Fall From Grace: DNA Helix Discoverer, Nobel Prize Winner Stripped of Honors

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DNA - Sputnik International
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.

Watson, who, along with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins in the 1950s, discovered the double-helix structure of DNA, received the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their ground-breaking research. 

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In a recent PBS film, "American Masters: Decoding Watson," Watson said that genes cause an intelligence difference between white and black people when using IQ tests.

The 90-year-old geneticist lost his job at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, in New York, in 2007 (where Watson had been a director between 1968-1993) for expressing those views publicly that year.

At the time, Watson told a magazine that he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" as "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours — where all the testing says not really," cited by News.sky.com.

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."

An apology and retraction was issued by Watson that year following worldwide public outcry, although reports noted the scientists' statement rang false.

The 2019 PBS film reveals that Watson's views on intelligence and race have not changed.

"Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) unequivocally rejects the unsubstantiated and reckless personal opinions Dr. James D. Watson expressed on the subject of ethnicity and genetics during the PBS documentary "American Masters: Decoding Watson" that aired January 2, 2019," the laboratory wrote in statement released Friday, adding that the famous facility "condemns the misuse of science to justify prejudice." 

"Dr. Watson has not been involved in the leadership or management of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory for more than a decade and he has no further roles or responsibilities at CSHL. In response to his most recent statements, which effectively reverse the written apology and retraction Dr. Watson made in 2007, the Laboratory has taken additional steps, including revoking his honorary titles of Chancellor Emeritus, Oliver R. Grace Professor Emeritus, and Honorary Trustee," the statement added.

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According to Watson's son, Rufus, his father has been living in a nursing home following an October automobile crash. The son rejected the idea that his father is "discriminatory" and a "bigot."

"My dad's statements might make him out to be a bigot and discriminatory [but] they just represent his rather narrow interpretation of genetic destiny," Rufus said in a statement obtained by multiple sources.

"My dad had made the lab his life, and yet now the lab considers him a liability," the younger Watson suggested.

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