Watson His Mind?

Co-discoverer of DNA, Prof. James Watson, will face protests from students when he returns to Cambridge this week for his controversial views

badger Clare dna eugenics fara racism science watson

Prof. James Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, is facing an icy reception when he returns to Clare College on Tuesday – for his view on eugenics.

Watson, 82, an Honorary Fellow of Clare, is due to deliver a talk entitled “Rules for Doing Science”, but will face a silent protest from students for his strong opinions.

The prof was lambasted in 2007 though, when he said in an interview with The Sunday Times: “[I am] inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa [because] all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours—whereas all the testing says not really.”

These comments led to him having to resign from his position as President of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York.

Never far from controversy in his career, other pearls of wisdom have included:

– “People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would be great.”

– “Whenever you interview fat people, you feel bad, because you know you’re not going to hire them.”

– “If you are really stupid, I would call that a disease.”


Watson and his sculpture in Clare

But he is still highly regarded in Cambridge.  As well as being an Honorary Fellow, Watson is commemorated by a sculpture of a double helix outside of Clare’s Memorial Court accommodation.

The protest is being arranged by Clare second year Ed Bentsi-Enchill, who said: “this is a man who does not reflect Clare’s ideals of inclusiveness and diversity and should not be allowed to speak at the College.”

In response, Clare’s Master, Tony Badger, pointed out that Clare students get the opportunity of internships at Cold Spring Harbor Lab thanks to the generous donation of Watson.

He added: “You will see that in my position it would be hypocritical for me not to welcome Watson back to his own College.”

Senior Tutor Patricia Fara echoed Badger, saying: “this is an intellectual community, and one of its fundamental principles is that differences should be negotiated through dialogue and reasoned argument.

“Professor Watson is an internationally distinguished scientist: in my opinion, the fact that he has expressed some views that you disagree with is not a good reason for encouraging others to boycott every occasion at which he appears.”

Watson’s talk is due to begin at 5.30 in the Gillespie Centre at Clare. The silent protest will start outside at 5.