About Dr James Watson's Nobel medal

Dr James Watson's Nobel medal, which was put up for auction on Christie's.
Dr James Watson's Nobel medal, which was put up for auction on Christie's.PHOTO: CHRISTIE'S IMAGES

Six months after Russian tycoon Alisher Usmanov bought Dr James Watson's Nobel Prize medal for a record US$4.76 million (S$6.8 million) last year, he returned it to the American scientist.

Today, the 23-carat gold medal lies in a bank vault, Dr Watson told The Straits Times.

Most of the money was given to academic and research institutions, such as the University of Chicago and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, added the octogenarian who won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1962 for the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA.

"I gave the money back to the people who had helped me become successful,'' he said, adding that some of it went to charity.

His charitable impulse had prompted Mr Usmanov to return the medal to him. The Russian reportedly said: "James Watson is one of the greatest biologists in the history of mankind, and his award for the discovery of DNA structure must belong to him."

Also sold at Christie's were two of Dr Watson's manuscripts, which went for a total of over US$600,000.They were the draft notes of his Nobel Prize "Banquet" Speech, and Nobel lecture The Involvement of RNA in the Synthesis of Proteins that he gave in 1962.

Dr Watson's medal is the first to be put on sale by a living Nobel laureate. His co-winner, the late genetics pioneer Francis Crick, who died in 2004, had his medal sold for US$2.27 million in 2013. The duo had won the prize with Dr Maurice Wilkins.

Carolyn Khew

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2015, with the headline 'About Dr James Watson's Nobel medal'. Print Edition | Subscribe