Sunday, February 4, 2018

22 January 1988: On this day 30 years ago in the radiocarbon dating of the Turin Shroud

© Stephen E. Jones[1]

This is part #8, "22 January 1988," of my series, "On this day 30 years ago in the radiocarbon dating of the Turin Shroud." For more information about this series, see part #1. As explained in part #1, the first significant days 30 years ago in the 1988 radiocarbon dating of the Shroud have already passed, but I will catch up and thereafter publish each day's post as near to its 30th anniversary as possible. Emphases are mine unless otherwise indicated.

[Index #1] [Previous: 18Nov87 #7] [Next: 24Mar88 #9]

22 January 1988 A meeting at the British Museum in London was held between Luigi Gonella (1930–2007), the Archbishop of Turin's

[Above (enlarge): Extract of a photograph of the cutting and distribution of the Shroud samples on 21 April 1988[2], showing some of those present at the 22 January meeting: Front from left Cardinal A. Ballestrero (r. 1977-1989) (not at meeting), M. Tite and L. Gonella. Back from left: R. Hedges, D. Donahue, E. Hall and P. Damon.]

scientific adviser, representatives of the three chosen AMS laboratories: Arizona's Paul Damon (1921-2005) and Douglas Donahue; Oxford's Edward Hall (1924–2001) and Robert Hedges; Zurich's Willy Wolfli (or Woelfli); and the British Museum's Michael Tite; to work out the final details of how and when they would take the Shroud samples[3].

But before that came the reaction to the letter of 18 November 1987 from the three chosen laboratories to the Archbishop of Turin, Cardinal Ballestrero[see 18Nov87], stating that they:

"... are hesitant to proceed under the arrangement in which only three laboratories [instead of seven] would participate in the measurements. We urge that the decision to change the protocol of the Turin workshop and to limit participation to only three laboratories be given further consideration ..."[4].
On 25 November 1987 Prof. Harry Gove (1922-2009), the unofficial leader of the radiocarbon dating laboratories[5], but whose laboratory, Rochester, was not chosen to date the Shroud, was told by Dr Vittorio Canuto, a NASA astrophysicist and a scientific aide of Prof. Carlos Chagas Filho (1910-2000), the then President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, that Gonella had said that if the three chosen laboratories declined to date the Shroud, then Turin would ask other AMS laboratories to do it[6]. Specifically the Italian AMS laboratories at Pisa and Udine:
"There was no [immediate] response to the newest protest made by the labs. The rumour mill had it that Dinegar asked Gonella what would happen if the three labs refused to accept the offer and insisted on the workshop protocol. Gonella said he did not believe they would refuse. The prize was too great. Pressed further Gonella admitted he had 'a contingency solution' which supposedly was to go to the carbon dating facilities at Pisa and Udine"[7]
On 3 December Gove learned from Fr Peter Rinaldi (1910-93) [below[8].] that Cardinal Ballestrero had received the letter from the three laboratories[9]. Then on 7 December Gove was told by Canuto, via Rinaldi, that Gonella had convinced Ballestrero to stick with his original decision [see 10Oct87] that only three AMS laboratories, Arizona, Zurich and Oxford, would radiocarbon date the Shroud[10].

On 18 December Ballestrero (i.e. Gonella) replied to the three chosen laboratories urging them to agree to date the Shroud since there was no possibility of returning to the original Turin Workshop protocol [see 27Apr87][11]. Arizona's Donahue told Gove on 28 December that Oxford's Hall and Zurich's Wolfli had agreed to date the Shroud, and Arizona would probably agree to do it as well[12]. Wilson observed that all it took was for Gonella to "merely hint... that ... he might bring in Italy's Pisa and Udine laboratories" and the three chosen laboratories "duly capitulated":

