Following an outcry from students and local media, the University of Portsmouth have decided to strip famed biologist James Watson’s name from its student halls following his deplorable comments on race.
The student accommodation is expected to be renamed after Rosalind Franklin, one of Watson’s fellow co-founders of the structure of DNA. It was in January that Watson’s startling views on race first resurfaced, noting in American Masters: Decoding Watson that his views have ‘not changed at all’ since 2007, revealing that he was ‘inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa’. Watson’s views stemmed from research on the intelligence of the continent’s people, with Watson concluding that their intelligence was ‘not really’ the same as ‘ours’.
Watson was stripped of honours bestowed upon him by a US laboratory last month and he can expect similar actions from the University of Portsmouth in the coming weeks after discussions with Unite Students, who own the building. The university and Unite Students have presented a united front on the matter with spokespersons for both organisations damning the comments in statements over recent weeks. And now, not only will Watson have his name removed from the building, but he will have his 1997 honorary degree from the university rescinded too pending confirmation from the university’s academic council.
As for Rosalind Franklin, the scientist whose namesake will replace Watson’s, it comes as further justice for the initial ignorance of her work in the 1950s. Franklin died in 1958, just aged 37, and as a result her contributions to the discovery of the concept of DNA were ignored. During her time at King’s College London, Franklin’s work on X-ray diffraction images led to Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins discovering the universally-known double-helix structure four years after Franklin died.
In 1962, the trio of scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery, but the Nobel Committee failed to recognise Franklin’s foundations for the breakthrough because she had died prior to Watson and co’s research.