Larry Ellison, chief executive of Oracle and one of the richest men in the world, was going to give Harvard $115 to establish the Ellison Institute for World Health. He had worked out the idea with Harvard president Larry Summers some months ago. But Summers was forced to resign earlier this year. He had made some enemies within the university by trying to change its culture – which is, in fairness, what he was hired to do. No doubt inside politics was a significant factor in his resignation.
The public side of Summers' resignation, though, was the fallout from his speculation that one of the reasons that women did not make up half the science and engineering departments at the top research universities was that at the highest level of ability, there were probably more men than women to begin with. This is, as I have argued before, a testable claim. Moreover, the people who have tested it think it is true.
Nonetheless, many at Harvard and environs had a hissy fit, including a number of alleged elite scientists who one might have thought would be interested in testing an empirical claim before they drew a conclusion. The controversy crippled Harvard's efforts to understand the problem, and crippled Summers' ability to do his job. In February, he resigned.
And today the other shoe dropped. Ellison withdrew the offered gift, which would have been the largest single gift Harvard ever received. No commitment to scientific investigation of testable but politically incorrect hypotheses means no new scientific research center from Larry Ellison. Maybe Utah resident Ellison would find Brigham Young more committed to science?