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Yesterday marked the 70th anniversary of one of the most remarkable scientific achievements in recent history—James Watson and Francis Crick’s co-discovery of the double-helical structure of DNA:
The discovery in 1953 of the double helix, the twisted-ladder structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), by James Watson and Francis Crick marked a milestone in the history of science and gave rise to modern molecular biology, which is largely concerned with understanding how genes control the chemical processes within cells. In short order, their discovery yielded ground-breaking insights into the genetic code and protein synthesis. During the 1970s and 1980s, it helped to produce new and powerful scientific techniques, specifically recombinant DNA research, genetic engineering, rapid gene sequencing, and monoclonal antibodies, techniques on which today’s multi-billion dollar biotechnology industry is founded. Major current advances in science, namely genetic fingerprinting and modern forensics, the mapping of the human genome, and the promise, yet unfulfilled, of gene therapy, all have their origins in Watson and Crick’s inspired work.
The famous DNA double-helix is not only a breakthrough in biology, it has become iconic in our culture, symbolizing the nexus between life and information:
Here is American James Watson talking about the discovery, for which he won a Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1962 along with co-discoverer Francis Crick, a British physicist.
As with too many things in the contemporary Globalist American Empire, the remarkable and inspiring story of Watson and Crick’s discovery has been partially overshadowed and sullied by a desperate attempt at politically correct revisionism. The politically correct narrative is that evil, sexist Watson and Crick “stole” the discovery from British chemist and X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin.
While Rosalind Franklin was a phenomenal scientist in her own right, the notion that Watson and Crick “stole” the DNA discovery from her is overblown and politicized. At most, Watson and Crick looked at some of her data and this data helped them to arrive at DNA’s true structure. For those interested, the following Twitter thread gives a fair account of what credit is due where in relation to Franklin’s contributions:
Many ppl believe that Watson and Crick stole Franklin’s data when Watson glimpsed Photograph 51. Told in Watson’s The Double Helix (1968), this is not true (NC, forthcoming, shows the book is semi-fictional). But Photograph 51 is widespread in culture, eg on a UK 50p piece. 2/23 pic.twitter.com/SUkRzwDlZm
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) April 25, 2023
We found a 1953 letter to Crick from a student at King’s, implying that Franklin knew her MRC report data would be shared with Watson and Crick, and was relaxed about this. We found no evidence that she felt robbed—and this letter suggests that she did not feel this way. 7/23 pic.twitter.com/tqi2iqZ82O
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) April 25, 2023
To get a sense of how extensively the Rosalind Franklin “sexism” narrative has seeped into the story of the structure of DNA’s discovery, take a look at the top news search results for Watson and Crick on the 70th anniversary of their historic scientific breakthrough:
The manufactured sexism controversy was just a drop in the bucket compared to what was in store for Nobel laureate and co-discoverer of DNA structure, James Watson.
Indeed, James Watson was subject to one of the very first and most vicious and extensive cancellation campaigns in our nation’s history. His offense? Addressing the question of Africa with an aloof scientist’s obliviousness to certain religiously guarded taboos surrounding the subject. The following is a relevant excerpt of his offending comments that were published as part of a 2007 Sunday Times profile on the famous scientist:
He says that he is “inherently gloomy about the prospect of 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”, and I know that this “hot potato” is going to be difficult to address. His hope is that everyone is equal, but he counters that “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”. He says that you should not discriminate on the basis of colour, because “there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level”. He writes that “there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so.”
Leaving aside the only scientifically relevant question of whether Watson’s assertions were true (he’s just a Nobel laureate DNA expert, what would he know), they were certainly impolite and politically inadvisable. The profound retaliatory response to Watson’s 2007 statements marked one of the very first major mobilizations of the modern cancellation machine.
Immediately after his remarks became public, the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory fired Watson, despite Watson having served as the Laboratory’s President and Director for over 35 years. Egged on by a menacing media, politicians and scientists condemned Watson. Speaking engagements dried up, and Watson, once one of the most revered living scientists, became something of a pariah. The Science Museum of London cancelled a sold-out speech Watson was set to deliver, and Rockefeller University cancelled another speaking engagement. Eric Lander, director of Harvard and MIT’s Broad Institute, elicited a furor for simply acknowledging Watson’s productive participation in the early days of the Human Genome Project. Under tremendous pressure, Lander apologized, assuring the Broad Insitute that “I reject his [Watson’s] views as despicable… they have no place in science, which must welcome everyone. I was wrong to toast, and I’m sorry.”
