James Watson, a geneticist who won the Nobel Prize in 1962 for discovering the structure of DNA, was suspended this week from his position at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York state, after being quoted in the Times of London saying he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa,” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours—whereas all the testing says not really.”
Even if Watson, who seems believably mortified by his own words, is in fact a horrible bigot, he’s far from the only award-winner to have a less-than-illustrious record. Consider Menachem Begin, who won the Peace Prize in 1978 for helping to negotiate the Camp David Accords and who went on, in the 1980s, to authorize Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. And then there is the notorious Henry Kissinger, who received the prize in 1973 for his work on the Vietnam Peace Accords, and yet also orchestrated the secret carpet-bombing of Cambodia.
Perhaps this is all fitting somehow, considering that Alfred Nobel was the inventor of dynamite.