Faybienne Geenhuizen (
Sat, 11 Feb 1995 03:04:29 GMT

If your library carries back issues of Science magazine and the Wall
Street Journal, you might be really interested in the Science issues
of May 27, 1994, ("Clash With Billionaire Costs Anthropology
Institute Dearly", pages 1247-1248), response by Donald Johanson,
Walter Kimbel, and Susan Shea in a letter to the editor in the
July 1, 1994, issue, and the August 12, 1994, issue ("Lab Custody
Fight In Institute 'Divorce'", page 864), as well as the
January 31, 1995, issue of the Wall Street Journal ("This
Anthropologist Has a Style That Is Bone of Contention", page 1).

The Science articles said Gordon Getty pulled out his $1 million
per year contributions to the Institute of Human Origins (IHO)
because he was fed up with Donald Johanson's using the Institute
and its funds to make himself a celebrity rather than doing
scientific research. Dr. Johanson disputed that claim and pointed
out some research he had done during the time in question. The NOVA
program seems to have brought everything to a head, with Dr. Johanson
asserting that it was a legitimate and useful tool of public
education, and Mr. Getty and his suporters arguing that it used
up a lot of Institute money and merely served to build up
Dr. Johanson's image with the public. Since the IHO receives
taxpayer money in the form of grants from the National Science
Foundation, Dr. Johanson feels an obligation to share IHO discoveries
and developments with the public, and the NOVA program seemed a
good way to do that. On the other hand, Mr. Getty felt it was
wasteful of the money he was contributing, as he would have preferred
that Dr. Johanson spend his time doing research and adding to
knowledge in the field rather than doing a television program.

The Wall Street Journal article put a little different slant on it.
They say that Gordon Getty was a friend of Dr. Garniss Curtis',
a scientist at the IHO, and Donald Johanson was friends with
Mrs. Getty, and it was because of these associations that Mr. Getty
came to be making contributions to the Institute. Then recently
Mrs. Getty started studying anthropology at UC Berkeley with Tim
White, "a rival of Dr. Johanson's. Soon she was following Drs.
White and Curtis on expeditions to Java and Ethiopia." Dr. Curtis
is one of the IHO scientists who thought Dr. Johanson was not
putting his time and the Institute's resources to best use.
Now Mrs. Getty is hanging out with Drs. White and Curtis, and now
with Dr. Johanson, and at about this same time Mr. Getty withdraws
his financial support from the IHO and begins making contributions
to the Berkeley Geochronology Center, staffed by Dr. Curtis and
others who have left the IHO. Mrs. Getty's attorney says "this
notion of Ann Getty going and whispering things [about Dr.
Johanson] in Gordon's ear is just not the case," but that the
break was because of Dr. Johanson's mismanagement of Institute
funds, including the awarding of certain scholarships on the
basis of favoritism rather than merit.

The Wall Street Journal and Science (5/27/94) articles also
describe an incident at a San Francisco restaurant:

Science: "Matters came to a head earlier this spring when Curtis
and Swisher sought their first grant from the L.S.B. Leakey
Foundation, the leading private funder of anthropological research.
Curtis and Swisher were eating lunch at Chez Panisse, a Berkeley
restaurant, with members of the Leakey Foundation and a prospective
Leakey donor when Johanson walked into the restaurant with his
wife. According to several people at the lunch, Johanson failed to
acknowledge their greetings. Later, back at the IHO, institute
staffers say Johanson angrily berated Curtis, accusing him of
trying to steal money away from the IHO and to move the
geochronology lab away from the institute."

Wall Street Journal: "A few weeks later, while munching on soft-
shelled crab at Berkeley's ritzy Chez Panisse restaurant, Dr.
Johanson spotted Dr. Curtis and another of the institute's
geochronologists wining and dining an elderly San Francisco
socialite whom Dr. Johanson was trying to cultivate as a donor.
An angry Dr. Johanson snubbed the group, much to the chagrim of
members of the prestigious Leakey Foundation who were also at the
table with Dr. Curtis. 'Frosty glances all around' is how one
person described the encounter. Later, Dr. Johanson lit into Dr.
Curtis ... Says Mr. Orrich [Mrs. Getty's attorney], 'It was very
much a [verbal] beating and berating of Garniss by Johanson.'
Word shot back across the Bay to the Getty mansion in Pacific Heights.
Within days, Mr. Getty was demanding Dr. Johanson's resignation at
a board meeting, complaining that the scientist had had one too
many 'tantrums.'"

Also from the Wall Street Journal article:
"In September, the geochronologists dealt Dr. Johanson a tough
professional blow: They published a paper showing that an Ethiopian
skeleton found by a team led by Mrs. Getty's mentor, Dr. White, is
4.4 million years old. 'Johanson is insanely jealous that his Lucy
is no longer the oldest human ancestor,' Dr. Renne says.
"And what of Lucy? Fingering the cases of her ribs in a
wooden drawer at the institute, one bespectacled scientist
observes: 'Anthropologists dig up these bones so they can beat each
other over the head with them.'"