Scientist 'killed Amazon
indians to test race theory'
accused of letting thousands die in rainforest
Environment correspondent The Guardian, London
of South American indians were infected with measles, killing
hundreds, in order to for US scientists to study the effects on
primitive societies of natural selection, according to a book
out next month.
story of genetic research on humans, which took 10 years to uncover,
is likely to shake the world of anthropology to its core, according
to Professor Terry Turner of Cornell University, who has read
its scale, ramifications, and sheer criminality and corruption
unparalleled in the history of anthropology," Prof Turner
says in a warning letter to Louise Lamphere, the president of
the American Anthropology Association (AAA).
accuses James Neel, the geneticist who headed a long-term project
to study the Yanomami people of Venezuela in the mid-60s, of using
a virulent measles vaccine to spark off an epidemic which killed
hundreds and probably thousands.
epidemic was under way, according to the book, the research team
"refused to provide any medical assistance to the sick and
dying Yanomami, on explicit order from Neel. He insisted to his
colleagues that they were only there to observe and record the
epidemic, and that they must stick strictly to their roles as
scientists, not provide medical help".
Darkness in El Dorado by the investigative journalist Patrick
Tierney, is due to be published on October 1. Prof Turner, whose
letter was co-signed by fellow anthropologist Leslie Sponsel of
the University of Hawaii, was trying to warn the AAA of the impending
scandal so the profession could defend itself.
Neel died last February, many of his associates, some of them
authors of classic anthropology texts, are still alive.
will be the main focus of the AAA's AGM in November, when the
surviving scientists have been invited to defend their work. None
have commented publicly, but they are asking colleagues to come
to their defence.
One of the
most controversial aspects of the research which allegedly culminated
in the epidemic is that it was funded by the US atomic energy
commission, which was anxious to discover what might happen to
communities when large numbers were wiped out by nuclear war.
is no "smoking gun" in the form of texts or recorded
speeches by Neel explaining his conduct, Prof Turner believes
the only explanation is that he was trying to test controversial
eugenic theories like the Nazi scientist Josef Mengele.
another anthropologist who read the manuscript as saying:
"Mr. Tierney's analysis is a case study of the dangers in
science of the uncontrolled ego, of lack of respect for life,
and of greed and self-indulgence. It is a further extraordinary
revelation of malicious and perverted work conducted under the
aegis of the atomic energy commission."
says Neel and his group used a virulent vaccine called Edmonson
B on the Yanomani, which was known to produce symptoms virtually
indistinguishable from cases of measles.
In the memo
Prof Turner says: "One of Tierney's more startling revelations
is that the whole Yanomami project was an outgrowth and continuation
of the atomic energy commission's secret programme of experiments
on human subjects.
the originator of the project, was part of the medical and genetic
research team attached to the atomic energy commission since the
days of the Manhattan Project."
was well-known for his research into the effects of radiation
on human subjects and personally headed the team that investigated
the effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs on survivors and
to Prof Turner, the same group also secretly carried out experiments
on human subjects in the US. These included injecting people with
radioactive plutonium without their knowledge or permission.