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Anthropological Niche of Douglas W. Hume
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Internet Source: Washington Post, Page A09, November 10, 2000
Source URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A57309-2000Nov9.html


Science Academy Disputes Book's Claims

Associated Press

NEW YORK, Nov. 9 One of the nation's most prestigious scientific bodies disputed claims that reckless experiments by one of its members killed hundreds of South American Indians.

The claims are contained in the book "Darkness in El Dorado," published this month by W.W. Norton & Co. The author, anthropologist and journalist Patrick Tierney, charges that U.S. scientists inoculated thousands of Yanomami Indians in 1968 with a dangerous measles vaccine that sparked a deadly epidemic.

In a statement today, the National Academy of Sciences said the book contains multiple factual errors and misstatements.

"Although 'Darkness in El Dorado' gives the appearance of being well-researched, in many instances the author's conclusions are either contradicted or not supported by the references he cites," the academy said.

Last month, an Associated Press article reached a similar conclusion and cited several epidemiologists who said that the vaccine given to the Yanomami by University of Michigan geneticist James Neel and his colleagues had been proven safe and could not have transmitted measles.

Neel, who died in February, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1963. "Darkness in El Dorado" disparages him as a controversial figure "whose eugenic views made him a pariah outside his own specialty."

In reality, Neel was a highly respected scientist and was well-loved by his colleagues, said the academy's Ken Fulton.