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DNA Pioneer Stripped of Honors Over ‘Reprehensible’ Race Comments

14 January 2019

Nobel Prize-winning American scientist James Watson, who helped discover the stranded double-helix of DNA, has had several honorary titles stripped from him by the laboratory in which he worked after making non-scientific, racist assertions, including those detailed in a new documentary film.

The lab added: 'Dr Watson's statements are reprehensible, unsupported by science, and in no way represent the views of CSHL, its trustees, faculty, staff, or students.

He had told a magazine in 2007 he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" as "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - where all the testing says not really". "The Laboratory condemns the misuse of science to justify prejudice", the laboratory said in a statement Friday.

Dr Watson shared the 1962 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine for the 1953 discovery that DNA is formed of an elegant double helix.

However, the laboratory's decision to revoke Watson's honours and titles is the result of American Masters: Decoding Watson, a PBS documentary that aired in the USA earlier this month.

While Dr Watson also said he hoped everyone was equal, he added: "People who have to deal with black employees find this is not true".

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

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In 1997, Britain's Sunday Telegraph quoted him as saying that women should be allowed to abort a child for any reason, such as if a gene for homosexuality were found in the fetus.

Michael Wigler, a veteran molecular biologist at the laboratory, said that Watson's views on race were not newsworthy in the first place. And there's a difference on the average between blacks and whites on IQ tests. His collaboration with Francis Crick at Cambridge...

It said it had revoked three honorary titles, including chancellor emeritus and honorary trustee.

An apology and retraction was issued by Watson that year following worldwide public outcry, although reports noted the scientists' statement rang false.

"The statements he made in the documentary are completely and utterly incompatible with our mission, values, and policies, and require the severing of any remaining vestiges of his involvement", Simons and Stillman said.

CNN has attempted to reach Watson for comment. But in 2014, Watson auctioned off his Nobel medal for $4.1 million, after years of being shunned by the scientific community.

But leading geneticists say that even modern DNA studies are now unable to validate such hypotheses about differences between human populations.

DNA Pioneer Stripped of Honors Over ‘Reprehensible’ Race Comments