Bizarre picture unfolds of scientist in sex case Gajdusek wrote often about ties with boys

April 09, 1996|By Scott Higham and Marcia Myers | Scott Higham and Marcia Myers,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Jonathan S. Bor, Joe Matthews, Diana K. Sugg and Timothy B. Wheeler contributed to this article.

Since his arrest by FBI agents last week on charges that he sexually abused a boy he brought back from Micronesia, a bizarre, complicated picture of the brilliant, gregarious Nobel Laureate Daniel Carleton Gajdusek is beginning to emerge.

Colleagues were in awe of the scientist's genius. But privately, some wondered whether the man they knew as Carleton was too close to the sexually active boys he was studying and why he brought so many back to live with him in Maryland -- first in Chevy Chase, then in Frederick County.

"In Carleton's case, since he was so candid in his journals, it didn't take much reading between the lines to realize that he enjoyed the attention he got from these boys," said Terence Hays, an anthropology professor at Rhode Island College who has known Dr. Gajdusek for more than 25 years.

FBI agents arrested Dr. Gajdusek, 72, Thursday on four counts of child abuse and perverted practices for allegedly having sex with a 15-year-old boy.

He was freed on $350,000 bond Sunday from Frederick County Adult Detention Center and faces up to 50 years in prison if convicted on all four felony counts.

Federal agents are trying to track down and interview at least 56 children Dr. Gajdusek brought to the United States from New Guinea, Micronesia and other countries during the past 30 years. They also are trying to figure out how he ferried them into the country without raising any red flags.

A supervisor at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, where Dr. Gajdusek has worked since 1958 and heads a major laboratory, said yesterday the research center did not help the scientist sponsor any of the children he brought into the country.

"NIH would not help with anything like that," said Sylvia Funk, chief of the international services branch at NIH.

During his long, storied career, Dr. Gajdusek never tried to conceal his affection for the boys he met while traveling through remote regions of the world on his scientific "patrols."

He told reporters that he slept on the floor of his Maryland home with bands of boys he brought back from Micronesia, New Guinea and other distant lands.

He told a national magazine that he adored children from the South Pacific islands because their parents "trained them in all the tricks of sexuality, including satisfying and seducing adults."

Feelings documented

He documented his feelings in the journals. In passionate, sometimes erotic passages, he described young boys he found in far-away cultures -- and how he believed the Western world's condemnation of childhood sex was "degrading" and "dishonest."

"The dance to orgasm is a game of childhood, and few prepubertal youngsters of either sex miss its enchantment, its fun, its seriousness, its compelling addiction," he wrote in one of his journals 36 years ago.

"Those who do are to be pitied."

The criminal case against Dr. Gajdusek started when FBI agents learned of the existence of the journals, which he started to write when he was a young scientist searching for clues to a deadly virus in the South Pacific.

The journals contain medical and anthropological observations and detailed descriptions of sexual practices of primitive societies. The journals are kept by many medical institutions -- including NIH.

"The institutionalization of the homosexual system of small boy fellators is a fully culturally sanctioned institution," he wrote from Iwaia in the South Pacific on May 1, 1960.

But buried in some of the journals -- in passages penned after spending months on "patrol" -- are writings that are deeply personal. He described cultures dominated by pedophilia, where boys were trained to please older boys and the men of the society with oral sex.

'Hand-in-hand'

"Whenever I respond to the overtures of one of the young boys by letting them cling to me, hugging them or walking with them hand-in-hand, their adult relatives, often their fathers, knowingly smile, and without ambiguity, indicate that I should let the boys play sexually with me," he wrote from New Guinea on Nov. 9, 1969.

"The suggestion is made only slightly more seriously, and with a bit more levity, than would accompany a suggestion that one accept a gift of food."

After spending years in the jungles of the South Pacific, surfacing to lecture and organize his next patrol, Dr. Gajdusek became increasingly fond and protective of the societies he studied.

In several journal entries, he railed against Western culture and its social mores, longing for a place where people could behave uninhibited by sexual guidelines. He seemed to despise the way

children were brought up in the Western world.

'Moral shame'

"I resent the burden of guilt, dishonesty, and insincerity under which they must grow in current-day society," Dr. Gajdusek wrote May 9, 1960, from New Guinea. "It is a degrading and crippling intellectual, physical and moral shame, a treason to human dignity, that they must deny their sex life, hide it, and rephrase it for themselves and others, into representations false to all mankind."

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