This profile of W. French Anderson really needs some editing. Lots of editing. It’s about 4500 words long, and most of it is self-serviing puffery — we learn how highly he thinks of himself, how tough he is, that he recently aced his driving test, how he won a high school debate in 1951, and how he did some ambitious science in the 80s and 90s, but he’s unimpressed by this CRISPR stuff. The arrogance just oozes through the page, which I guess is one virtue of the article, but still it is tediously long. If I were editing it, I’d cut it down to less than 250 words. Here are the salient words; the rest is just noise.
But in July 2006, Anderson was convicted of three counts of lewd acts on a child and one count of continuous sexual abuse, including fondling her genitals. The sexual assaults started in 1997 when the girl was 10 and Anderson was 60, prosecutors said, and lasted until 2001 — abuse that his victim testified in court caused her “pain that led me to cut my own body and contemplate suicide.” Her mother ran Anderson’s lab, and he had mentored the child academically and in karate.
Before sentencing Anderson to 14 years in prison, Judge Michael Pastor said he had caused the girl “incalculable” emotional damage: “Because of intellectual arrogance, he persisted and he got away with as much as he could.”
It was not only the audiotape but also emails that helped convict Anderson. In response to the girl’s emailed request for an apology, for instance, he wrote that he “can understand what would drive a person to suicide. For me, a powerful 9-mm bullet through the head would be the way to go” and “just in case, I have bought the ammunition.” In another email, he wrote that he “came to the sad conclusion that there must be a very bad part of me that, now that I have recognized it, has to be permanently suppressed.”
OK, actually we could have ended it with the first paragraph. It’s enough. I’m indulging the writer.
Instead of hearing all that glurge about W. French Anderson’s grand scientific dreams stunted by his ten years in prison, the real story ought to have been about the cost and loss of opportunity to his victim, and to his victim’s mother, who was sufficiently qualified scientifically to run his lab. There’s the real loss to science, not the absence of an egotistical pedophile.
But we don’t hear their story, because they refused to be interviewed for this article. That ought to have told the author and her editors that maybe this is a story they should have shredded. W. French Anderson has had his decades in the spotlight. It’s past time to let him go.