A Nobel Prize winner, accused of appropriating the work of a King’s College London scientist, has been stripped of his titles after he made repeated statements concerning his belief of a supposed link between race and intelligence.
James Watson, 90, is a molecular biologist and geneticist, perhaps best known for winning the Nobel Prize in 1962 for research on the structure of DNA, awarded alongside British biophysicist Francis Crick, and King’s College London physicist, Maurice Wilkins. The group have stood accused of ‘stealing’ pioneering DNA research from x-ray crystallographer, Rosalind Franklin – a featured person on the infamous Strand wall, and one of the scientist for whom the Franklin-Wilkins Building at Waterloo is named.
The problem with Watson arguably arose in 2007, when the scientist told the Times he was “gloomy” about the prospect of Africa, as “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really.” Watson also referenced a belief that genes cause an average difference between blacks and whites, with whites averaging as superior.
After making the claim, Watson subsequently apologised. However, further controversy occurred more recently when Watson was asked if his views had changed, in a documentary broadcasted in America earlier on this month. To the question, Watson responded: “No, not at all.”
The scientist continues to hold onto his belief, he argues, as he has failed to see “any knowledge” which proves his point differently.
“I would like for [my views] to have changed,” he stated, “But I haven’t seen any knowledge. And there’s a difference on the average between blacks and whites on IQ tests. I would say the difference is…genetic.”
Ironically, as stated by the 2014 publication, Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life, written by Karen Fields and Barbara Fields, Icelandic scientific research found Watson had “16 times more genes of black origin than the average white European – 16 percent rather than the 1 percent that most of his origin” would possess. The genome research states that this level “is what you would expect in someone who had a great-grandparent who was African.” In Watson’s statements, many have been reminded of this scientific research, linking it to his timely errors.
Throughout the years, Watson has garnered an unfavourable reputation, particularly within scientific circles, with the Washington Post stating that many colleagues witnessed his sexist and homophobic behaviour.
Speaking of Rosalind Franklin, the researcher at King’s, Watson reportedly stated: “Though her features were strong, she not unattractive, and might have been quite stunning had she taken even a mild interest in clothes.”
Regarding the outcome of her research, Franklin passed away in 1958, four years before the ultimate awarding of the Nobel Prize. She never gained the opportunity to understand how, and to what extent, her initial research data was used by Watson alongside Crick and Wilkins.
As a result of his unsavoury comments, Watson has been stripped of his titles at Cold Spring Harbour, an American non-profit research institution, of which he became chancellor in 2004. Cold Spring Harbour has denounced Watson’s assertions as “reprehensible”.
According to the BBC, Watson currently resides in a nursing home where he is recovering from an accident.