Nobel laureate biologist James Watson was suspended Friday from his longtime post at a research laboratory and canceled his planned British book tour after controversial comments that black people are not as intelligent as white people.
Watson has apologized for the controversial remarks.
He failed to appear to a book signing at a London bookshop Friday afternoon, and organizers of his planned Sunday evening talk at Newcastle’s Center for Life said they had been informed Watson would not appear because he was already on a flight home to the States.
The biologist apologized “unreservedly” Thursday for his comments and said he was “mortified” by the words attributed to him.
“I cannot understand how I could have said what I am quoted as having said,” Watson said during an appearance at the Royal Society in London. “I can certainly understand why people, reading those words, have reacted in the ways that they have.”
“To all those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologize unreservedly. That is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief.”
Watson was expected to sign copies of his new book, Avoid Boring People: Lessons from a Life in Science, at Blackwell bookshop in central London Friday afternoon but failed to appear. Soon afterward, a spokeswoman for the Center for Life in Newcastle, where Watson was expected to speak Sunday night, said they had been told Watson was canceling all speaking engagements and was already flying home.
Center spokeswoman Julia Hankin said they were disappointed.
“We welcomed the opportunity to discuss his controversial comments,” Hankin said. “We had hoped for a rigorous and lively debate.”
Late Thursday, The 1990 Trust, a British civil rights group, called for a boycott of Watson’s books and pressure to be put on venues to cancel his planned appearances.