James Watson and Francis Crick stand amongst the winners receiving their Nobel Prizes in Stockholm in 1962. From left to right: Professor Maurice Williams; Dr. Max Perutz; Dr. Francis Crick; John Steinbeck; Professor James Watson, and Dr. John C. Kendrew.
…if you have a couple million dollars lying around. According to Fine Books & Collections, Dr. James D. Watson’s 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine medal will be auctioned by Christie’s on December 4; its estimated value is between $2.5 and $3.5 million.
For those who need a memory refresher, Dr. Watson—working alongside Dr. Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins—discovered the double helix structure of DNA on February 28, 1953. In his 1968 memoir The Double Helix, Watson describes the excitement of noticing that the shapes of two pairs of the base molecules in DNA were identical. “Upon [Crick’s] arrival, Francis did not get more than halfway through the door before I let loose that the answer to everything was in our hands,” he wrote.
Watson and Crick published the news of their revolutionary discovery in an 800-word article in the scientific journal Nature that same year. This led directly to the birth of molecular biology and, therein, a groundbreaking new approach to modern medicine.
This sale marks the first time a living recipient has put his or her Nobel prize medal up for auction. As such, Watson says he plans to donate a portion of the proceeds to support scientific research, academic institutions, and other charitable causes:
I look forward to making further philanthropic gifts to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the University of Chicago, and Clare College Cambridge, so I can continue to do my part in keeping the academic world an environment where great ideas and decency prevail. I also intend to direct funds to the Long Island Land Trust and other local charities I have long supported.
The package up for auction on December 4 will include Watson’s handwritten notes for his acceptance speech at the December 10, 1962, banquet ceremony in Stockholm (worth an estimated $300,000 to $400,000) and his manuscript and corrected drafts for his Nobel Lecture, delivered the following day ($200,000 to $300,000), in addition to the Nobel Prize medal itself. Ready your checkbooks!