Watson, one of the world's best-known scientists, joined the lab in 1968. The board of trustees decided at a teleconference to suspend him from "administrative duties" as chancellor, Newsday reported.
In an interview with The Sunday Times of London, Watson suggested there are racial differences in intelligence -- and specifically that Africans are less intelligent. The published remarks set off a firestorm in Britain, with a London museum canceling a scheduled talk by Watson.
Watson, who had gone to Britain for a weeklong book tour, abandoned it Friday and flew back to New York.
Watson shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1962 with British scientists Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins for their work on the structure of the DNA molecule.