A Nobel-Prize winning DNA scientist who was sacked for his racist views has been stripped of his final honorary titles after he repeated his views.
James Watson, 90, said that genes cause a difference on average between black people and white people on IQ tests. Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory, which he once headed, said his latest remarks were ‘reprehensible’ and ‘unsupported by science’.
They added that what he said reversed his 2007 written apology and retraction of his original comments. In the film, Watson said his views about intelligence and race had not changed over the last decade, when he told a magazine that he was ‘inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa’ because ‘all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – where all the testing says not really.’
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.’
Following the latest comments, the laboratory said it had revoked three honorary titles, including chancellor emeritus and honorary trustee.
Watson had long been associated with the lab, becoming its director in 1968, its president in 1994 and its chancellor 10 years later. A school at the lab is named after him.
Watson’s son Rufus said Friday in a telephone interview that his father, who’s 90, was in a nursing home following an October car crash, and that his awareness of his surroundings is ‘very minimal.’
‘My dad’s statements might make him out to be a bigot and discriminatory,’ he said, but that’s not true. ‘They just represent his rather narrow interpretation of genetic destiny.’
‘My dad had made the lab his life, and yet now the lab considers him a liability,’ he said.
James Watson shared a 1962 Nobel Prize with collaborator Francis Crick and scientist Maurice Wilkins for discovering in 1953 that DNA was a double helix, shaped like a long, gently twisting ladder. The breakthrough was key to determining how genetic material works.
The double helix became a widely recognised symbol of science, and Watson himself became famous far beyond scientific circles.
By Richard Hartley-Parkinson