DNA pioneer James Watson stripped of honours after 'reckless' race remarks

DNA pioneer James Watson stripped of honours after 'reckless' race remarks

In response, the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in NY, where Watson has held numerous leadership roles over almost four decades, "unequivocally [rejected]" the 90-year-old scientists' "unsubstantiated and reckless" comments. The scientist said at the time that he made a decision to sell the award in an attempt to redeem his reputation after his comments in 2007, The New York Times reported.

Mr Watson had always been associated with the lab, becoming its director in 1968, its president in 1994 and its chancellor 10 years later. "The Laboratory condemns the misuse of science to justify prejudice", the laboratory said in a January 11 statement before revoking three titles - Chancellor Emeritus, Oliver R. Grace Professor Emeritus and honorary trustee soon afterward.

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.

But Cold Spring Harbor said it was now stripping him of those titles after he said his views had not changed in the documentary American Masters: Decoding Watson, aired on USA public broadcaster PBS earlier this month.

James Watson, who discovered the double-helix structure of DNA alongside Francis Crick in the 1950s based on the work of British chemist Rosalind Franklin, said in a PBS film that genes cause a difference in intelligence between white and black people in IQ tests, CNN reported today.

But his recent comments "effectively reverse the written apology and retraction Dr Watson made in 2007", and "require the severing of any remaining vestiges of his involvement", Cold Spring Harbor's chief executive, Bruce Stillman, and its board of trustees chairwoman, Marilyn Simons, said in a statement.

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The Times reported that Watson's family said he was unable to respond, having been in medical care since a auto accident in October.

While the DNA pioneer also expressed his hope for everyone to be equal, he added that "people who have to deal with black employees found this is not true".

Today, there is a consensus among scientists that race is a purely social construct, with no evidence to suggest distinct genetic differences between individuals from different populations.

In the PBS documentary, the host asked Watson if he had changed his views on race in the decade since his departure from the lab.

He and British biologist Dr Crick were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 for their discovery nine years earlier of the double helix structure of DNA, the molecules that carry all the genetic information determining how we grow, function and reproduce.

In an interview with the news agency, his son Rufus said Dr Watson's statements "might make him out to be a bigot and discriminatory" but that was not true.

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