LONDON: In what is the first Nobel Prize medal to be put on sale by a living recipient, US scientist James Watson who was awarded the world’s most prestigious award for discovering the structure of DNA, has sold it at an auction on Saturday for $4.8 million or £3 million.
Watson received the prize in 1962 for the discovery of the structure of DNA – which encodes the instruction booklet for building a living organism.
Watson, 86, said he planned to donate part of the proceeds to charities and to support scientific research.
Christie’s auction house had earlier expected the medal to fetch around £2.2 million.
Watson is considered one of the world’s greatest living scientists, for his ground-breaking discovery in 1953, alongside Dr Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, of the structure of DNA: the double helix. Their discovery gave birth to the new science of molecular biology and revolutionized modern medicine.
“This medal represents the turning point of 20th century medicine. No single person has done more to make DNA central to modern life than Dr Watson, who wrote the first textbook of the new science, the innovative and highly influential Molecular Biology of the Gene (1965), followed by his memoir of the discovery, The Double Helix (1968) — one of the best-selling popular science books of all time. Included in this historic auction were Dr Watson’s own handwritten notes for his acceptance speech at the December 10, 1962, banquet ceremony in Stockholm and his manuscript and corrected drafts for his Nobel Lecture, delivered the following day,” Christie’s said.
On April 10, 2013, Christie’s sold Francis Crick’s “Secret of Life” letter, in which Watson’s co-discoverer explained the structure of DNA to his son a few weeks before their discovery was published, for $6,059,750, more than three times its pre-sale estimated value. It holds the world record for any letter sold at auction.
The discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA was formally announced in an elegant 800-word article by Watson and Crick in the journal Nature in April 1953.
Dr Watson said “I look forward to making further philanthropic gifts to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the University of Chicago, and Clare College Cambridge, so I can continue to do my part in keeping the academic world an environment where great ideas and decency prevail. I also intend to direct funds to the Long Island Land Trust and other local charities I have long supported”.