Known or Suspected Cases of Scientific Fraud
Case: Hipparchus (Greek astronomer)
Date: Second century B.C.
Action: Published star catalog taken from Babylonian
sources as if it were the result of his own observations.
Reference: G.J. Toomer, “Ptolemy,” Dictionary
of Scientific Biography (Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1975),
Case: Claudius Ptolemy (Egyptian astronomer
whose theory of the solar system held sway for 1,500 years)
Date: Second century A.D.
Action: Claimed to have performed astronomical measurements
which he did not.
Reference: Robert R. Newton, The Crime of Claudius Ptolemy
(Johns Hopkins University Press,
Case: Galileo Galilei (physicist and
founder of scientific method)
Date: Early seventeenth century
Action: Exaggerated the outcome of experimental results.
Reference: Alexandre Koyre, Metaphysics and Measurement:
Essays in Scientific Revolution (Harvard University Press, Cambridge,
Case: Isaac Newton (first modern physicist)
Action: Introduced fudge factors into his magnum opus
so as to increase its apparent power of prediction.
Reference: Richard S. Westfall, “Newton and the
Fudge Factor,” Science, 179, 751-758, 1973.
Case: Johann Beringer (German dilettante
and collector of fossils)
Action: Hoaxed by rivals in publishing book of fake fossils.
Reference: Melvin E. Jahn and Daniel J. Woolf, The Lying
Stones of Dr. Johann Bartholomew Adam Beringer (University of California
Press, Berkeley, 1963).
Case: Johann Bernoulli (mathematician
who refined calculus)
Action: Plagiarized his son’s discovery of the
“Bernoulli equation,” backdating his own book so it appeared
to have been issued before his son’s.
Reference: C. Truesdell, in introduction to Euler’s
Opera Omnia, Ser. II, Vol. II, p. xxxv.
Case: John Dalton (father of modern atomic
Action: Reported experiments that cannot now be repeated,
and which probably could not have happened as described.
Reference: Leonard K. Nash, “The Origin of Dalton’s
Chemical Atomic Theory,” Isis, 47, 101-116, 1956.
Case: Orgueil (a meteorite shower that
fell on France)
Action: Unknown hoaxster tampered with piece of meteorite
so it seemed to bear organic remains, implying the existence of extraterrestrial
Reference: Edward Anders et al., “Contaminated
Meteorite,” Science, 146, 1157-1161, 1964.
Case: Gregor Mendel (father of genetics)
Action: Published statistical results too good to be
Reference: Several papers in Curt Stern and Eva R. Sherwood,
The Origin of Genetics: A Mendel Source Book (W.H. Freeman and Co., San
Case: Admiral Peary (American explorer)
Action: Alleged he had reached the geographical North
Pole when in fact he knew he was hundreds of miles away.
Reference: Dennis Rawlins, Peary at the North Pole: Fact
or Fiction? (Robert B. Luce, Washington-New York, 1973).
Case: Robert Millikan (American physicist
and winner of Nobel Prize)
Action: Kept unfavorable results out of published papers
while publicly maintaining that he had reported everything.
Reference: Gerald Holton, “Subelectrons, Presuppositions,
and the Millikan-Ehrenhaft Dispute,” Historical Studies in the Physical
Sciences, 9, 166-224, 1978.
Action: Hoaxster planted fake fossils in gravel pit,
presumably to cast Britain as birthplace of the human race.
Reference: J.S. Weiner, The Piltdown Forgery (Oxford
University Press, London, 1955).
Case: Adriaan van Maanen (American astronomer
at Mount Wilson Observatory)
Action: Misreported the reliability of key astronomical
Reference: Norriss S. Hetherington, Beyond the Edge of
Objectivity, unpublished book MS.
Case: Paul Kammerer (Viennese biologist)
Action: Kammerer or assistant faked breeding results
Reference: Arthur Koestler, The Case of the Midwife Toad
(Hutchinson, London, 1971).
Case: Cyril Burt (English psychologist)
Action: Fabricated data to support theory that human
intelligence is 75 percent inherited.
Reference: L.S. Hearnshaw, Cyril Burt, Psychologist,
Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1979, 370 pp.
Case: James H. McCrocklin (president
of Southwest Texas State College from 1964-1969)
Action: Pirated parts of old report in Ph.D. thesis.
Reference: Texas Observer, March 7, 1969, pp. 6-8.
Case: “Traction” (pseudonym)
Action: A young researcher falsified work at Yale, then
was hired by Fritz Lipmann at the Rockefeller Institute, where he published
falsified work with Lipmann and was eventually found out.
Reference: William J. Broad, “Fraud and the Structure
of Science,” Science, 212, 137-141, 1981.
Case: P.G. Pande, R.R. Shukla, and P.C.
Sekariah (at Indian Veterinary Research Institute)
Action: Claimed to have discovered parasite in hens’
eggs, but photomicrographs had been lifted from another publication.
