James Watson (right) has long been considered among the most influential of 20th-century scientists for co-discovering the structure of DNA in 1953. He spent much of his career at the noted Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Over the last decade or so, Watson started sharing his views that black people are less intelligent than others, as well as views on women and other groups, that have outraged many. As his views became more bigoted, Cold Spring Harbor has cut ties to him and taken away some of his past honors. Some thought Watson would renounce some of his past statements in a documentary that aired this month, but he stood by them.
That prompted a new statement by the laboratory, which said in part, “The laboratory has taken additional steps, including revoking his honorary titles of chancellor emeritus, Oliver R. Grace Professor Emeritus, and honorary trustee. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory 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 statement also said that the laboratory “unequivocally rejects the unsubstantiated and reckless personal opinions Dr. James D. Watson expressed on the subject of ethnicity and genetics … Watson’s statements are reprehensible, unsupported by science.”