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Russian Who Bought James Watson’s Nobel Medal Says He’ll Give It Back

MOSCOW — Russia's richest man says he has bought James D. Watson's Nobel Prize medal at Christie's in order to return it to the scientist. Alisher Usmanov, a metal and telecommunications tycoon worth $15.8 billion according to Forbes magazine, said in remarks carried by Russian news media Tuesday that when he learned that Watson was selling the medal for charity he decided to purchase it and give it back to him. Watson's 1962 Nobel prize for the discovery of the structure of DNA sold at Christie's in a New York auction for $4.7 million, a world auction record for any Nobel. The auction house said it was the first Nobel medal that was offered at auction by a living recipient. Usmanov hailed Watson as "one of the greatest biologists in the history of mankind."

Image: Auction of Nobel Prize medal of James Watson
A handout image provided by Christie's auction house shows the front side of the Nobel Prize medal awarded to scientist James Watson in 1962. Christie's / Handout / EPA

“I wouldn’t like the medal of the distinguished scientist to be an object on sale,” Usmanov was quoted as saying by Russian news media. “Dr. Watson’s work contributed to cancer research, the illness from which my father died. It is important for me that the money that I spent on this medal will go to supporting scientific research, and the medal will stay with the person who deserved it.”

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— The Associated Press and NBC News staff