Reference: The editorial board of Science, “An
Unfortunate Event,” Science, 134, 945-946, 1961.
Case: “Fraley” (pseudonym)
Action: A visiting professor in David E. Green’s
University of Wisconsin lab faked several important experiments leading
Green to announce retractions at a national meeting.
Reference: Joseph Hixon, The Patchwork Mouse (Doubleday,
New York, 1976), pp. 146-148. Hixon refers to the perpetrator of the frauds
Case: Robert Gullis (biochemist from
Action: Faked series of experiments on messenger chemicals
used by the brain.
Reference: Mike Muller, “Why Scientists Don’t
Cheat,” New Scientist, June 2, 1977, pp. 522-523.
Case: Walter J. Levy (parapsychologist
and protege of father of parapsychology, J.B. Rhine)
Action: Faked results of experiment in which rats were
to influence equipment by brain power, a phenomenon known as psychokinesis.
Reference: J.B. Rhine, “ A New Case of Experimenter
Un reliability,” Journal of Parapsychology, 38, 215-255, 1974.
Case: William Summerlin (immunologist)
Action: In an attempt to bolster research that was under
fire, Summerlin faked results of skin transplants with mice.
Reference: Joseph Hixon, The Patchwork Mouse (Doubleday,
New York, 1976).
Case: Stephen S. Rosenfeld (undergraduate
researcher at Harvard)
Action: Forged letters of recommendation and allegedly
faked series of experiments in biochemistry.
Reference: Robert Reinhold, “When Methods Are Not
So Scientific;” The New York Times, December 29, 1974, p. E7.
Case: Zoltan Lucas (surgeon at Stanford
Action: Admitted to faking citations to research papers
of his that did not exist. Some of the fakery was aimed at winning NIH
Reference: Series of news releases put out by Stanford
University News Service, August, 1981.
Case: Wilson Crook III (graduate student
in geology at University of Michigan)
Action: Regents at the university in 1980 rescinded Crook’s
master’s degree, saying that he had fraudulently claimed to have
discovered a natural mineral called “texasite,” which in reality
was a synthetic compound. Crook denied the charges.
Reference: Max Gates, “Regents Rescinds Student’s
Degree, Charging Fraud,” The Ann Arbor News, October 18, 1980, p.
Case: Marc J. Straus (cancer researcher
at Boston University)
Action: Group of Straus’ researchers and nurses
admitted falsifying data in clinical tests and charged that some of the
fakery was done on Straus’ orders. Straus denied any wrongdoing.
Reference: Nils J. Bruzelius and Stephen A, Kurkjian,
“Cancer Research Data Falsified; Boston Project Collapses,”
Boston Globe, five- part series starting June 29, 1980, p. 1.
Case: Elias A.K. Alsabti (Iraqi medical
student who worked at several research centers in the United States)
Action: Plagiarized scientific papers, perhaps sixty
Reference: William J. Broad, “Would-be Academician
Pirates Papers,” Science, 208, 1438-1440, 1980.
Case: Stephen Krogh Derr (radiation chemist
at Hope College in Holland, Michigan)
Action: Published allegedly invented results of remarkable
treatment said to remove plutonium from the bodies of poisoned workers.
Reference: Lawrence McGinty, “Researcher Retracts
Claims on Plutonium Treatment,” New Scientist, October 4, 1979,
Case: John Long (research pathologist
at Massachusetts General Hospital)
Action: Forged data in the course of a research career
spent studying cell lines that turned out to not come from humans but
from a brown-footed Columbian owl monkey.
Reference: Nicolas Wade, “A Diversion of the Quest
for Truth,” Science, 211, 1022-1025, 1981.
Case: Vijay R. Soman (biomedical researcher
Action: Falsified results in three papers, threw away
raw data in others, forcing retraction of twelve papers in all.
Reference: Morton Hunt, “A Fraud that Shook the
World of Science,” The New York Times Magazine, November 1, 1981,
Case: Mark Spector (rising young biochemist
at Cornell University)
Action: A series of elegant experiments by Spector that
pointed to a unified theory of cancer causation turned out to be fakes.
Spector denied any wrongdoing, saying somebody else spiked the test tubes.
Reference: Nicholas Wade, “The Rise and Fall of
a Scientific Superstar,” New Scientist, September 24, 1981, pp.
Case: M. J. Purves (physiologist at University
Action: Falsified work presented in paper to International
Congress of Physiological Science.
Retracted paper, resigned his post after university investigation
Reference: “Scientific Fraud: In Bristol Now,”
Nature, 294, 509, 1981.
Case: John R. Darsee (cardiologist at
Harvard Medical School)
Action: Admitted faking one experiment and blue-ribbon
committee found two others highly suspect.
Reference: William J. Broad, “Report Absolves Harvard
in Case of Fakery,” Science, 215, 874-876, 1982.