Jeffrey Epstein gave more money to science after his conviction than previously acknowledged, including to famous researchers, leading universities, an independent AI pioneer, and even a far-right YouTuber who took Epstein’s money to make videos on neuroscience.
An extensive BuzzFeed News review of Epstein’s donations, public acknowledgements of funding, and meetings that happened after his release from jail, shows that his links to top scientists continued after he was first convicted for sex crimes in 2008.
Epstein’s scientific friends, including Harvard mathematical biologist Martin Nowak and celebrity physicist Lawrence Krauss, introduced him to other leading scientists after his release from jail. The full extent of the Epstein’s largesse may be millions of dollars higher than the sums recorded by his foundations in filings to the IRS because Epstein’s philanthropy is entangled with that of his billionaire associate Leon Black.
Epstein, who killed himself in a Manhattan federal detention center facing charges of trafficking dozens of underage girls for sex, loved to hang out with scientists and fund their work.
“As some collect butterflies, he collects beautiful minds,” a 2002 New York magazine profile noted. After Epstein’s 2008 conviction for soliciting a minor for prostitution, which saw him serve just 13 months in a Florida jail, some intellectuals cut ties with him.
“I told JE explicitly that I could not and would not accept any further support from him,” Howard Gardner, a Harvard University specialist in cognitive science and education who thanked Epstein in a 2005 book for research support and “valued friendship,” told BuzzFeed News by email.
But Epstein continued to court other scientists, some of whom remained willing to take his money.
Our list of Epstein’s post-conviction scientific associates is almost certainly incomplete — his foundations touted support for many projects that could not be corroborated, and some tax filings seem to be missing from the record.
The entanglement between Epstein’s philanthropy and that of Black, CEO of the private equity firm Apollo Global Management, adds to the confusion.
A 2015 IRS filing shows a transfer of $10 million to Gratitude America, one of Epstein’s foundations, from a company called BV70 with same address as Black’s family investment firm. And Epstein was listed as a director of the Leon Black Family Foundation until 2012.
In July, under pressure to clarify his links with Epstein, Black told Apollo Global staff, in an email obtained by Forbes, that “on a few occasions, I donated money to certain charitable organizations with which Mr. Epstein was affiliated and he made contributions to certain charitable organizations that are meaningful to me.” He blamed Epstein’s listing as a director of his foundation on a “recording error” and said he stepped down in 2007.
Black did not respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News sent to Apollo Global. “We have a policy that we don’t speak to the media. Thank you. Have a good day,” said a woman who answered the phone at Elysium Management, his family investment firm.
Nowak, a Harvard mathematical biologist, seems to have been Epstein’s favorite scientist, regularly mentioned in press releases issued by his foundations. The financier donated $6.5 million to launch Nowak’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard in 2003 — although Epstein claimed, apparently falsely, to have given $30 million.
Nowak, who had not previously commented since Epstein’s indictment in July, told BuzzFeed News by email: “The only donation from Epstein was received in 2003. The money was spent by about 2007.”
Still, Nowak thanked Epstein for financial support in his 2011 book Supercooperators, on the evolution of altruism, and in at least six scientific papers published between 2009 and 2012 on topics including the spread of cancer through the body and the evolution of HIV. “Most research projects take many years from first idea until publication,” Nowak said.
Nowak also continued to facilitate meetings between Epstein and leading academics at Harvard and MIT. Pictures from one meeting in 2012, on an archived version of one of Epstein’s foundation websites, show him at Nowak’s office with a group including mathematician and geneticist Eric Lander, director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and David Gergen of the Harvard Kennedy School, a CNN political analyst and former advisor to presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton.
Also pictured were Leon Black, Howard Gardner, Harvard geneticist George Church, MIT physicist Seth Lloyd, Ted Kaptchuk, a Harvard expert on the placebo effect, and Henry Rosovksy, an economist and former dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
“Martin invited me to an informal sandwich lunch at his institute to talk science with various people,” Lander told BuzzFeed News by email. “I was glad to do it. Martin didn’t mention who’d be attending. I had not met Epstein before, didn’t know much about him, and learned that he was a major donor to Martin’s institute.
“I later learned about his more sordid history,” Lander added. “I’ve had no relationship with Epstein.”
“I had no idea of Mr. Epstein’s history,” Kaptchuk told BuzzFeed News by email. “The meeting was weird. Shortly afterwards, when I was told about who exactly he was and his record, I discontinued any discussions with him.”
“I have no memory of this,” Gardner told BuzzFeed News.
