cj#1133> Scientist ‘killed Yanomami to test race theory’


Richard Moore


    In the memo he 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.

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Date: Tue, 26 Sep 2000 20:49:55 -0700
To: •••@••.•••
From: "Peter Coombes" <•••@••.•••> 
(by way of Rycroft & Pringle <•••@••.•••>)
Subject: Justice.int-- Guardian: Scientist 'killed Yanomami  to test
  race theory' funded by US atomic energy commission
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The Guardian
Saturday September 23, 2000

Scientist 'killed Amazon indians to test race theory'

Geneticist accused of letting thousands die in rainforest

Paul Brown, Environment correspondent
Saturday September 23, 2000

Thousands 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.

The astonishing 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 the proofs.

"In its scale, ramifications, and sheer criminality and
corruption it is unparalleled in the history of
anthropology," Prof Turner says in a warning letter to
Louise Lamphere, the president of the American Anthropology
Association (AAA).

The book 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

Once the 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

The book, 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.

Although Neel died last February, many of his associates,
some of them authors of classic anthropology texts, are
still alive.

The accusations 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.

While there 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.

He quotes 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

Prof Turner 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

"Medical experts, when informed that Neel and his group used
the vaccine in question on the Yanomami, typically refuse to
believe it at first, then say that it is incredible that
they could have done it, and are at a loss to explain why
they would have chosen such an inappropriate and dangerous
vaccine," he writes.

"There is no record that Neel sought any medical advice
before applying the vaccine. He never informed the
appropriate organs of the Venezuelan government that his
group was planning to carry out a vaccination campaign, as
he was legally required to do.


"Neither he nor any other member of the expedition has ever
explained why that vaccine was used, despite the evidence
that it actually caused or, at a minimum, greatly
exacerbated the fatal epidemic."

Prof Turner says that Neel held the view that "natural"
human society, as seen before the advent of large-scale
agriculture, consists of small, genetically isolated groups
in which dominant genes - specifically a gene he believed
existed for "leadership" or "innate ability" - have a
selective advantage.

In such an environment, male carriers of this gene would
gain access to a disproportionate number of females,
reproducing their genes more frequently than less "innately
able" males. The result would supposedly be a continual
upgrading of the human genetic stock.

He says Neel believed that in modern societies "superior
leadership genes would be swamped by mass genetic

"The political implication of this fascistic eugenics is
clearly that society should be reorganised into small
breeding isolates in which genetically superior males could
emerge into dominance, eliminating or subordinating the male
losers in the competition for leadership and women, and
amassing harems of brood females." Prof Turner adds.

In the memo he 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.

"Neel, 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."

James Neel 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 their children.

According 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.


"This nightmarish story - a real anthropological heart of
darkness beyond the imagining of even a Joseph Conrad
(though not, perhaps, a Josef Mengele) - will be seen
(rightly in our view) by the public, as well as most
anthropologists, as putting the whole discipline on trial,"
he says.

"This book should... cause the field to understand how the
corrupt and depraved protagonists could have spread their
poison for so long while they were accorded great respect
throughout the western world... This should never be allowed
to happen again."

Yesterday Professor Turner told the Guardian it was
unfortunate that the confidential memo had been leaked, but
it had accomplished its original purpose in getting a full
response from the AAA.

A public forum would be held at its AGM in November to
discuss the book its revelations and courses of action.

In a statement yesterday the association said "The AAA is
extremely concerned about these allegations. If proven true
they would constitute a serious violation of Yanomami human
rights and our code of ethics. Until there is a full and
impartial review and discussion of the issues raised in the
book, it would be unfair to express a judgment about the
specific allegations against individuals that are contained
in it.

"The association is anticipating conducting an open forum
during our annual meeting to provide an opportunity for our
members to review and discuss the issues and allegations
raised in the book."