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Nobel Prize Sold (and Returned!)

December 12th, 2014

Dr. James Watson. Photo credit: National Institutes of Health public domain

Wanted a Nobel prize for Christmas? You just missed your chance. For the first time ever a Nobel Prize winner — who’s still alive — sold his medal …

… for $4.75 million !

Dr. James Watson, an American who was one of the winners of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1962 , discovered the double-helix structure of DNA which explains how genetic traits are passed from generation to generation. It’s considered one of the most important scientific breakthroughs of the 20th century.

To learn more about DNA, this is a good website too: Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah Health Sciences department.

Why did Dr. Watson sell his hard-earned medal?

A few different reasons, one of them being that he wanted to donate some of the money to schools to promote research.

Alisher Usmanov. Photo: Mary Lan-Nguyen via Wiki Commons

The twist in this story is that a Russian billionaire, Alisher Usmanov, bought the medal at an auction at Christie’s (a famous auction house) … and is giving it back to Dr. Watson!

Mr. Usmanov said, “In my opinion, a situation in which an outstanding scientist has to sell a medal recognizing his achievements is unacceptable. 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.”

The money will still go to research.

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