James D. Watson, one of the foremost pioneers in the world of DNA, lost some of his good reputation when he made some very unfavorable comments about race. However, the scientist is hoping to gain some of that reputation back by putting his Nobel Prize up for auction, and then donating the proceeds to different educational institutions.
Watson won the prize in 1962 for discovering that DNA was an anti-parallel double-helix, which revealed how genetic traits were transmitted. He won the medal alongside fellow scientists Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins. This discovery was hugely important in the advancement of molecular science, contributing to many different fields. It even launched the field of genomics, which has been instrumental in helping cure various diseases.
However, while Watson is a very prominent scientist, the New York Times reports that he has also been the subject of much controversy throughout his lifetime. The most recent incident came in 2007 when, during his time as chancellor of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, Watson questioned the I.Q of black people. Though he retracted the statements, the backlash over the racial remarks forced him to step down from his position. As an act of redemption, he now plans to sell his medal and give back to the community.
Christie’s, the company that will oversee the auction, estimates the 23-karat gold medal will sell somewhere between $2.5 million and $3.5 million. This auction is part of a package that will also sell Watson’s notes for his Nobel acceptance speech, as well as the manuscript for the lecture he gave the day after he received the medal. This would be the first ever sale of a medal by a living recipient. While some of the money from the auction will be used for personal reasons, most of the proceeds will be donated to the different institutions that helped Watson on his scientific journey, such as the University of Chicago. However, even though Watson has made some truly great advancements in the world of science there are many who are still not yet ready to forgive him, donations or not.