"Had the three chosen laboratories held their nerve and insisted that the original Protocol be maintained, history might have been very different. But as Gonella rightly anticipated `the prize was too great', particularly for the Oxford laboratory's Professor Hall, who was in a fight-to-the-death struggle with the Harwell laboratory (still using the old Libby method), for the controlling share of the UK's radiocarbon-dating work. When Gonella merely hinted that if the three chosen laboratories declined to co-operate he might bring in Italy's Pisa and Udine laboratories, they duly capitulated"[13]!
Gove was understandably (but unrealistically) disappointed at the three laboratories' (especially Arizona and Zurich's) capitulation:
"So despite all the high-minded statements he, Damon, Woelfli and even Hall had made to me in writing that they would stick by the protocol, it all went down the drain as soon as their bluff was called by Gonella. That was all it was — pure and simple bluff. I was not surprised that Hall took this position but I was deeply disappointed that Damon, Donahue and Woelfli, whom I regarded as personal friends as well as colleagues, did so as well. Would I have done the same if I were in their shoes? I thought not, but one could never know unless one really were put in that position"[14].
It wasn't bluff. If the three chosen laboratories had refused to date the Shroud, then Turin would have been free to find some other radiocarbon dating laboratories who would. And as for Gove's, "I thought not", he later admitted to Donahue,"I can't disguise from you the fact that I envy the hell out of you"[15] because Donahue was going to date the Shroud and Gove (due to his anti-Christian hostility towards STURP and Turin - see 27Apr87, 15Jun87 & 10Oct87) was not!

On 15 January 1988 Gove and Brookhaven's Garman Harbottle (1923-2016) [below[16].] held a press conference at Columbia University in New York City[17] "to protest the archbishop's abrogation of the Turin Workshop Protocol"[18] and to "make it clear to the general public that some responsible scientists thought the project would suffer if only three labs were involved"[19]. Their aim was to put pressure on Cardinal Ballestrero before "the three labs actually agreed to date the shroud" [sic] at the 22 January meeting, so that "he would compromise"[20]. To that end they were prepared to lie to "Senator Al D'Amato and/or Daniel Patrick Moynihan" who were "the two senators from New York State" by claiming falsely that, "inexplicably we have been excluded from the dating endeavour":

"We ... are the two New York laboratories who had made the first proposal to date the shroud. We were the developers of both the AMS and the small-counter technique and inexplicably we have been excluded from the dating endeavour. Could the senators by inquiry through our Ambassador to the Holy See find out why two such distinguished laboratories were summarily excluded?"[21].
When in Gove's own book, he had already quoted Cardinal Ballestrero's explanation why he chose only the three AMS laboratories, Arizona, Oxford and Zurich to date the Shroud:
"The choice of the three laboratories among the seven which offered their services was made, after long deliberation and careful consultation, on a criterion of internationality and consideration for the specific experience in the field of archaeological radiocarbon dating, taking also into account the required sample size. On this criterion [sic] the following laboratories are selected: Radiocarbon Laboratory, University of Arizona Research Laboratory for Archaeology, Oxford University Radiocarbon Laboratory, ETH, Zurich"[22].
See 10Oct87 that, "On the criterion of ... sample size ... the non-AMS laboratories Harwell and Brookhaven would need two to three times the amount of Shroud sample than the AMS laboratories ... This alone eliminated the non-AMS laboratories" Brookhaven and Harwell. Then of the AMS laboratories, by the criterion of "specific experience in the field of archaeological radiocarbon dating ... Gove's Rochester and Gif-sur-Yvette ... had less than Arizona, Oxford and Zurich." And "the criterion of `internationality' meant only one laboratory each from the USA, England and Europe ... leaving ... Arizona ... Oxford ... and ... Zurich." That Rochester's Gove and Brookhaven's Harbottle did not agree with Turin's explanation does not mean that they can truthfully claim it is not an explanation!

At the press conference on 15 January, only about "a dozen people or so showed up"[23]. Gove consoled himself with, "Although the turnout was not large, the actual coverage by the world's press was quite substantial"[24]. But he admitted that The New York Times did not send a reporter across town to attend the conference, and its article by science writer, Walter Sullivan[25], based on a phone call with Gove the day before, "was not up to his usual standards"[26]. Gove claimed that the Chicago Tribune on 17 January[27] "carried a very good article on the shroud" [sic][28]. But Gove made the mistake of personally attacking Gonella as, "a man nobody (in the scientific community) ever heard of":

