Unraveling Piltdown:: The Science Fraud of the Century and Its Solution

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9780679444442: Unraveling Piltdown:: The Science Fraud of the Century and Its Solution
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In 1913 amateur fossil hunter and archaeologist Charles Dawson found in a gravel pit the cranium and jaw of an entirely new species of humanoid, which became known as Piltdown man, which caused headlines worldwide as the missing link between man and ape. In 1952, it was exposed as a hoax. With eight pages of photos, this book is a wonderful detective story, and the first examination the convincingly fingers the perpetrator.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A new theory on the culprit behind the Piltdown Hoax--in which a fraudulent early human fossil was foisted on the scientific establishment--is at the heart of this lively book. Walsh (This Brief Tragedy, 1991, etc.), an Edgar-winning unraveler of real-life mysteries, begins with a succinct summary of the 1913 discovery, in an English gravel pit, of parts of a skull and jawbone--the purported remains of an early hominid. The discovery was a sensation, both because no early human fossils had previously been uncovered in Britain and because the apelike character of the jaw was in stark contrast to the modern-looking skull. The fossil was dubbed ``Piltdown Man,'' after the locale of its discovery, and proudly offered as evidence of the antiquity of the human race in Britain. It wasn't until 1952 that new tests revealed the fossil to be a forgery. Ever since, speculation has raged over the identity of the perpetrator and his probable motives. Walsh offers a solution based on what he feels are the incontrovertible facts of the case. He briefly considers the cases against nearly a dozen suspects (including Martin Hinton, recently identified by another researcher as the probable hoaxer), dismissing them all as based on speculation. Three major figures receive detailed scrutiny: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (who lived nearby), Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (who assisted the original fossil hunt), and Sir Arthur Keith (an anatomist). After clearing these three suspects, the author turns the spotlight on Charles Dawson, the local amateur who first reported the fossil, who was present at all the key Piltdown discoveries, and whose scientific credentials apparently rested upon a series of frauds parallel in many ways to the Piltdown imposture. Walsh convincingly argues that no other suspect had as clear an opportunity to commit the fraud. An informative and well-documented discussion of the famous case, which may not end the Piltdown argument, but which will certainly influence the debate in the future. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

In 1913, amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson discovered a human cranium alongside an apelike jaw. Declared the possible missing link between human and ape, the Piltdown fossils essentially impeded the infant science of paleontology for 40 years?because they were the only exception to the rule that showed physical changes preceded enlargement of the brain?until they were proven a hoax in 1952. Through the use of numerous original documents and all other research on Piltdown, Edgar Award winner Walsh (The Shadow Rise, LJ 9/1/93) creates a powerful and convincing exposition of how the deception was accomplished. The 11 most likely suspects are examined in terms of opportunity and motive, and four suspects are considered in depth: Conan Doyle, Teilhard de Chardin, Arthur Keith, and Charles Dawson. Walsh believes the importance of solving the Piltdown forgery at this late date is twofold: to show the influence of a prevailing paradigm on thinking and discovery and to protect innocent suspects, which can be done only by proving the identity of the real forger. Easily the definitive work on this topic and, one would hope, the final word on the identity of the perpetrator, this book is riveting and compelling. Highly recommended for all collections.?Gloria Maxwell, Kansas City P.L., Mo.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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