The richest man in Russia, Alisher Usmanov, 61, has revealed press that he was the anonymous bidder that bought through the telephone Dr Watson’s Nobel Prize medal on December 4 and that he plans to give it back to its initial owner. Mr Usmanov said he felt that Dr Watson’s situation was “unacceptable”.
The Russian businessman also added that the DNA Nobel Prize laureate “deserved” his medal and the fact that he had to sell it has profoundly “distressed” him.
The medal was awarded to Dr Watson in 1962 for his groundbreaking discovery of DNA’s double helix structure and it was sold at a Christie’s auction house in Manhattan for $4.1 million. Dr Watson’s medal is the first medal to be auctioned by its living initial holder.
Before the auction, Mr Watson, 86, told press that he was selling his medal to have money to give to charity, and especially to support scientific research.
After he sold his medal, the DNA pioneer said that the huge sum meant he could continue to do his part in keeping the academic world an environment where “great ideas and decency prevail”. He also added that he was planning to direct the funds to several local charities that he had long supported such as the Long Island Land Trust.
People say that Dr Watson also wanted to sell his medal in an attempt to redeem himself in the eyes of the scientific community because seven years ago he made some statements in an interview that turned him into an “unperson” among his fellow scientists. Back then he told reporters that Western World should not treat equally the African people since DNA tests had shown the African IQ is not at all equal to the Western one. Dr Watson said he was sorry several times and that he didn’t mean to say that the African continent was in any way genetically inferior – a fact actually unsupported by scientific evidence.
Christie’s also auctioned some of the Dr Watson’s scientific papers for $365.000 and his public speech notes from the day he was awarded the Nobel prize for $365.000. Both assets were bought by an anonymous buyer different from Mr Usmanov.
Alisher Usmanov is CEO of Gazprominvestholding, owner of Russia’s largest iron ore producer (Metallinvest Holding Co), and technology investor (Alibaba, Mail.ru, Facebook, Twitter, Zynga and Groupon). He is also co-owner of UK’s Arsenal Football Club. Earlier this year, his current fortune was estimated by Forbes at $18.6 billion.