One of those chemicals, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, became a commercial weed killer, and the institute based its patent claims on young Gajdusek's laboratory notebook.
In 1951, he was drafted into the Army and sent to the Walter Reed Army Medical Service Graduate School as a research virologist, spending time at the Tehran institute. Afterward, he went to Australia to perform postdoctoral work at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. It was on the way home from this interlude that he discovered the Fore, changing the course of his life forever.
Klitzman and others say Gajdusek mingled comfortably with the isolated tribes, communicating easily in a nonverbal fashion and becoming a de facto member of the tribes' extended families.
Some critics have charged that Gajdusek brought children from the tribes to the United States and adopted them to satisfy his pedophilia. But anthropologist Ceridwen Spark of Monash University in Australia, who studied Gajdusek, argues that it was his need for an extended family that led him to help the boys.
In any case, Gajdusek spent much of his own money raising the boys and educating them, sending some to graduate school and medical school on his own dime. But his efforts ultimately led to his downfall.
In 1996, one of his boys, by then an adult in college, went to the police alleging that when he was a teenager his adopted father had abused him. The FBI then recorded a call between the young man and Gajdusek in which the scientist admitted that he was a pedophile, that he had touched the boy sexually and that he had had sex with some of the other boys.
He named one other boy in the conversation, and the boy confirmed the story. But Gajdusek's friends helped the boy return to New Guinea, and authorities could prosecute only the offense against the boy who had gone to the police. On the advice of his lawyer, Gajdusek negotiated a plea bargain and in April 1997 was sentenced to 12 to 18 months in prison -- despite a stack of letters from prominent scientists begging the court for leniency.
He was released the following April and immediately left for France, spending the rest of his life working and writing in Europe. He apparently liked the long, dark winters of Tromso because the isolation gave him plenty of time for writing.
He remained unrepentant about his sexual relationships with the young boys. He often said he thought American law was unduly prudish and argued that he had chosen boys only from cultures where man-boy sex was common and unremarkable.
In addition to his many adopted sons and daughters, Gajdusek is survived by two nephews, Karl Lawrence Gajdusek and Mark Terry.