A scientific legend in his own time, James Watson was awarded the Nobel Prize for helping discover the structure of DNA. Tomorrow he will sell the medal for income at a Christie’s auction in New York. The sale is the first ever by a living recipient of the Nobel Prize in any field; the auction house expects the medal to fetch between $2.5 million and $3.5 million.
Watson claims he has been ostracized by the scientific and business community following some unfortunate remarks he made in 2007 about the relationship between biological race and intelligence. Now he plans to donate his auction proceeds to scientific institutions, including the University of Chicago, and to buy a David Hockney painting.
Also included in the auction will be Watson’s handwritten notes for his acceptance speech at the Nobel Prize ceremony on December 10th, 1962, in Stockholm, Sweden. A draft of the lecture he gave the following day will also be auctioned. It is expected to fetch $200,000.
Never one to shirk a controversial remark, in his 2010 Big Think interview, Watson said we are training too many scientists, not too few. He laments the loss of leisure that plagues the careers of today’s professional scientists, who are forced to overspecialize and carve out their niche, losing sight of larger dreams in the process.
To be sure, Watson himself was part of a scientific team that worked as a community to accumulate knowledge. And this makes his critique of large teams of scientists rather suspect, argues Janet D. Stemwedel is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at San José State University. Stemwedel warns that viewing Watson as a victim risks creating a dangerous “hero narrative” that justifies immoral behavior.
Read more at Scientific American
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