Watson further enraged the collective regime when, in a January 2019 PBS documentary title “American Masters: Decoding Watson” Watson refused to grovel and apologize for his offending remarks ten years prior. NY Times:
And yet, offered the chance recently to recast a tarnished legacy, Dr. Watson has chosen to reaffirm it, this time on camera. In a new documentary, “American Masters: Decoding Watson,” to be broadcast on PBS on Wednesday night, he is asked whether his views about the relationship between race and intelligence have changed.
“No,’’ Dr. Watson said. “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.’’
Dr. 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. (His son Rufus was diagnosed in his teens with schizophrenia.) Dr. Watson continues: “If the difference exists, we have to ask ourselves, how can we try and make it better?”
See 1:14:38 of the following for the video clip:
Watson’s refusal to apologize reignited and escalated the firestorm against him. Coldspring Laboratory, the lab that Watson directed for 35 years and that had fired him after his initial comments, took matters a step further by severing all ties with Watson, and stripping him of all previous awards and titles (emphasis ours):
When Watson, co-discoverer with Francis Crick of DNA’s double helix structure, first made the offensive (and scientifically baseless) statements in 2007, CSHL, which Watson had saved from ruin and built into a leader in biological research, took away his administrative duties and rescinded his status as chancellor. In its latest step, it revoked his honorary titles of chancellor emeritus, Oliver R. Grace Professor Emeritus, and honorary trustee. It did so, the statement said, because Watson’s remarks in the documentary, which was filmed from 2016 to 2018, “effectively reverse the written apology and retraction Dr. Watson made in 2007,” when he expressed remorse for his racist assertions.
In a statement, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s CEO Bruce Stillman and the chair of its board of trustees Marilyn Simons said the lab “unequivocally rejects the unsubstantiated and reckless personal opinions Dr. James D. Watson expressed on the subject of ethnicity and genetics” in the PBS documentary. The 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.”
Such was James Watson’s destitute status in the aftermath of his cancellation that he became the first Nobel laureate to sell his Nobel prize:
James Watson, known to many as one of the “fathers of DNA” for his scientific discoveries, is putting his Nobel prize on the auction block this Thursday with a reserve price of $2.5 million. Why part with the prestigious award now, over 50 years after winning it? After all, no living recipient of the award has ever sold it before.
In short, Watson said some racist things back in 2007, and the publication of those comments had an impact on his income. In what certainly has the appearance of the most passive aggressive gesture of all time, Watson is selling his award in the hopes it will bolster the income he receives from his academic appointments – and perhaps finance the purchase of some new artwork.
But the 86-year-old Watson, who told the Financial Times that he’d become an “unperson” after his 2007 remarks (more on those in a second), isn’t getting much sympathy: Instead, the widely publicized sale is drawing attention to the very comments that got him ostracized from academia in the first place.
Of all people, a Russian oligarch called Alisher Usmanov had the decency to buy Watson’s Nobel Prize at auction and return it to the beleaguered scientist.
James D. Watson, Ph.D., has been reunited with the Nobel Prize he sold at auction last year—a medal he won in 1962 for co-discovering DNA’s double-helix structure.
The winning bidder—Alisher Usmanov, a billionaire listed by Forbes as Russia’s richest man—said today he has followed through on a promise to return the prize to Dr. Watson. Usmanov, the founder of USM Holdings and a philanthropist, made the winning $4.1 million bid, but quickly said he would give the prize back to Dr. Watson because he was one of history’s greatest biologists.
“It was a huge honor for me to be able to show my respect for a scientist who has made an invaluable contribution to the development of modern science. These kinds of awards must remain with their original recipients,” Usmanov said in a statement.
Dr. Watson stated that he was deeply moved by the action: “I am immensely grateful to Mr. Usmanov for such a generous gesture. It is the highest praise I could receive for my work following the discovery of the structure of DNA.”
The first living researcher to auction his Nobel medal, Dr. Watson fetched the highest price ever for a Nobel medal by anyone, living or dead.
The sorry tale of James Watson invites us to reflect upon the fact that America viciously cancelled and unreasoned its most distinguished living scientist. In Watson’s state of destitution and need, no wealthy American came to his aid—rather, it took a Russian oligarch to do the right thing and purchase his medal and give it back to him. This compounds our national disgrace and invites us to wonder whether a nation that treats its great scientists in such a manner can continue to lead the world in the 21st Century—it invites us to consider the still more provocative question over whether such a country deserves to lead the world.