A Nobel Prize gold medal awarded to American biologist Dr. James Watson, a co-discoverer of DNA, is expected to sell for up to $3.5 million at an auction in New York, Christie's said on Monday.
> Watson has become the first living person to attempt to sell his Nobel Prize medal.
The prestigious medal will go under the hammer in New York on Dec. 4, with a pre-sale estimate of $2.5 million to $3.5 million.
Watson, an American, along with British scientists Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, unraveled the double-helix structure and function of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, while worked at Cambridge University in England in 1953 in a discovery that heralded the modern era of biology.
The scientists received the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1962 for their ground-breaking work.
But Watson dramatically fell out of public favor and earned huge criticism in 2007 after his comments that black people were not of equal intelligence to white people.
In an interview with The Sunday Times on October 2007, Watson said he was inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa, because of their low IQ.
He blamed the black-white equality policies and said , “All our social policies are based on the fact that their [Blacks] intelligence is the same as ours [Whites]- whereas all the testing says not really”.
He went on to say that people wanted to believe that everyone was born in equal intelligence, but those “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.”
Watson was compelled to retire as chancellor of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on New York’s Long Island and from its board of directors a week after his controversial comment.
Moreover, since the comments were published, Watson has not given any public lectures and said he was sacked from a number of roles, adding "no one really wants to admit I exist".
"Because I was an 'unperson' I was fired from the boards of companies, so I have no income, apart from my academic income," he said.
Watson insisted that he was “not a racist in a conventional way”, and said "I apologise… [the journalist] somehow wrote that I worried about the people in Africa because of their low IQ – and you're not supposed to say that."
Watson, 86, will donate part of the proceeds from the auction to charities and to support scientific research.
In addition to the medal, Watson's handwritten notes for his acceptance speech will also be offered at the auction and are expected to fetch up to $400,000, along with his manuscript and corrected drafts for his Nobel speech, which have a pre-sale estimate of $200,000 to $300,000.