The Nobel Prize-winning DNA pioneer James Watson has resigned from his post as head of a research laboratory in New York weeks after triggering an international furore by questioning the comparative intelligence of Africans.
Dr Watson, whose comments were made during a recent British book tour, said in an email yesterday that he was retiring as head of the Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory on Long Island. He had already been suspended by the institution.
"Closer now to 80 than 79, the passing on of my remaining vestiges of leadership is more than overdue," he wrote in a message to the laboratory's board. "The circumstances in which this transfer is occurring, however, are not those which I could ever have anticipated or desired."
Continuing at his post became virtually untenable in the wake of a remark made in the course of an interview with a Sunday newspaper. Specifically, he observed that he was "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".
The Science Museum in London cancelled a lecture by Dr Watson while the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, branded his comments "racist propaganda".
Dr Watson shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for medicine with Francis Crick, a researcher at Cambridge University, and Maurice Wilkins, of King's College London, for their work nine years earlier that detailed the "double helix" structure of DNA.
"For over 40 years, Dr Watson has made immeasurable contributions to the laboratory's research and educational programmes," said Eduardo Mestre, the chairman of the laboratory's board. "The board respects his decision to retire."Reuse content