James Watson gifted his own Nobel medal by billionaire

Arsenal shareholder Usmanov paid $4.1m but also returned medal


The Russian billionaire who paid $4.1 million at auction for James Watson’s Nobel Prize medal has decided to give it back to the scientist.

The medal “will stay with the person who deserved it”, said Alisher Usmanov the Uzbek-born Russian businessman who has a net worth of $19.6 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index for 2013.

He set records buying the medal at a Christie’s auction on December 4th where it was expected to sell for between $2.5-3.5 million.

Watson put it up for sale, saying it was in part atonement for having made careless comments about blacks in Africa having a lower IQ. He also said we wanted the money to contribute to research centres and to buy art, in a recent interview with the Financial Times.

Usmanov said the medal would return to its rightful owner. “I wouldn’t’ like the medal of the distinguished scientist to be an object on sale,” he said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

And Watson would be able to go ahead with his plan to donate proceeds from the sale to research institutions that “had nurtured him”, the billionaire said. These include the University of Chicago where he began his science career and other centres such as Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory on Long Island.

He described Watson as “one of the greatest biologists in the history of mankind”. His work had contributed directly to support cancer research.

“Watson said he would give the money to research institutions and [USMANOV]believes this will support more cancer research,” a spokeswoman for him said today. “His father died of it.”

Usmanov is a major philanthropist and has been named the most charitable giver in Russia by Bloomberg in 2014. He also ranks as that country’s richest man.

The oligarch built his wealth through metal and mining operations and investments in publishing houses mobile phone companies and an internet company. He is also a shareholder in Arsenal Football Club.

James Watson won the Nobel Prize with Francis Crick for the discovery of the structure of the genetic material DNA. Crick’s own Nobel medal came up for auction in 2013 and was sold to a Shanghai businessman for $2 million.