Technology & Science

DNA pioneer retires following remarks on race

Nobel Prize-winning scientist James Watson retired from his position as chancellor of a prestigious research institution, a week after he was suspended following comments he made about the intelligence levels of Europeans and Africans.

Nobel Prize-winning scientist James Watson retired from his position as chancellor of a prestigious research institution, a week after he was suspended following controversial comments he made about the intelligence levels of Europeans and Africans.

James Watson, who won the Nobel Prize for co-discovering the double-helix structure of DNA, announced his departure on Thursday from his role as chancellor at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York.

The laboratory had suspended Watson after comments he made on race and intelligence in an interview with the Sunday Times Magazine of London on Oct. 14 sparked international outrage.

The magazine quoted the 79-year-old geneticist as saying he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all of our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours — whereas all the testing says not really."

He also told the paper that while he hoped all people were equal, "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true."

He later apologized during an appearance at the Royal Society in London, according to the Times of London, saying "to all those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologize unreservedly."

Watson said in a statement Thursday that his retirement was "more than overdue."

He had been with the laboratory since 1968, acting first as a director and then serving as president until 2003, when he stepped down and took on the role of chancellor.

Watson shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins for the discovery of the double-helix structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, which carries the genetic code for nearly all life forms, save for some viruses.

With files from the Associated Press