James Watson’s Nobel medal sold for a large sum yesterday. $4.1 million, to be exact, not counting the auction house’s cut.
Dr. Watson, 86, watched the auction open-mouthed from the back of the room with his wife and one of his sons as the bidding, which began at $1.5 million, rose steadily by $100,000 increments, eventually coming down to two phone bidders who pushed the price above $4 million.
He said before the sale that he wanted to give much of the proceeds to educational institutions that had nurtured him, to “support and empower scientific discovery.”
After the sale, he said: “I’m very pleased. It’s more money than I expected to give to charity.”
The sale also became symbolic of a quest for redemption after he became what he called an “unperson” in the scientific community seven years ago; he had told The Sunday Times of London Magazine in an interview that he was pessimistic about Africa because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours, whereas all the testing says not really.”
So unfair, isn’t it, for people to decide they don’t want to pay attention to James Watson after he said a stunningly racist thing. We’re supposed to overlook it when Our Major Geniuses say things like that.