James Watson, Ph.D., found the price more than right today when his Nobel Prize medal was sold at auction in New York City.
Not only did the co-discoverer of DNA’s double-helix structure become the first living researcher to auction off his medal, but he fetched the highest price ever for a Nobel medal of any seller, living or dead.
The winning $4.1 million bid, made by an anonymous buyer, exceeded projections by the auction house Christie’s that Dr. Watson’s medal would sell for between the $2.5 million reserve price and $3.5 million.
After adding the buyer’s premium, which is directed to Christie’s, Dr. Watson’s medal formally sold for $4.76 million.
In addition, Dr. Watson successfully sold the handwritten notes for his Nobel Prize acceptance speech delivered in Stockholm on December 10, 1962. Those notes fetched $365,000, below the expected $400,000—though the $245,000 he received for his manuscript and corrected drafts for his Nobel Lecture, delivered the following day, fell within the range of $200,000 to $300,000 that had been projected.
“I’m very pleased. It’s more money than I expected to give to charity,” Dr. Watson told The New York Times.
The price also exceeded the $2.27 million generated through Heritage Auctions last year for the Nobel Prize medal of Francis Crick, Ph.D. (1916-2014), his partner in the DNA discovery. That price was paid by Shanghai entrepreneur Jack Wang, who heads China-U.S. regenerative medicine technology developer Biomobie.
Dr. Watson has said he will use the proceeds from the auction for purchasing artwork; supplementing his income; and making donations to institutions. In recent days he has said these include the University of Chicago, Indiana University, Clare College Cambridge, University College Cork in Ireland, Long Island Land Trust, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL)—where Dr. Watson holds the position of chancellor emeritus.
Dr. Watson retired as CSHL’s chancellor in 2007 after the Sunday Times of London published comments in which he connected intelligence to race. By selling his Nobel Prize medal, Dr. Watson told the Financial Times late last month, he hoped the resulting publicity will enable him to “re-enter public life.”