After much hubbub over the sale of his Nobel prize for the discovery of the DNA's double helix, James Watson was parted from his medal for all of a few days. Bloomberg reports that Alisher Usmanov -- owner of the Arsenal soccer club, richest man in Russia, and purchaser of Watson's Nobel for $4.1 million -- plans on returning the scientist's prize.
Watson put his prize (along with two documents related to the award, which another buyer spent over $600,000 on) on the auction block because he'd been ostracized from the academic community. He blames a 2007 interview where he expressed the belief that some races are less intelligent than others. But others say he has a long list of sexist and racist remarks under his belt, and that his contributions to science shouldn't excuse him.
"In my opinion, a situation in which an outstanding scientist has to sell a medal recognizing his achievements is unacceptable,” Usmanov said in a statement. “James Watson is one of the greatest biologists in the history of mankind and his award for the discovery of DNA structure must belong to him."
Usmanov said that he'd been motivated by his father's death from cancer -- a disease he believes that Watson's discoveries have made invaluable contributions to curing.
When you include the commission charged by the auction house, Usmanov's gesture cost him nearly $5 million. But with a net worth of nearly $19 billion, I guess that's not such a big deal.
"It is important for me that the money that I spent on this medal will go to supporting scientific research, and the medal will stay with the person who deserved it," he said in a statement. Indeed, Watson has said he intends to donate most of the money to academic institutions -- presumably so he can regain positions of influence there.
Who knows, maybe the sale of Watson's cherished award will become an annual thing.