Main content
Sorry, this episode is not currently available

The Genius and the Boys

D Carleton Gajdusek won a Nobel Prize for the discovery of prions and was a star of the scientific world. At the height of his career, rumours spread that he might be a paedophile.

D Carleton Gajdusek won the Nobel Prize for the discovery of Prions - the particles that would emerge as the cause of Mad Cow disease - while working with a cannibal tribe on New Guinea. He was a star of the scientific world. Over his years working amongst the tribes of the South Seas, he adopted 57 kids, bringing them to a new life in Washington DC. His adoptions were hailed as wonderful fatherly beneficence. But, at the height of his career, rumours began to spread he was a paedophile.

Gajdusek would argue that if sex with children was okay in their own cultures, he wasn't wrong to join in. How could a great mind like Gajdusek's lose insight so totally, and why would the scientific community to which he was a hero be so quick to leap to his defence and dismiss the allegations?

Carleton Gajdusek himself participates in the film, as well as some of the men and women who came to know him closely as children - a majority of whom, when contacted by the film, claimed not to have been abused.

Leading scientist friends of Gadjusek, including Benoit Mandelbrot, one of the founders of Chaos Theory; Robert Gallo, who discovered HIV; and the world-famous author and neurologist Oliver Sacks, discuss whether matters of science can seem more important to some than questions about sex and criminality.

The film also features Gajdusek's own - previously never before released - films of first contact with stone-age communities in the South Seas.

This striking and powerful documentary explores the limits of insight and the power of self-delusion, through one of the century's true geniuses - a man prepared to defy convention and challenge people's most cherished beliefs, a man whose scientific brilliance seemed to blind many to his extraordinary personal failings.

1 hour, 20 minutes


Role Contributor
Director Bosse Lindquist