Dr Watson was living at Clare College when he co-authored a paper on the DNA double helix

Dr James Watson, one of the scientists who discovered the DNA double helix, has had three honour titles removed by The Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory in light of his comments on race in a recent PBS documentary, Decoding Watson.

The New York laboratory, where Dr Watson has held multiple top-level positions until his firing in 2007, condemned Dr Watson’s remarks as “unsubstantiated and reckless” and “unsupported by science”.

In the documentary, Dr Watson claimed that genes cause a difference on average between black people and white people on IQ tests, a view which has been widely discredited within the genetics field.

The laboratory has removed Dr Watson’s titles of Chancellor Emeritus, Oliver R. Grace Professor Emeritus, and Honorary Trustee, and said that his remarks “effectively reverse the written apology and retraction Dr Watson made in 2007”.

In 2007, Dr Watson was removed as Chancellor and relieved of all administrative duties when he told The Sunday Times that the prospect of Africa was “inherently gloomy” 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”.

After his remarks were widely condemned by scientists and he was forced into retirement from the laboratory, Dr Watson has stayed largely absent from the public eye up until the documentary’s release earlier this year.


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In 1953, Dr Watson and Dr Francis Crick deduced the structure of the DNA double helix in Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory, following on from the experiments of Rosalind Franklin. Franklin’s work in X-Ray crystallography is often considered as having been unfairly overlooked in contributing to the discovery of DNA, which is hailed as one of the most important scientific discoveries of the 20th century.

Dr. Watson is an alumnus of Clare College, where he began his post-doctoral research in 1951 and became an honorary fellow in 1967. Dr. Watson had long been associated with The Cold Springs Harbour Laboratory. He became its director in 1968, its president in 1994, and rose to become chancellor a decade later.

He also shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology with Crick and Maurice Wilkins on their research on the structure of nucleic acids.

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