Inside Turnbull's passport

 Press Release

In the Arms of Africa 


1924-Born in Harrow, England.

1941-Enrolls at Magdalen College, Oxford.

1942-Joins the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserves in World War II. Recovers bodies and sweeps mines.

1946-Decommissioned as a sub-lieutenant, re-enrolls at Oxford.

1949-Finishes undergraduate degree at Oxford. Leaves for India.

1949-1951-Studies in India with Sri Anandamayi Ma & Sri Aurobindo, two of the most famous Indian saints of the 20th century. Meets his companion, Newton Beal.

1951-1952-Leaves for Africa, with Newton Beal. Travel to the Ituri forest to live with Patrick Putnam and Anne Eisner Putnam. Employed by the Hollywood producer, Sam Spiegel, to build the African Queen. Begins his studies with the Mbuti Pygmies.

1953-Travels to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, to work as a gold miner.

1954-1957-Studies at Oxford University to become an anthropologist. Becomes engaged to an Indian woman, Kumari Mayor.

1957-1958-Returns to study the Pygmies with Newton Beal.

1959-Named curator of African Ethnology at the American Museum of Natural History. Meets Joseph Towles at the Mais Oui. Relationship with Kumari Mayor ends.

1960-Towles and Turnbull take wedding vows.

1961-Publishes The Forest People

1964-Receives his D.Phil (doctorate) in Anthropology from Oxford.

1965-Becomes a U.S. Citizen. Towles decides to become an anthropologist.

1965-1966-Fieldwork among the Ik of Uganda. Towles studies for a sociology/anthropology degree at Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.

1968-Publishes Tibet with Thubten Norbu (the Dalai Lama's eldest brother).

1969-Resigns from American Museum of Natural History amid controversy over the museum's relationship with African Americans. Begins teaching at Hofstra University.

1970-1971-Fieldwork among the Pygmies, writes The Mountain People

1973-1976-Towles & Turnbull teach at Virginia Commonwealth University. Move permanently to Lancaster County, Virginia.

1974-1976-With Peter Brook, produces the play The Ik. Becomes Professor at George Washington University.

1975-Father dies in London.

1977-Mother dies in Virginia.

1978-Begins full-time study of the death penalty. Towles receives his Ph.D. from Makerere University.

1982-Towles begins to appear emotionally unstable. Turnbull rejects tenure at George Washington University. Decides to retire to care for Joe.

1983-Publishes his partly autobiographical The Human Cycle.

1985-Travels to Samoa to follow up on Margaret Mead's 1927 study. Receives a clinical diagnosis of HIV infection.

1988-Joe Towles dies of AIDS. Turnbull has a double funeral, with second coffin containing his own spirit. Tombstone reads that both died on the same day, December 19, 1988.

1989-Gives all his money and property to the United Negro Fund. Moves to Samoa.

1990-Moves to Bloomington, Indiana to build Tibetan Cultural Center with his old friend, Thubten Norbu.

1991-1992-Travels to Dharamsala, India, where the Dalai Lama ordains him as a Buddhist monk. He is now known as Lobsong Rigdol.

1994-Returns to Lancaster County, Virginia, where he dies of AIDS.

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© 2000 Roy Richard Grinker