Nobel Prize-winning scientist stripped of last honorary titles over racist comments

James Watson

James Watson

James Watson, the Nobel Prize-winning DNA scientist who lost his job in 2007 for expressing racist views, was stripped of several honorary titles on Friday by the NY lab he once headed.

The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), the NY facility where Dr Watson worked for almost four decades and which has a school named after him, said that it was acting in response to his remarks made in a television documentary which aired earlier this month.

The 90-year-old geneticist - one of three who discovered the DNA double helix - had lost his job at the NY laboratory in 2007 for expressing racist views.

"Not at all", he said in the PBS documentary American Masters: Decoding Watson, the New York Times reported.

In an interview aired on United States television earlier this month, James Watson - who won the Nobel in 1962 for his role in discovering DNA's double helix structure - said genes were responsible for a difference between black and white people on IQ tests.

"Dr Watson's statements are reprehensible, unsupported by science, and in no way represent the views of CSHL, its trustees, faculty, staff, or students", the laboratory's statement said.

The graduate school of biological sciences at the research center is named for Watson, and the laboratory held a 90th birthday party for him in the spring. He wrote an apology and retained his honorary titles of chancellor emeritus, Oliver R Grace professor emeritus and honorary trustee.

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

While having initially issued an apology for his comments, allowing him to maintain his honorary titles at the CSHL, when asked more than a decade later whether his views about race and intelligence have changed, he told the PBS documentary they haven't. He said the scientist's awareness of his surroundings were "very minimal" and rejected the notion he was a "bigot".

Watson's son Rufus said Friday in a telephone interview that his father, who's 90, was in a nursing home following an October auto crash, and that his awareness of his surroundings is "very minimal".

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.

Watson, Crick and another British scientist, Maurice Wilkins, won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1962.

The breakthrough was key to determining how genetic material works, and the double helix became a widely recognised symbol of science.

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