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James Watson’s Nobel Prize Medal Sells at Auction for More Than $4 Million

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A Nobel Prize medal awarded to a scientist in 1962 for the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA was said to set a new record for one of the honors at an auction on Thursday.

Though Christie’s in Manhattan set the estimated haul for James D. Watson’s prize between $2.5 and $3.5 million, an anonymous bidder bought it for $4.1 million, the New York Times reports. The total rose to $4.76 million due to the buyer’s premium, which goes to the auction house. Watson, who watched from the back of the room with family members, acknowledged plans to give a portion of the proceeds to the various schools he attended to “support and empower scientific discovery.”

MORE: The Mortification of James Watson

The gifts may help rehabilitate Watson’s image. Though he made the discovery for which he won the prize at 24, the 86-year-old became persona non grata in the scientific community seven years ago when he told The Sunday Times of London that he was pessimistic about making advancements in 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.” He later apologized, saying, “There is no scientific basis for such a belief.”

Jack Wang, a chief executive of a Chinese biotech company, bought the medal that belonged to one of Watson’s partners in his discovery, Francis Crick, for $2.27 million last year.


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Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com