"We felt that the cardinal was being given extraordinarily bad advice by his science advisor. That's Luigi Gonella. He's a professor of metrology, whatever that is, at Turin Polytechnic. He's a man nobody (in the scientific community) ever heard of"[29].
This meant that Gonella had to be contacted in Turin to give his side of the story, which Gove mentions but does not quote[30]. But in the Chicago Tribune article, Gonella made the telling point that Gove and Harbottle's "press conference... [was] just an effort to intimidate" them but "It's not going to work ... It won't change anything":
"Gonella, contacted at his office in Turin, refused to give a reason for the reduction in labs or discuss Friday's impending meeting, which he called a private matter. He added that he would not budge on the decision just because Gove and Harbottle were upset about it. `I do not have to account for my credentials to Gove and Harbottle,' he said. `As a professor at Turin Polytechnic, I only have to account to my faculty. This business of holding press conferences is just an effort to intimidate people who don't agree with you. It's not going to work. They can hold all the press conferences they want. It won't change anything.' Gonella accused Gove and Harbottle of bad faith, saying neither of them answered Ballestrero's most recent letter discussing the move to three labs and he said the protocol adopted at the Turin meeting was only a suggestion, never an agreement. `It was agreed that there would be no advance publicity on this,' he said. `We are keeping our end of the bargain whether they do or not'"[31].
On 19 January Gove talked to Zurich's Wolfli, who said that at the 22 January meeting in London, the three laboratories "would ask for very restrictive conditions ... and if Gonella would not accept them then he would withdraw"[32]. Wolfli told Gove that, "Gonella had asked why the shroud [sic] was any different from any other important carbon dating Woelfli did every day?" But evidently Wolfli had no good answer, because Gove does not give one for his readers benefit, but lamely wrote, "I assume Woelfli was patient in his explanation"[33]. But Wolfli could hardly give, nor Gove print, the true reason why Gove insisted on seven laboratories to date the Shroud, which is that, "... despite Gove's Rochester laboratory being where radiocarbon dating was invented, Gove admitted in the Turin Workshop that Rochester had the least experience of radiocarbon dating" and "Therefore, unless seven laboratories dated the Shroud, Gove would have no part in it" [see 18Nov87]!

On 22 January Gove received a phone call from Roger Highfield, a science writer for the London Daily Telegraph, informing him that the meeting (see above) had been held and:

"The decision was to use only the three labs, the shroud [sic] sampling would be videotaped, they would try to respect the agreement of the Turin workshop as far as possible and the results should be available by the end of the year"[34].
On 25 January 1988 Gove phoned Donahue, who told him:
"... it [the radiocarbon dating of the Shroud] was going ahead and nothing was going to stop it. The meeting had been attended by people from the three laboratories, Tite and Gonella. There had been a fair amount of enthusiasm on the part of most of the people there. I asked what mood Luigi [Gonella] had been in and he said that he had been quite agreeable ... Every request or demand they had made (and he admitted they had not really made any demands) about how the operation should be carried out had seemed reasonable to Gonella. His response to all of them was that he would consult the cardinal"[35].
Donahue then read to Gove a press release that he, Tite and Gonella had composed:
"Representatives of the three radiocarbon dating laboratories, Arizona, Oxford and Zurich, accepted by the Vatican to undertake the radiocarbon dating of the shroud met on 22 January at the British Museum together with Professor Luigi Gonella, the scientific advisor to the Cardinal of Turin and Dr Michael Tite of the British Museum who had been invited to help in the certification of the operation. After discussion, they accepted the decision of the Vatican to use no more than three samples in the interest of conservation of the shroud [sic]. Procedures for taking the samples from the shroud and for the treatment of the results were discussed and proposals on this will be submitted to the Archbishop of Turin for his agreement. It is proposed that, as far as possible, the spirit of the original protocol of the 1986 meeting be retained. Each laboratory will be provided with control samples of known age. The samples will be taken from the main body of the shroud away from patches or charred areas under the supervision of a qualified expert. Certification of the samples will be undertaken by the Archbishop of Turin, Anastasio Cardinal Ballestrero, Pontifical Custodian of the Shroud of Turin and by Michael Tite of the British Museum. Representatives of the three laboratories will be present in Turin to receive the samples. The overall procedure will be fully recorded by video film and photography. The laboratories will submit their results for statistical analysis to the British Museum and to the Institute for Metrology 'G Colonnetti'. The timetable for the operation has not been established but it is hoped that the radiocarbon dates on the Shroud of Turin will be released by the end of 1988. If these proposals are approved by the cardinal, then a letter will be submitted to Nature giving further details of the procedure. The participants of this meeting wish to take this opportunity to record their appreciation to Professor Carlos Chagas, President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, who chaired the original meeting in Turin in October 1986 as well as the other participants who played a crucial role in moving the project forward"[36].

