Nobel medal awarded for DNA breakthrough goes up for auction

The 1962 Nobel Prize awarded to James Watson for his role in discovering the structure of DNA will be auctioned by Christie's Dec. 4


Want to get your hands on James Watson's Noble Prize gold medal?

Christie's New York will be auctioning off Watson's 1962 medal Dec. 4 and projects it will bring a bid of between $2.5 million to $3.5 million. The medal was awarded for Watson's groundbreaking discovery, alongside Dr. Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, of the structure of DNA: the double helix.

A Nobel Prize medal has never been offered for sale by a living recipient. The family of Dr. Crick, who died in 2004, sold his medal at auction in 2013 for $2.27 million.

Watson's life has to some degree been defined by the discovery and he has worked tirelessly to promote one of the most important scientific discoveries of the 20th century. He wrote the first textbook of the new DNA science, the innovative and highly influential Molecular Biology of the Gene (1965), followed by his memoir of the discovery, The Double Helix (1968) -- one of the best-selling popular science books of all time.

The auction will also include Watson's own handwritten notes for his acceptance speech at the December 10, 1962, banquet ceremony in Stockholm (estimate: $300,000 - $400,000), and his manuscript and corrected drafts for his Nobel Lecture, delivered the following day (estimate: $200,000 - $300,000).

"These unique papers offer intimate insights into the creative mind of Dr. Watson, " Christie's said in a statement.

The auction comes more than a year after Christie's sold Francis Crick's "Secret of Life" letter, in which Watson's co-discoverer explained the structure of DNA to his son a few weeks before their discovery was published. It was sold for nearly $6.1 million, more than three times its pre-sale estimated value. It holds the world record for any letter sold at auction.

Watson plans to donate some of the proceeds to continue his support of scientific research, academic institutions, and other charitable causes, including Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the University of Chicago, Clare College Cambridge and the Long Island Land Trust.

  • Michael Casey

    Michael Casey covers the environment, science and technology for