Nowak did not respond to questions from BuzzFeed News about his personal links with Epstein.
Krauss, a theoretical physicist and science popularizer, defended Epstein as the financier tried to restore his reputation after his release from jail. “I don’t feel tarnished in any way by my relationship with Jeffrey. I feel raised by it,” Krauss told the Daily Beast in 2011.
Krauss had earlier organized a 2006 conference on gravity on Epstein’s private island in the US Virgin Islands, attended by physics luminaries including the late Stephen Hawking. After Epstein’s release, Krauss took his money to bankroll the Origins Project at Arizona State University, which organized meetings featuring leading scientists, intellectuals, and celebrities. It was shut down in 2018, in the aftermath of reporting by BuzzFeed News on Krauss’s own history of sexual harassment. (Krauss had denied any misconduct.)
Krauss’s project received at least $250,000 from Epstein’s foundation Enhanced Education, with the last payment dated April 2017, according to accounts obtained by BuzzFeed News under a public records request.
But the full sum linked to Epstein may be much larger. Those records also show $2 million in personal gifts to the Origins Project from Leon Black and his wife Debra, made in 2014 and 2015. Another Origins Project accounting record conflates Epstein, Black, and Enhanced Education, listing Epstein’s employer as “Leon D. Black, Enhanced Education.”
Arizona State told BuzzFeed News that after the Origins Project was shuttered in 2018, it returned unspent sums of $25,000 to Enhanced Education and about $460,000 to the Blacks at the donors’ request. “Therefore, we believe we have been successful in closing all connections to Epstein and his affiliated entities,” university spokesperson Katie Paquet told BuzzFeed News by email.
Before the project’s demise, however, Epstein attended its events, including a 2014 gala dinner celebrating the project’s five-year anniversary, at which he was photographed with Krauss and Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker.
In February 2017 Epstein appeared at an informal meal for attendees after an Origins Project workshop on artificial intelligence. “He showed up with two young East European-looking women,” Shahar Avin, a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge, who attended the event, told BuzzFeed News.
Krauss introduced him as “my friend Jeffrey,” Avin said. “We asked him who he was and he wouldn’t say.”
Epstein asked a small group of scientists at one table abrasive questions and made offensive remarks about race, intelligence, and athletic ability, recalled Avin, who later learned the interloper’s identity from a Wikipedia entry.
Krauss, who did not respond to requests for comment from BuzzFeed News, agreed to retire from the university in 2018, facing the prospect of being fired. He has since relaunched the Origins Project as an independent foundation.
“The Origins Project Foundation has not received donations from that individual or any of his charitable foundations,” the new group responded by email, after BuzzFeed News asked if it, too, had been backed by Epstein.
Brockman is not himself a scientist. But as a New York literary agent, specializing in science and technology, he provided Epstein with access to the scientific glitterati. Brockman’s intellectual club Edge held “billionaires dinners” which brought together leading scientists, tech titans, and Wall Street’s super wealthy — including Epstein.
Brockman continued to introduce the financier to his clients after Epstein’s conviction. Evgeny Morozov, who studies the political and social implications of technology, revealed last week in the New Republic that Brockman emailed him in 2013:
“Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire science philanthropist showed up at this weekend’s event by helicopter (with his beautiful young assistant from Belarus). He’ll be in Cambridge in a couple of weeks asked me who he should meet,” Brockman wrote. “He’s been extremely generous in funding projects of many of our friends and clients. He also got into trouble and spent a year in jail in Florida.”
Morozov declined the offer of an introduction.
An IRS filing from Epstein’s COUQ Foundation shows a $50,000 donation to Edge in 2007, just months after the New York Times had published a story questioning whether prosecutors had given Epstein preferential treatment in the face of allegations involving underage girls. Later, Edge published Epstein’s response to its 2008 question: “What have you changed your mind about?”
A press release and archived web pages from Epstein’s foundations claim that his funding for Edge continued until at least 2014 — although BuzzFeed News could not verify those payments. Epstein’s profile remained on the Edge website until earlier this year, months after the Miami Herald’s series on his alleged sexual abuse of dozens of underage girls triggered a new federal investigation.
Brockman did not respond to requests for comment from BuzzFeed News.
Trivers, an evolutionary biologist and pioneer of sociobiology, told Reuters in 2015 that he received $40,000 from Epstein for studies of knee symmetry and sprinting ability in Jamaican athletes. The 2010 IRS filing of Epstein’s COUQ Foundation also shows a $25,000 donation to Trivers’ Biosocial Research Foundation.
