he worked after making non-scientific, racist assertions, including those detailed in a new documentary film.

"Dr. Watson's statements are reprehensible, unsupported by science, an in no way represent the views of CSHL, its trustees, faculty, staff, or students".

In 2007, he said he was "inherently gloomy" about Africa's prospects because Western policies towards the continent assumed Africans were as intelligent as Europeans.

"The Laboratory condemns the misuse of science to justify prejudice", its statement added.

Watson, Crick and another British scientist, Maurice Wilkins, won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1962.

In the 2007 article Watson went on to avow that, while he wanted everyone to be equal in terms of intelligence, "people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true".

The lab ejected Watson from his role as chancellor and from administrative duties in 2007 following previous racist remarks - even though he retracted and apologized for the statements.

In that interview, Watson said that his views had not changed and he had not "seen any knowledge" negating his belief that there is a genetic connection between race and intelligence, the Times wrote. There's a "difference on the average between blacks and whites on IQ tests", he said.

The research centre subsequently revoked three titles - chancellor emeritus, Oliver R Grace Professor Emeritus, and honorary trustee.

In February 1953, a jubilant Dr Crick walked into The Eagle pub in Cambridge, the local for scientists at the University's Cavendish Laboratory, and proclaimed he and Dr Watson had "found the secret of life".

In 2007, Watson was suspended from all of his positions held at the NY lab following a scandal centering around his claim about the "inherently gloomy" future of the African continent.

"The statements he made in the documentary are completely and utterly incompatible with our mission, values and policies, and require the severing of any remaining vestiges of his involvement".

As British geneticist Adam Rutherford argued in 2014, when Watson complained in an interview that the scientific community had shunned him, it revealed a "pernicious character entirely unrelated to his scientific greatness, but that is longstanding and not new". "I would say the difference is, it's genetic".

The board of trustees at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island described the views of Dr Watson as reprehensible.

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