Wednesday, 14 September 2016

peer-review oder lügensteine

There was something vaguely familiar among this list of the most infamous scientific hoaxes that prescribe a preventative dose of healthy skepticism that the Presurfer shared. One of the pranks was perpetrated in my old town of Würzburg, just around the corner, at the prestigious university, where among other things, x-rays were discovered, probably began innocently enough but soon became a ruinous scandal.
Rock-hound, early fossil-prospector (though there were collections, at the time in 1725, people didn’t understand how fossils were formed and preserved) and dean of the School of Medicine Johann Bartholomeus Adam Beringer was known to hunt for specimens in the vineyards of Eibelstadt on the outskirts of the city, and some of the professor’s colleagues thought it would be a hoot if they planted some stones there for their cantankerous and rather arrogant co-worker to find. They etched into pieces of limestone impressions of bugs and frogs, which Beringer theorised were either fossils from before the Great Flood or were the artifice of prehistoric tribes. On later expeditions, Beringer also found fragments that bore the name of God in Hebrew characters, and with the evidence of the Tetragrammaton, Beringer decided that these could be no human artefacts but rather “capricious fabrications of God Himself.” Beringer commissioned a lithographer and began publishing volumes of his amazing findings. Even though disliked by the university staff, the hoaxers realised that they had gone too far and admitted to the fraud, discrediting not only Beringer academically but all involved as well. Some of Beringer’s so called Lügensteine (lying stones) are on display at the regional museum housed in Fortress Marienberg, and perhaps that’s where I was introduced to these eighteenth century pranksters.  Be sure to check out the link up top for more scandalous episodes of deception and duping.