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DNA Biologist James Watson's Nobel Prize Sells for $4.8 Million at Auction

An anonymous bidder is paying a record price of $4,757,000 for a Nobel Prize medal that was sold on behalf of controversial biologist James Watson.
Image: James Watson
Biologist James Watson peers through a model of the DNA molecule during a visit to Berlin in 2004.AP file

An anonymous telephone bidder is paying a record $4,757,000 for a Nobel Prize medal that was sold Thursday on behalf of controversial biologist James Watson, who won the prize in 1962 for his role in discovering the double-helix structure of DNA, the Christie's auction house reported. Christie's said two of the manuscripts that Watson prepared for the Nobel ceremonies brought in an additional $610,000 during Thursday's New York auction.

The sale marked the first time a living Nobel laureate sold his gold medal, and the price tag (which includes the buyer's premium) exceeded the $2.2 million that was paid out last year for the medal once owned by Watson's late colleague, Francis Crick. Last month, Watson told the Financial Times that he was selling his medal because he had become an "unperson" in the wake of widely vilified remarks he made in 2007 implying that Africans had low intelligence. "I was fired from the boards of companies, so I have no income, apart from my academic income,” he said. Watson, 86, said some of the proceeds would be donated to institutions that had nurtured his career.



— Alan Boyle