Biologist James Watson is selling the Nobel Prize medal that he won in 1962 for discovering the double helix structure of DNA alongside Maurice Wilkins and Francis Crick. The coveted gold medal will be sold at an auction on December 4 in New York.
According to CNN, Watson’s medal will be auctioned for $3.5 million at Christie’s, and has a $2.5 million reserve price. It will be the first Nobel Prize medal ever sold by a living recipient. The auction will also include Watson’s acceptance speech notes as well as the manuscript for his Nobel lecture.
In 1952, Watson and Crick concluded that DNA was formed by strands of molecules that are twisted – the double helix. In 2013, Watson talked about the discovery.
“All we could say when we got it: It’s so beautiful! DNA was my only gold rush. I regarded DNA as worth a gold rush.”
In 2007, Watson’s income fell after he connected intelligence to race in an interview. He said that he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa,” and although social policies say that all have equal intelligence, “testing says not really.”
After his statement, he retired from the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Long Island, New York. He was also fired from boards of companies for being an “unperson.” He hasn’t delivered lectures publicly after the controversial interview.
According to Financial Times, Watson, now 85, is living on his academic income alone. He says that he intends to use a portion of the money from the Nobel Prize medal to give funds to scientific research institutions and universities that he has worked with throughout the years.
“I look forward to making further philanthropic gifts to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the University of Chicago, and Clare College Cambridge.”
Watson also stated that he would use some of the money to purchase artwork by David Hockney. He also hopes that the publicity around the sale of the Nobel Prize would give him a chance to go back to his public life.
Christie’s auctioneer, Francis Wahlgren, said that he is confident that James Watson’s medal will be sold, as memorabilia related to genetic discoveries has increased in the past few years because of biotechnology. Last year, Crick’s document, entitled “Secret of Life,” where he discussed the structure of DNA a few weeks before it was officially announced, was sold for more than $6 million.
Aside from the Nobel Prize medal, James Watson also wants his children to auction the handwritten manuscript for his book The Double Helix in the future.
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