A Russian philanthropist revealed on Tuesday that he was the winning bidder at the auction for James Watson’s 1962 Nobel Prize last week. He said that he plans to return the medal to Watson.
Watson, 86, was awarded the Nobel Prize, along with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, for their discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA.
The buyer, Alisher Usmanov, announced through the London public relations firm Finsbury that he was the anonymous bidder who paid $4.1 million for the medal at a Christie’s auction. The total bid was $4.76 million including the commission, according to the New York Times.
Usmanov, 61, is listed by Forbes as the richest man in Russia with a net worth of $15.8 billion from investments, telecom, steel and mining.
Usmanov said he was upset that Watson was selling the medal to give proceeds to charity and he wanted to fulfill this wish without forcing Watson to give up the medal, the BBC reported.
[quote text_size=”small” author=”– Alisher Usmanov” author_title=”Buyer of Nobel medal”]
In my opinion, a situation in which an outstanding scientist has to sell a medal recognizing his achievements is unacceptable. James Watson is one of the greatest biologists in the history of humankind, and his award for the discovery of DNA structure must belong to him.
Usmanov said he contacted Watson before the auction and offered to make a cash gift to charity if he would stop the auction. Watson told him he wanted to see how the auction would play out, and the sale brought in more than Usmanov’s original offer.
Usmanov said he was motivated by his father’s death from cancer, and he valued Watson’s contributions to cancer research. He said he believes Watson’s discoveries have made invaluable contributions to curing the disease, according to the Washington Post.
Watson said before the auction that he was motivated to sell the medal for charity to help restore his reputation. He said he had become an outcast in the scientific community after he was quoted in 2007 linking race to intelligence and saying that he believes some races are less intelligent than others. He had apologized for his remarks.