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Jeffrey Epstein Met With Harvard Professor Martin Nowak and Noam Chomsky in 2015 in Harvard Office

MIT Emeritus Professor Noam Chomsky begins speaking as fellow panelist Professor Jon Hanson looks on. The two spoke at Harvard Law School's conference on corporate capture of the legal system in January 2023.
MIT Emeritus Professor Noam Chomsky begins speaking as fellow panelist Professor Jon Hanson looks on. The two spoke at Harvard Law School's conference on corporate capture of the legal system in January 2023. By Addison Y. Liu
By Elias J. Schisgall, Crimson Staff Writer

Financier and sex trafficker Jeffrey E. Epstein met with Harvard professor Martin A. Nowak, linguist Noam Chomsky, and other unidentified academics in March 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

The meeting took place at Nowak’s Harvard office at 1 Brattle Square, Chomsky confirmed Tuesday. Chomsky, currently a professor at the University of Arizona and an emeritus professor at MIT, was among several notable figures named by the Journal who were not previously known to have associated with Epstein. Chomsky served as a member of the Society of Fellows at Harvard University in the 1950s.

According to Epstein’s schedules, the Journal reported, Chomsky met with Epstein on several occasions during 2015 and 2016, including a meeting with former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak.

Epstein’s deep ties to the University have previously been reported, including millions of dollars in donations, some of which funded Nowak’s work. The gift established Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. In 2006, after Epstein was charged with procuring a minor for prostitution in Florida, Harvard said it would not return the millionaire’s donations.

Chomsky and Nowak are just two members of a vast array of academics, politicians, and celebrities that Epstein has been linked to — a list that also includes Harvard professor emeritus Alan M. Dershowitz and former University president Lawrence H. Summers.

Jeffrey E. Epstein met with Harvard professor Martin A. Nowak, linguist Noam Chomsky, and others in March 2015 at Nowak's office at 1 Brattle Square.
Jeffrey E. Epstein met with Harvard professor Martin A. Nowak, linguist Noam Chomsky, and others in March 2015 at Nowak's office at 1 Brattle Square. By Julian J. Giordano

Epstein’s scheduled meetings detailed by the Journal all took place several years after his 2008 conviction for procuring a minor for prostitution in Florida, which resulted in him registering as a sex offender and serving more than one year in prison. The Journal could not verify whether all scheduled meetings actually occurred.

In response to an email from The Crimson inquiring about his association with Epstein, Chomsky confirmed that he and his wife “knew him and met with him a number of times.”

Chomsky wrote the March 2015 meeting took place at Nowak’s office in the 1 Brattle Square offices of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, which was established in 2003 through a $6.5 million grant from Epstein. The office was subleased from the Harvard Kennedy School, which leased the space from a private owner.

“Like all of those in Cambridge who met and knew him, we knew that he had been convicted and served his time, which means that he re-enters society under prevailing norms — which, it is true, are rejected by the far right in the US and sometimes by unscrupulous employers,” Chomsky wrote. “I’ve had no pause about close friends who spent many years in prison, and were released. That's quite normal in free societies.”

During the meeting in Nowak’s office, Chomsky wrote, the group discussed neuroscience and computer science. Chomsky declined to provide names of other Harvard faculty in attendance, adding that “it would be improper to subject others to slanderous attacks.”

“I’ve often attended meetings and had close interactions with colleagues and friends on Harvard and MIT campuses, often in labs and other facilities built with donations from some of the worst criminals of the modern world,” Chomsky wrote. “People whose crimes are well known, and who are, furthermore, honored by naming the buildings in their honor and lavishly praised in other ways. That’s far more serious than accepting donations, obviously — and these are huge donations.”

Asked if he regretted his association with Epstein, Chomsky wrote, “I’ve met [all] sorts of people, including major war criminals. I don’t regret having met any of them.”

Epstein was arrested again in 2019 by federal prosecutors, who alleged he sexually trafficked scores of underage girls at properties in Manhattan and Palm Beach, Florida. Epstein died in jail awaiting trial, in what a medical examiner ruled was a suicide.

