Sunday, November 04, 2007

Born to Offend: characteristics shared by Nobel Prize winners James Watson and the late William Shockley

(I have written about James Watson at length in this article:

Both co-winners of Nobel Prizes awarded for discoveries that have changed the world that we live in (Watson was a member of the team that discovered the structure of DNA and Shockley was a co-inventor of the transistor)

Both men of science

Both atheists

Both thought to be/have been racists because of comments made about the mental capabilities of black people with African heritage

Both linked in some way with the autism spectrum; Watson apparently has an autist in his family and Shockley has been identified as a “high systemizer” and “low empathizer” by one of the world’s leading experts on autism

Both invited to be sperm donors with the now defunct sperm bank “The Repository for Germinal Choice” popularly known as the “Nobel Prize Sperm Bank” (Shockley publicly acknowledged that he donated)

Both have been described as advocates of eugenics

Both concerned about the issue of stupidity in humans

Both made many enemies when expressing opinions and paid a price for this (Watson was recently suspended from a position at a research laboratory following a controversy, and according to legend Shockley’s effigy was burned in a protest by university students)

Both married with offspring

References and further reading
Aldhous, Peter (2007) DNA’s messengers. New Scientist. October 20th 2007. number 2626. p.55 – 59.

Baron-Cohen, Simon (2003) The essential difference. Penguin Books.

BBC News (2007) Lab suspends DNA pioneer Watson. BBC News. October 19th 2007.

Manier, Jeremy (2007) Peers horrified by famed scientist’s race remarks. October 19th 2007.,0,4157889.story?coll=chi_mezz
[Watson and Shockley both mentioned in story]

Plotz, David (2005) The genius factory: unravelling the mysteries of the Nobel Prize sperm bank. Simon & Schuster UK. 2005.

Randerson, James (2007) Race row professor resigns from laboratory post. Guardian Unlimited. October 26th 2007.

Sternberg, Robert J. (2007) Race and intelligence: not a case of black and white. New Scientist. October 27th 2007, number 2627.
[Watson and Shockley compared in this article]

Wade, Nicholas (2007) DNA pioneer Watson gets own genome map. International Herald Tribune: Americas. June 1st 2007.

copyright Lili Marlene 2007

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