Russian billionaire to return Watson’s Nobel Prize medal

Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov has revealed that he was the anonymous buyer of James Watson's Nobel Prize medal – adding that he planned to give it straight back to the biologist behind the discovery of DNA.

James Watson won the prize in 1962 for his work at Cambridge University alongside Francis Crick, but has made headlines more recently with a string of controversial comments. He sold the medal for a record-breaking $4.1 million earlier this month.

On Tuesday, Usmanov – who is Russia's richest man – said he planned to give the gold medal back to its "rightful holder".

James Watson
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James Watson

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"In my opinion, a situation in which an outstanding scientist sells a medal recognising his achievements is unacceptable," Usmanov said in a statement.

"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."

He added that he"highly valued" Watson's work, in particular his research into cancer, the disease which killed Usmanov's father.

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In November, Watson told the Financial Times that he had become an "unperson" following comments in which he suggested that people with African heritage were less intelligent than white people.

The scientist said his income had fallen following the remarks, which saw him retire from his role at the Cold Sping Harbor Laboratory in New York.