Like Krauss, Trivers spoke up for Epstein after his release from jail. He told Reuters that Epstein was a man of integrity who had served time for his crime.
“Did he get an easy deal? Did he buy himself a light sentence? Well, yes, probably, compared to what you or I would get, but he did get locked up,” Trivers said, adding that girls matured earlier today than they once did. “By the time they’re 14 or 15, they’re like grown women were 60 years ago, so I don’t see these acts as so heinous.”
In July, Trivers acknowledged on Twitter that this was a “stupid and offensive statement” and said that Epstein had broken off contact with him about 18 months previously.
Trivers retired from Rutgers University in New Jersey in 2017 after accusing a colleague of scientific fraud and refusing to teach a class in anthropology the university had assigned to him. He did not respond to requests for comment about Epstein from BuzzFeed News.
Gariépy was a postdoctoral researcher in neuroscience at Duke University in 2014 when his nonprofit, NEURO.tv, received $25,000 from Epstein to make a series of YouTube interviews with experts in psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy. The project is still the lead item on the dormant website of the Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation.
Since posting the NEURO.tv videos, Gariépy has gained a following as a far-right YouTuber whose recent guests have included the white nationalist Richard Spencer. In 2018, the Daily Beast described Gariépy’s child custody battle, in which his ex-wife alleged a history of abusive behavior toward women. Gariépy denied the allegations.
“I am a white heterosexual male libertarian who believes in freedom, sovereignty and self-determination for all people including mine,” Gariépy told BuzzFeed News by email. He also railed against “false allegations by females.”
Gariépy has no regrets about taking Epstein’s money. “I’d cash a check sent straight from the devil if it could allow me to advance science or science education,” he said. “I did know about the earlier conviction of Epstein when I accepted the money. I didn’t know of the most recent allegations though, which are worse than I thought. In any case, I do not regret taking the money. Evil people are not just evil.”
Gariépy said that in October 2014 he solicited another donation from Epstein to finance his book The Revolutionary Phenotype, a fringe-science take on the origins of life on Earth claiming that “the first molecules of DNA were fabricated by a previous life form.”
Epstein didn’t respond to that request, Gariépy said.
Describing himself as a “quantum mechanic,” Lloyd is an MIT physicist who in July told the New York Times that he met Epstein in 2004 at a dinner organized by Brockman. He said Epstein had interesting ideas which “turned out to be quite vague.”
In that article, Lloyd didn’t comment on any later association with the financier, but on Aug. 21 BuzzFeed News asked him about four scientific papers published between 2010 and 2014 which acknowledged funding from Epstein. That same day, Robert Rutledge, an astrophysicist at McGill University in Canada, extended the list to 19 papers published since 2008.
Lloyd told BuzzFeed News by email that he would make an apology, which he published on Medium the next day. In this post, Lloyd said that he had visited Epstein in jail. After Epstein expressed remorse, Lloyd said he accepted two grants in 2012 and 2017.
“My heart goes out to the survivors of Mr. Epstein’s abuse. You risked your privacy and safety and faced down taunts and scare tactics in order to get your stories told,” Lloyd wrote. “By not listening to your voices, I participated in a system of privilege and entitlement that protected a powerful abuser and that failed you. I apologize to you and I ask for your forgiveness.”
“I have committed financial resources to aid you and other survivors of sexual abuse and trafficking,” Lloyd added.
Church, a leader in genetics and genomics at Harvard, was the first scientist to apologize for his ties to Epstein, after his online calendar revealed a series of meetings and phone calls with Epstein in 2014.
“I certainly apologize for my poor awareness and judgment,” Church told STAT, adding that he and other scientists should have subjected Epstein to closer scrutiny. “There should have been more conversations about, should we be doing this, should we be helping this guy? There was just a lot of nerd tunnel vision.”
Church told STAT that he last received research funding from Epstein in 2007. He did not respond to requests for comment from BuzzFeed News.
Ito, a venture capitalist and director of the MIT Media Lab, a hub for research around robotics and digital media, came under scrutiny after an entry in Church’s calendar identified him as a guest at a meal with Epstein. On Aug. 15, he apologized on the lab’s website for his association with the financier.
“I met Epstein in 2013 at a conference through a trusted business friend and, in my fundraising efforts for MIT Media Lab, I invited him to the Lab and visited several of his residences,” Ito wrote. Epstein subsequently donated to the Media Lab and invested in funds managed by Ito.
