Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Sir John Paul Getty (September 7, 1932 – April 17, 2003) was a wealthy American-born British philanthropist and book-collector. He was the son of Jean Paul Getty, Sr. (1892-1976), one of the richest men in the world, and of his wife Anne Rork. The family's wealth was the result of the oil business founded by George Franklin Getty . At birth he was given the name Eugene Paul Getty, but in later life he adopted, and was better known by, the names Paul Getty, John Paul Getty and Jean Paul Getty, Jr.
His father expected him to prove himself: his first job was pumping gas for $100 a month. He attended Saint Ignatius High School and the University of San Francisco, but he did not graduate from college. He was drafted into the U.S. Army to serve in Korea.
In 1956 he married Gail Harris , by whom he had four children: J. Paul (born 1956), Aileen (born 1957), Mark (born 1960), and Ariadne (born 1962). In 1959 he took control of Getty Oil's Rome division, and became addicted to both alcohol and heroin. He was a registered heroin addict in Britain for years, and drug use ended his first marriage (they divorced in 1964).
His second marriage, on December 10, 1966, was to Talitha Pol , the daughter of painter William Pol and step-granddaughter of painter Augustus John. She died of a drug overdose on July 14, 1971. This marriage produced one son, Tara Gabriel Galaxy Gramophone Getty (born 1968). He became reclusive following the death of Talitha, leaving Italy and taking up residence in Chelsea in 1972.
A troubled life
In 1973 his son Paul III was kidnapped in Rome and held in the Calabrian Mountains , chained to a stake in a cave. Getty did not have enough money to pay the US$17 million ransom demand, and his father refused to help. "I have 14 other grandchildren," he said, "and if I pay one penny now, then I will have 14 kidnapped grandchildren." When one of his son's ears was delivered by mail to a newspaper in Rome (delivery had been delayed by three weeks because of a postal strike), his father agreed to help out with the ransom payment. This son later took a mixture of prescription drugs which left him comatose for six weeks and left him paralysed and visually impaired.
In 1976, Paul II's father died, but had essentially written his son out of his will, leaving him $500. Paul II's money came from a family trust and his grandmother. After his father's death, he was able to stop using drugs. Getty's daughter Aileen, a cocaine addict, married Christopher Wilding , son of Elizabeth Taylor, in 1981. She became HIV positive and developed AIDS in 1990. She is active in activities relating to the impact of AIDS on women. She separated from Mr. Wilding in 1989.
Over the next decade he suffered from depression, and in 1984, in a final attempt to end his drug addiction, checked himself into a London clinic. While there he received a visit from the prime minister Margaret Thatcher to thank him for his donation to the National Gallery, who reportedly helped speed his recovery by telling him, "My dear Mr Getty, we mustn't let things get us down, must we? We'll have you out of here as soon as possible."
Getty gave over £140m to the cause of culture. The National Gallery alone received £50m from him. He was awarded a KBE in 1987, but as a foreign national could not use the title "Sir". In December 1997 he was granted British citizenship and immediately renounced his US nationality. The Queen is reported to have commented: 'Now you can use your title, that's nice.' In 1994 he married his third wife, Victoria Holdsworth , who had helped him conquer his drug addiction.
He became greatly interested in cricket after being introduced to the sport by Mick Jagger, the lead singer of the Rolling Stones. He developed a great passion for the game. He even built a cricket ground at Wormsley Park, his 2,500 acre (10 km²) Buckinghamshire estate. Getty also built a large library, collecting such treasures as a first edition of Chaucer, Ben Jonson's annotated copy of Spenser, and Shakespeare's First, Second , Third , and Fourth Folios . He also was President of Surrey County Cricket Club for one year, and gave money to Lord's cricket ground to build a new stand. Combining his loves of cricket and books, Getty purchased ownership of Wisden, the famous cricketing almanack.
His personal fortune was estimated as about £1.6 billion. He donated significant support for the National Gallery, the British Museum, the British Film Institute, Hereford Cathedral, and the Imperial War Museum. In June, 2001, he gave £5 million to the Conservative Party.
He died in the London Clinic, after being admitted for treatment for a recurrent chest infection.
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