The University of Illinois has capitulated to faculty complaints and rescinded a speaking invitation to Nobel Laureate James Watson, who has ruffled feathers with past comments about race.
Watson is famous for co-discovering the double-helix structure of DNA, but even a preemptive email stating that he would be giving a "narrowly focused scientific talk" failed to assuage faculty concerns.
The issue is that outside of the research lab, Watson isn't the same admirable figure: He has made all manner of offensive and racist comments. In a 2007 interview he said he was "gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours — whereas all the testing says not really." He also said he hopes everyone is equal but "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true." He apologized but has made other tasteless, sexist comments that call into question his character and judgment — but not his scientific expertise.
As CampusReform.org's Adam Sabes reports, Watson is known primarily for co-discovering the double-helix structure of DNA along with Francis Crick, but had offered to give a “narrowly focused scientific talk” at the school’s Institute for Genomic Biology about his recent cancer research, Institute Director Gene Robinson told The News-Gazette of Champaign-Urbana, adding that he considered the offer “carefully” before deciding to accept.