“I am deeply sorry to the survivors, to the Media Lab, and to the MIT community for bringing such a person into our network,” Ito wrote. “I vow to raise an amount equivalent to the donations the Media Lab received from Epstein and will direct those funds to non-profits that focus on supporting survivors of trafficking. I will also return the money that Epstein has invested in my investment funds.”
Ito’s apology was not enough for Ethan Zuckerman, who heads the lab’s Center for Civic Media, nor Nathan Matias, whose project CivilServant is trying to use behavioral science to reduce online harassment. They have each announced that they are cutting ties with the Media Lab.
Ito did not respond to questions from BuzzFeed News.
In September 2013, artificial intelligence researcher Goertzel thanked Epstein in a technical volume for his “visionary funding,” adding: “At time of writing, Jeffrey is helping support the OpenCog Hong Kong project.”
OpenCog, led by Goertzel, was founded in 2008 and is developing software for artificial intelligence. Its website acknowledges support from the Jeffrey Epstein Foundation and Epstein Interests. In a May 2014 press release, the Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation also claimed credit for helping to launch an OpenCog lab in Ethiopia.
Goertzel did not respond to requests from comment from BuzzFeed News. His website discourages attempts to reach him by phone, except for “individuals offering me large sums of money, or other appropriately unusual circumstances.”
Bach, who has worked at Nowak’s Harvard Program for Evolutionary Dynamics and the MIT Media Lab, acknowledged support from the Jeffrey Epstein Foundation in a paper presented at meetings on artificial intelligence in 2017 and 2018. Epstein also touted his backing for Bach’s work in an October 2013 press release.
Bach is now vice-president for research with the AI Foundation, a startup in San Francisco. He did not respond to requests for comment from BuzzFeed News.
Lamster, former dean of the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, told Reuters in 2015 that he accepted about $100,000 from Epstein to research whether dentists could help in the early diagnosis of diabetes.
“I was introduced to Jeffrey Epstein in late 2011 (as best as I recall) by one of my faculty members, who was his dentist,” Lamster told BuzzFeed News by email. He said he received a single check in 2012. “I sent him a thank you message, but had no other substantive communication with him after that time.”
“I inquired about his background and learned that he had a conviction, and subsequently paid his debt,” Lamster added. “He was not in the news during the time that he and I were in contact.”
Germain, a cancer researcher at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York City, told Reuters in 2015 that she had received a grant from Epstein to study breast cancer, but had spent the money more than a year previously.
“I don’t think I would accept money from him anymore, but then you sort of wonder,” Germain told Reuters. “We happen to know what he’s done, but what about all the other people who are giving money to foundations? We don’t know what they’re doing. Is it all clean? I don’t know.”
Germain did not respond to requests for comment from BuzzFeed News.
A biotech venture capitalist and former science advisor to Bill Gates, Nikolic was named by Epstein as a backup executor for his will, in which he put assets valued at $578 million into a trust just two days before his death.
Nikolic had not previously been linked with Epstein. Through a spokesperson, Carin Canale-Theakston, he told Bloomberg this month that he had no business ties to Epstein, although she admitted that their networks of contacts overlapped. “I was not consulted in these matters and I have no intent to fulfill these duties, whatsoever,” Nikolic said, in a statement given to Bloomberg.
Canale-Theakston did not respond to queries from BuzzFeed News.
In IRS filings, on his foundations’ websites, and in press releases, Epstein described contributions to many universities and scientific or medical organizations. They include:
After previously declining to comment on donations from Epstein, on Aug. 22 MIT acknowledged that it received a total of $800,000, all of which went to either Lloyd or the Media Lab. IRS filings from Epstein’s foundations note donations of $50,000 in 2012 and $150,000 in 2017, which correspond to the dates of Lloyd’s grants.
In an email to staff, MIT president Rafael Reif shared responsibility for taking the money. “To my great regret, despite following the processes that have served MIT well for many years, in this instance we made a mistake of judgment,” he wrote. Reif apologized and said “we will commit an amount equal to the funds MIT received from any Epstein foundation to an appropriate charity that benefits his victims or other victims of sexual abuse.”
Reif also said he had asked MIT provost Marty Schmidt to convene a group to investigate the Epstein donations and identify any lessons for the future.
Epstein valued his connections to Harvard, which are repeatedly mentioned in press releases issued by his foundations. Before his conviction he was friendly with Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard from 2001 to 2006, and celebrity law professor Alan Dershowitz, who later worked on his criminal defense. Epstein was also on the advisory board of the Harvard Society of Mind, Brain, and Behavior.
BuzzFeed News could find no confirmed record of a donation to Harvard after Epstein’s conviction. An archived web page claims donations in the period 2010-2012, but these claims are not corroborated by IRS filings.
“No gift has been received by the University since 2007,” Harvard spokesperson Jason Newton told BuzzFeed News by email.
An IRS filing from Epstein’s COUQ Foundation records $636,000 in donations to Harvard in 2007.
Mount Sinai Health System
The 2016 IRS filing from Epstein’s foundation Gratitude America notes a $10,000 donation to the Icahn School of Medicine, part of the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City — made after his support for Germain’s cancer research. In a 2012 press release, Epstein also claimed to have funded 3D-mammography at Mount Sinai’s Dubin Breast Center, named for his former girlfriend Eva Andersson-Dubin.
“[W]e will be contributing a sum equal to the donations we received from Mr. Epstein and his foundation to a charity focused on preventing human trafficking and sexual exploitation, as well as providing financial support for the work of our Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Program,” the Mount Sinai Health System said last week in a statement to BuzzFeed News.
Mount Sinai did not confirm how much money it was given in total.
Santa Fe Institute
This multidisciplinary institute in New Mexico, co-founded by physics Nobel winner Murray Gell-Mann, received $25,000 from Epstein Interests in 2010. Institute spokesperson Jenna Marshall told BuzzFeed News by email that it will donate a matching sum to an appropriate cause. “There are some complications that require time and consideration on our part, but it will happen,” she said.
Gell-Mann, who was friendly with Epstein and thanked him for donations to the Santa Fe Institute in his 1995 book The Quark and the Jaguar, died in May this year.
(Marshall told BuzzFeed News that the institute received $250,000 from sources related to Epstein before his conviction.)
University of Arizona
The University of Arizona received $50,000 from Gratitude America in 2017, which was used to support a scientific conference on consciousness held in La Jolla, California. The university was unaware of Epstein’s involvement, spokesperson Pam Scott told BuzzFeed News.
In its former guise as the World Transhumanist Association, Humanity+ received $20,000 from Epstein Interests in 2010, after Epstein’s conviction. “When Mr. Epstein did make a donation to Humanity+, it was long before any news broke about his unethical behavior,” claimed the organization’s executive director, Natasha Vita-More, in an email to BuzzFeed News.
In a press release, Humanity+ said it “had no knowledge of Mr. Epstein’s horrific alleged criminal activity, and we strongly condemn it.”
Vita-More said that the money was used for artificial intelligence research. (AI researcher Ben Goertzel is a director of Humanity+, and his OpenCog website links Epstein Interests and Humanity+ to a project to develop intelligent video game characters.)
Machine Intelligence Research Institute
MIRI, then known as the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, received $50,000 in 2009 from Epstein’s COUQ Foundation. Its leaders did not respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
Nautilus Think, which “promotes science, education, and the literary arts,” publishes an online science magazine. It received $25,000 from Epstein’s foundation Gratitude America in 2017. John Steele, president of Nautilus Think, did not respond to a request for comment.
University of British Columbia
In 2011, Epstein’s foundation Enhanced Education gave $25,000 to the American Foundation of UBC, the university confirmed. “The crimes Mr. Epstein was convicted of, and the later accusations, are abhorrent and the university would not have accepted the donation in 2011 if it had been aware of a link between him and Enhanced Education,” university spokesperson Kurt Heinrich told BuzzFeed News by email.
IRS filings from Epstein’s foundations also note donations to medical charities including a total of $20,000 to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation in 2016 and 2017 . In 2016, Gratitude America gave $225,000 to the Melanoma Research Alliance, founded by Epstein’s wealthy associates Leon and Debra Black.
Gratitude America also gave a total of $150,000 across 2016 and 2017 to the Bruce and Marsha Moskowitz Foundation, which “provides grants to qualified organizations that improve patient safety and the quality of healthcare.” Bruce Moskowitz is a doctor in Palm Beach, Florida, and part of a social scene centered on President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club that once included Epstein. He was recently accused, in emails obtained by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, of meddling in plans by the federal Department of Veterans Affairs to launch a new digital health platform.
Neither the Melanoma Research Alliance nor Moskowitz responded to queries from BuzzFeed News.
Archived web pages from Epstein’s foundation claimed to have supported many other institutions after his conviction. Some alleged recipients, including Cornell University, Stanford University, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, Duke University, and New York University, told BuzzFeed News that they had searched their financial records and could find no evidence that the donations were ever made.
If you have more information on Epstein’s support for science and scientists, let us know.
Epstein photo in opening image: Rick Friedman / Corbis via Getty Images