The secret fund, known as Special Account Number 4, distributed millions of research dollars to US scientists who were specially selected by tobacco industry lawyers because their research might be useful in defending law suits brought by lung cancer victims.
Interviewed for a Channel 4 Dispatches programme tonight at the Institute of Psychiatry, where he was head of the Psychology Department until 1983, Professor Eysenck said he had never heard of Special Account 4 and could not remember exactly the source of the millions of pounds in research grants his work had attracted. "I'm not sure of any of this ... we get a lot of research money," he said.
Asked what he felt about tobacco industry lawyers being involved in selecting scientists for research projects, he said: "As long as somebody pays for the research I don't care who it is." Research should be judged on quality not on who paid for it, he said, adding that he had not personally profited from the funds.
Professor Eysenck has been one of the leading recipients of tobacco industry funds in Britain. According to leaked documents, between 1977-82 he received more than pounds 70,000 from Special Account 4 and, from all tobacco industry sources, almost pounds 800,000 in research grants between 1977-89.
The Institute of Psychiatry, where Professor Eysenck remains Professor Emeritus, is also a big recipient of tobacco funds. The institute has received more than pounds 2m in research funding over the same period.
The list of scientists who have received research funds through Special Account 4 was discovered by Merrell Williams, a clerk working for the British-owned tobacco company, Brown Williamson (B&W). The company has its headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky. Between 1988 and 1992, Mr Williams copied thousands of pages of internal tobacco industry memoranda and gave them to lawyers suing tobacco companies in Mississippi.
Special Account 4 was administered by a law firm, Jacob and Medinger in New York, according to the Williams documents. Professor Eysenck was awarded Special Account 4 funds for "consultancy", according to the documents. A memo from the New York lawyer, Ed Jacob, to Ernest Pepples, vice-president of B&W, stated, "Professor Eysenck has been continuing very well on the consultation research you authorised a year ago. Accordingly, I recommend continuing this consultation research for the next year in accordance with Professor Eysenck's request. It would continue to be funded under Special Account 4, and, for the year, would amount to $26,600."