So Gove, "who had spent nearly ten years bringing the project into being and was now not even to have a look-in"[37] had comprehensively failed and his only `reward' was to be thanked anonymously as just one of "the other participants who played a crucial role in moving the project forward"! But that was Gove's own fault, due to, "... by [his] own account in his book ... confrontational and divide-and-conquer approach, riding roughshod over both STURP and Turin's Gonella, to achieve a result that was acceptable only to the seven laboratories [see 10Oct87]."

Note that so great was Gove the agnostic's[38] antagonism towards Christianity and the Shroud that he cannot bring himself to use correct English and capitalise "Shroud" as the proper noun it is. The same press release is quoted in full in Garza-Valdes' "The DNA of God?" (1998)[39], which is online, and as can be seen it has "Shroud" capitalised. So Gove evidently went out of his way to uncapitalise "Shroud"!

To be continued in the next part #9 of this series.

1. This post is copyright. I grant permission to quote from any part of it (but not the whole post), provided it includes a reference citing my name, its subject heading, its date, and a hyperlink back to this page. [return]
2. Wilson, I., 2010, "The Shroud: The 2000-Year-Old Mystery Solved," Bantam Press: London, p.82A. [return]
3. Gove, H.E., 1996, "Relic, Icon or Hoax?: Carbon Dating the Turin Shroud," Institute of Physics Publishing: Bristol UK, p.228; Wilson, I., 1998, "The Blood and the Shroud: New Evidence that the World's Most Sacred Relic is Real," Simon & Schuster: New York NY, pp.184, 308. [return]
4. Gove, 1996, pp.222-223; Wilson, 1998, p.184. [return]
5. Sox, H.D., 1988, "The Shroud Unmasked: Uncovering the Greatest Forgery of All Time," The Lamp Press: Basingstoke UK, p.95; Antonacci, M., 2000, "Resurrection of the Shroud: New Scientific, Medical, and Archeological Evidence," M. Evans & Co: New York NY, pp.192-193. [return]
6. Gove, 1996, pp.224-225. [return]
8. "7th Fr. Peter M. Rinaldi Awards Dinner," Event Management Services, 2017. [return]
7. Sox, 1988, p.117. [return]
8. "7th Fr. Peter M. Rinaldi Awards Dinner," Event Management Services, 2017. [return]
9. Gove, 1996, p.226. [return]
10. Ibid. [return]
11. Gove, 1996, p.227. [return]
12. Ibid. [return]
13. Wilson, 1998, p.184. [return]
14. Gove, 1996, p.227. [return]
15. Gove, 1996, p.241. [return]
16. "Garman Harbottle: Senior Chemist Emeritus," Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton NY, 2011. [return]
17. Gove, 1996, pp.228, 232; Petrosillo, O. & Marinelli, E., 1996, "The Enigma of the Shroud: A Challenge to Science," Scerri, L.J., transl., Publishers Enterprises Group: Malta, p.45. [return]
18. Gove, 1996, p.324. [return]
19. Gove, 1996, p.228; Petrosillo & Marinelli, 1996, p.45. [return]
20. Gove, 1996, p.228. [return]
21. Gove, 1996, pp.228-229. [return]
22. Gove, 1996, p.214. [return]
23. Gove, 1996, p.232. [return]
24. Ibid. [return]
25. Sullivan, W., 1988, "Three Laboratories Are Chosen to Determine Age of Shroud of Turin," The New York Times, January 16. [return]
26. Gove, 1996, pp.231-232. [return]
27. Clark, K.R., 1988, "Shroud of Turin Controversy Resumes," Chicago Tribune, January 17. [return]
28. Gove, 1996, pp.232-233. [return]
29. Gove, 1996, p.233. [return]
30. Ibid. [return]
31. Clark, 1988. [return]
32. Gove, 1996, pp.234-235. [return]
33. Gove, 1996, p.235. [return]
34. Gove, 1996, pp.235-236. [return]
35. Gove, 1996, p.239. [return]
36. Gove, 1996, pp.239-240. [return]
37. Wilson, 1998, p.184. [return]
38. Gove, 1996, p.101; Wilson, I. & Schwortz, B., 2000, "The Turin Shroud: The Illustrated Evidence," Michael O'Mara Books: London, p.9. [return]
39. Garza-Valdes, L.A., 1998, "The DNA of God?," Hodder & Stoughton: London, pp.177-178. [return]

Posted: 4 February 2018. Updated: 13 February 2018.

No comments: