Cold Spring Harbor Lab Revokes Watson’s Honorary Titles

In response to recent comments made by Dr. James Watson, the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory announced Friday that it had stripped the Nobel Prize winning scientist of his honorary titles.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory said it “Unequivocally rejects the unsubstantiated and reckless personal opinions Dr. James D. Watson expressed on the subject of ethnicity and genetics during the PBS documentary “American Masters: Decoding Watson” that aired Jan. 2.

“Dr. Watson’s statements are reprehensible, unsupported by science, and in no way represent the views of CSHL, its trustees, faculty, staff, or students. The Laboratory condemns the misuse of science to justify prejudice.”

The lab’s most recent actions announced Friday include  revoking his honorary titles of Chancellor Emeritus, Oliver R. Grace Professor Emeritus, and Honorary Trustee.

Watson, who is 90, expressed offensive racist views in 2007, and the lab responded by  relieving him of all administrative duties at the Laboratory and terminated his status as Chancellor.

Asked on last week’s program if he had changed his views, he replied, “No. Not at all. I would like for them to have changed, that there be new knowledge that says that your nurture is much more important than nature. But I haven’t seen any knowledge. And there’s a difference on the average between blacks and whites on I.Q. tests. I would say the difference is, it’s genetic.’’

Watson adds that he takes no pleasure in “the difference between blacks and whites” and wishes it didn’t exist. “It’s awful, just like it’s awful for schizophrenics,” he says. “If the difference exists, we have to ask ourselves, how can we try and make it better?”

When Watson expressed offensive views in 2007, CSHL’s Board of Trustees took immediate action to relieve him of all administrative duties at the Laboratory and terminated his status as Chancellor.

Watson has not been involved in the leadership or management of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory for more than a decade and he has no further roles or responsibilities at CSHL.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory said that it acknowledges and appreciates Dr. Watson’s substantial scientific legacy, including his role as founding director of the Human Genome Project and his critical leadership in the development of research and education at the Laboratory during his prior tenure as Director and President.

“Nonetheless, the statements he made in the documentary are completely and utterly incompatible with our mission, values, and policies, and require the severing of any remaining vestiges of his involvement,” the lab said.

“Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory respects and upholds the rights, abilities, and potential of all human beings. With this commitment to respect and equality, CSHL will continue its mission to advance the frontiers of biology through research and education programs for the benefit of humanity,” the lab said.

UPDATED: Watson is one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA in 1953 with Francis Crick and Rosalind Franklin. Watson, Crick, and Maurice Wilkins were awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material.”

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