Following Epstein’s arrest and death, the University launched an investigation into his relationship with Harvard, culminating in a 27-page report released in May 2020.

According to the report, Epstein — whose fortune of more than half a billion dollars has no clear origin — donated more than $9 million to Harvard between 1998 and 2007, more than $700,000 of which was given after his 2006 arrest on federal charges of procuring minors for prostitution. The report noted that the University did not accept gifts following Epstein’s 2008 conviction.

The 2006 charges were later dropped in a controversial non-prosecution agreement negotiated in part by Dershowitz, the Harvard Law School professor who represented Epstein at the time. Around this time, in 2007, Epstein’s attorneys — including Dershowitz — wrote a letter to federal prosecutors arguing that Epstein had not technically violated a law against soliciting sex from minors over the internet, citing textual analysis provided by Harvard Psychology professor Steven A. Pinker.

Both Pinker and Dershowitz have said publicly they regret their association with Epstein.

Epstein’s closest contact at Harvard — and the largest beneficiary of his financial support — was Nowak, a professor of Mathematics and Biology, according to the report.

Epstein donated $6.5 million in 2003 to establish the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, directed by Nowak. According to the report, the program granted Epstein unfettered access to its facility at 1 Brattle Square and maintained a private office for him — later found in 2021 to be in violation of University policies around campus access.

The report found that Epstein visited the program’s office on more than 40 occasions between 2010 and 2018, even after he had registered as a sex offender in New York and Florida.

“Epstein typically used the visits to meet with professors from Harvard and other institutions to hear about their work,” the report said. “He generally gave Professor Nowak the names of the academics he wished to meet, and either he or Professor Nowak invited them to meet with Epstein at PED’s offices.”

In 2003, The Crimson reported that Epstein maintained close friendships with Summers, then University president, as well as former FAS Dean Henry Rosovsky. When asked about the meetings at the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics in 2018, Rosovsky told The Crimson in 2018 that he “attended a couple of sessions and lost interest.” Summers’ assistant declined to comment for the 2018 article.

Harvard’s report did not discuss Summers’ or Rosovsky’s ties to Epstein.

Following the report’s release, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Claudine Gay placed Nowak on paid leave. A year later, in March 2021, she announced that Nowak had violated multiple Harvard policies and barred him from receiving grants or taking on advisees for two years, in addition to shuttering the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics.

In the March 2021 announcement, Gay wrote she would decide whether to restore Nowak’s privileges after two years. Harvard spokesperson Rachael Dane declined to comment on Nowak’s current status or whether Gay had made a decision on restoring his privileges.

Nowak did not respond to a request for comment for this article. He has said previously that he regretted fostering a relationship between Epstein and Harvard.

The report does not identify which Harvard faculty Epstein met with at the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics office, describing them only as “leading scholars from Harvard and elsewhere in science and math and, occasionally, individuals involved in public life.”

“Epstein was routinely accompanied on these visits by young women, described as being in their 20s, who acted as his assistants,” the report added.

The report says Epstein was the “driving force behind these meetings,” setting the dates and the guest list, and occasionally inviting political figures. The report also notes “a number” of faculty visited Epstein at his properties in New York, Palm Beach, New Mexico, and his private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands — referred to by locals as “pedophile island,” per the Los Angeles Times.

University spokesperson Jason A. Newton declined to comment, referring The Crimson to the 2020 report.

Epstein also financially supported the research of Harvard Medical School professor George M. Church and Psychology professor Stephen M. Kosslyn, who in 2005 recommended Epstein for a visiting fellowship he was “unqualified to pursue,” the report said.

On Kosslyn’s recommendation, Epstein was named a visiting fellow from 2005 until his 2006 arrest, but “did little to pursue his proposed course of study,” the report said.

The report found that then-University President Drew G. Faust and then-dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith independently decided — around 2008 and in 2013, respectively — that Harvard would not accept further gifts from Epstein, and he did not donate to the school after 2007.

—Staff writer Elias J. Schisgall can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @eschisgall.

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