As if history and nature had not provided wonders enough, through the ages humans themselves have contrived more marvels to deceive one another. Sometimes they have concocted evidence when none was available to prove pet theories; sometimes their intention has been to impress or defraud; sometimes they have acted merely for sport.
Robert Silverberg tells the stories of a baker's dozen of these scientific hoaxers in a lively, good-humored book that ranges through time and across continents. Here are perpetual-motion machines and space rockets, men on the moon and serpents in the sea. The rogues’ gallery is a varied one: Dr. Mesmer, who cast his hypnotic spell on eighteenth-century Paris; Charles Dawson, whose Piltdown Man challenged evolution; Dr. Cook, with his tale of “discovering” the North Pole; and many others.
These are fascinating stories and more than just entertainment. The author explains the scientific background against which the hoaxes appeared and the detective work that led to their exposure. The schemers teach us to be alert, to challenge the evidence, and to appreciate the healthy skepticism that characterizes the scientific method.
Robert Silverberg is the author of numerous books, including At Winter’s End and The Queen of Springtime, both available in Bison Books editions, and Far Horizons: All New Tales from the Greatest Worlds of Science Fiction.
Three eyewitness views by the Indian, Chief He Dog, the Indian-white, William Garnett, and the white doctor, Valentine McGillycuddy Edited and with a new introduction by Robert A. Clark Commentary by Carroll Friswold