James Watson Stripped of Honors


Rebecca Tao, Staff Writer

James Watson, along with other renowned scientists of his time like Francis Crick and Rosalind Franklin, is credited to be a co-founder of the structure of DNA. He and his team of scientists were awarded many honors, including the Nobel Peace Prize in Medicine in 1962.

After his magnum opus, Watson continued his scientific endeavors and started the human genome project. However, Watson tainted his reputation when he spewed blatantly racist remarks about the intelligence difference in white and black people on the PBS documentary “American Masters: Decoding Genetics”. Watson said that it came down to genes that made black people inferior in intelligence. Many have scrutinized the credibility of Watson’s findings and pointed out the misinformation he was spreading. For example, the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where Watson had been the director from 1968 to 1993, responded to Watson’s comments negatively and said that what he said had no scientific arguments to support his information. In a statement from the lab, it said “Dr. Watson’s statements are reprehensible, unsupported by science, and in no way represent the views of CSHL, its trustees, faculty, staff or students. The Laboratory condemns the misuse of science to justify prejudice.” The lab emphasized how they did not share the same beliefs as Watson and that his opinions were not tolerated by the lab.

This was not the first instance in which Watson has publicly made racist and offensive remarks. In 2007, Watson had been removed from his chancellor position at the lab for his racist remarks. It is only now that Watson has been stripped of his honorary titles in relation to the lab. Also in 2007, Watson apologized and retracted his statements. However, in the recent PBS documentary, Watson confessed that his views on the correlation between race and intelligence did not change from his racist point of view. He credited the“difference on the average between blacks and whites on IQ tests” as being genetic. Watson is not new to making these claims and links between vastly different topics. For instance, in 2000, Watson has also suggested that there may be a correlation between one’s weight and ambition. It should be noted that Watson made no mention of environmental aspects to support his beliefs. To “reclaim” his reputation, Watson sold his Nobel Peace Prize at an auction for $4.1 million, but the buyer later returned it to Watson.

Overall, what Watson said in the past and the beliefs he retained over the years affected his reputation and tainted his status in the eyes of the laboratory he was once a director at.


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