James Watson is a racist

I was reminded of this recently and thought it was worth a post.

James Watson: Scientist loses titles after claims over race (bbc.com)

Watson, of Watson and Crick, is still alive, but he isn’t going around lecturing and you don’t hear much about him. He’s really old now, but it has been a long time since anyone has wanted to work with or publish things he says. He has been given numerous chances to recant his comments and refused. The sad thing is it took so long for places to strip him of honorary titles and degrees.

If anyone thinks he is speaking from authority, he is not, even though he is sort of speaking from within his field. If he had wanted to get people together and prove DNA was related to intelligence, he could have done it, because he is Watson of Watson and Crick. But even if you are an expert, if you say something that is not based on evidence, it is as worthless as someone who is sitting at a bar in New Jersey.

This also shows that it doesn’t matter how well you know the science, or how it must have felt to make one of the most important discoveries that advanced the theory of evolution. A discovery that led to us being able to categorically put an end to the completely made-up idea of race. An idea that led to a better understanding of how we found our way out of the savannah and learned to survive in every ecosystem around the globe, except for the most extreme.

Rosalind Franklin should have shared credit rather than Watson.

1 Like

I read Watson’s “The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA” ages ago, after all it was written by one of my heroes, one of the guys who discovered DNA, a veritable god among men.

I came out of that book a bit disgusted and finding my opinion of him tanking, almost like a petit betrayal.

Then with time I learned more about Rosalind Franklin. Over the years lots been written on both sides of that story, but I always found attempts to justify Watson and Cricks behavior unconvincing. He seemed as self-serving and ruthless and inconsiderate as Texas oil men going for gold.

Self-absorbed, Self-serving, self-imagined superman, which fueled Watson’s disregard for others.

Regarding Rosaline Franklin, that uppity woman who had the audacity to think she was as smart as men - (that would be Watson’s perspective) - and worse she expected to be treated with respect for her achievements, instead she was fed sexist tropes and seething contempt. Then she died and was easily swept under the rug. But her achievements and reputation couldn’t stayed buried as the old guard died off one by one.

What Rosalind Franklin truly contributed to the discovery of DNA’s structure

25 April 2023
Franklin was no victim in how the DNA double helix was solved. An overlooked letter and an unpublished news article, both written in 1953, reveal that she was an equal player.

By Matthew Cobb & Nathaniel Comfort

Concluding with:

… It is tantalizing to think how people might remember the double-helix story had Bruce’s article been published, suitably scientifically corrected. From the outset, Franklin would have been represented as an equal member of a quartet who solved the double helix, one half of the team that articulated the scientific question, took important early steps towards a solution, provided crucial data and verified the result. Indeed, one of the first public displays of the double helix, at the Royal Society Conversazione in June 1953, was signed by the authors of all three Naturepapers13,21. In this early incarnation, the discovery of the structure of DNA was not seen as a race won by Watson and Crick, but as the outcome of a joint effort.

According to journalist Horace Freeland Judson and Franklin’s biographer, Brenda Maddox, Rosalind Franklin has been reduced to the “wronged heroine” of the double helix22,23. She deserves to be remembered not as the victim of the double helix, but as an equal contributor to the solution of the structure.

Nature 616, 657-660 (2023)

Rosalind Franklin: A Crucial Contribution | Learn Science at Scitable

1 Like