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by Ralph E. Juergens


Seventeen years ago the appearance of Immanuel Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision precipitated an academic storm. Prominent American scientists, roused to indignation even before the book was published, greeted it with a remarkable demonstration of ill will that included a partially successful attempt to suppress the work by imposing a boycott on its first publisher's textbooks. The reading public witnessed the unique spectacle of a scientific debate staged not in the semi-privacy of scientific meetings and journals, but in the popular press, with scientists - in rare accord - on one side and lay champions of free speech on the other. With the might of authority all on one side of the issue, the debate was resolved in a predictable manner; Velikovsky and his book were discredited in the public eye.

From the start there was more to the controversy than the simple question of a dissenting scholar's right to be published and read; the atmosphere generated by scientific consternation was charged with a peculiar emotion that Newsweek termed 'a highly unacademic fury. ' Even if Velikovsky's books were, as one astronomer put it, the 'most amazing example of a shattering of accepted concepts on record, ' the violence of the reaction against it seemed all out of proportion to the book's importance if, as most critics insisted, the work was spurious and entirely devoid of merit. Many nonscientist observers concluded that Velikovsky's work was not run-of-the-mill heresy, but a thesis that presented a genuine threat to the very ego of science. It seemed that Worlds in Collision was being attacked with a fervor 'reserved only for books that lay bare new fundamentals. ' Caught up in this fervor, more than one scientist-reviewer of Velikovsky's book adopted tactics even more surprising than the overt and covert deeds of the would-be suppressors.

Before attempting to trace the course of The Velikovsky Affair, we might first recall the unsettling message of the book that initiated that strange chain of events. In Britain, where Worlds in Collision was also rejected by almost all scientists, but with a lesser show of emotion, Sir Harold Spencer Jones, the later Royal Astronomer, summarized its thesis this way:

The central theme of Worlds in Collision is that, according to Dr Velikovsky, between the fifteenth and eight centuries B. C., the earth experienced a series of violent catastrophes of global extent. Parts of its surface were heated to such a degree that they became molten and great streams of lava welled out; the sea boiled and evaporated;... mountain ranges collapsed, while others were thrown up; continents were raised causing great floods; showers of hot stones fell; electrical disturbances of great violence caused much havoc; hurricanes swept the earth; a pall of darkness shrouded it, to be followed by a deluge of fire. This picture of a period of intense turmoil within the period of recorded history is supported by a wealth of quotations from the Old Testament, from the Hindu Vedas, from Roman and Greek mythology, and from the myths, traditions and folklore of many races and peoples...
These catastrophic events in the earth's history are attributed by Dr Velikovsky to a series of awe-inspiring cosmic cataclysms. In the solar system we see the several planets moving round the sun in the same direction in orbits which are approximately circular and which lie nearly in the same plane. Dr Velikovsky asserts that this was not always so, but that in past times their orbits intersected; collisions between major planets occurred, which brought about the birth of comets. He states that in the time of Moses, about the fifteenth century B. C., one of these comets nearly collided with the earth, which twice passed through its tail. [The earth experienced] the disrupting effect of the comet's gravitational pull,... intense heating and enormous tides... incessant electric discharges... and the pollution of the atmosphere by the gases in the tail... Dr Velikovsky attributes... oil deposits in the earth to the precipitation, in the form of a sticky liquid (naphtha), of some of the carbon and hydrogen gases in the tail of the comet, while the manna upon which the Israelites fed is similarly accounted for as carbohydrates from the same source.
This comet is supposed to have collided with Mars... and, as the result of the collision, to have lost its tail and to have become transformed into the planet Venus...
Further catastrophes... ensued... Mars was shifted nearer to the earth so that in the year 687 B. C.... Mars nearly collided with the earth.
These various encounters are supposed to have been responsible for repeated changes in the earth's orbit, in the inclination of its axis, and in the lengths of the day, the seasons and the year. The earth on one occasion is supposed to have turned completely over, so that the sun rose in the west and set in the east. Dr Velikovsky argues that between the fifteenth and eight centuries B. C. the length of the year was 360 days and that it suddenly increased to 365 1/ 4 days in 687 B. C. The orbit of the moon and the length of the month were also changed... [1]
In short, Velikovsky's research among the ancient records of man - records ranging from unequivocal statements in written documents, through remembrances expressed in myth and legend, to mute archaeological evidence in the form of obsolete calendars and sundials - and his examination of geological and paleontological reports from all parts of the globe led him to conclude that modern man's snug little world, set in a framework of celestial harmony and imperceptible evolution, is but an illusion. Velikovsky's reappraisal of world history ravages established doctrine in disciplines from astronomy to psychology: universal gravitation of masses is not the only force governing celestial motions - electromagnetic force must also play important roles; enigmatic breaks in the geological record denote, not interminable ages of languorous erosion and deposition gently terminated by cyclic submergence and emergence of land masses, but sudden, violent derangements of the earth's surface; the remarkably rapid annihilation of whole species and genera of animals and the equally remarkable, almost simultaneous proliferation of species in other generic groups bespeak overwhelming catastrophe and wholesale mutation among survivors; the mechanism of evolution is not competition between typical and chance-mutant offspring of common parents, but divergent mutation of whole populations simultaneously exposed to unaccustomed radiation, chemical pollution of the atmosphere, and global electromagnetic disturbances; ancient cities and fortresses were not brought low individually by local warfare and earthquakes, but were destroyed simultaneously and repeatedly in worldwide catastrophes; calamities described in clear-cut terms in surviving records of the past - records almost universally interpreted allegorically by late-classical as well as modern scholars - were common traumatic experiences for all races of mankind, and as such have been purged from conscious memory.

The author of this strange new concept of universal history was born in Vitebsk, Russia, in 1895. His formal schooling began in Moscow at Medvednikov Gymnasium, from which he graduated with full honours. Following a brief period of study at Montpellier, France, and travels in Palestine, he began premedical studies in natural science at Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1914. When his schooling abroad was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I, Velikovsky enrolled in the Free University in Moscow and for a few years studied law and ancient history. Meanwhile, in 1915 he resumed work towards a medical degree at the University of Moscow, and in 1921 he received his medical diploma.

The next few years Velikovsky spent in Berlin, where he and Prof. Heinrich Loewe founded and published Scripta Universitatis with funds supplied by Velikovsky's father. In this series of volumes, conceived as a cornerstone for what would become the University of Jerusalem, contributions from outstanding Jewish scholars in all countries were published in their native languages and in Hebrew translation. The late Albert Einstein edited the mathematical-physical volume of the Scripta.

In Berlin Velikovsky met and married violinist Elisheva Kramer of Hamburg. Later the same year the young couple moved to Palestine, and the doctor began his practice of medicine. For fifteen years this practice - first as a general practitioner in Jerusalem, and later, after psychiatric training in Europe, as a psychoanalyst in Haifa and Tel Aviv - occupied most of Velikovsky's time. Nevertheless, he published a number of papers on psychology, some in Freud's Imago. In one paper, to which Prof. Eugen Bleuler wrote a preface [2] , Velikovsky was the first to suggest that pathological encephalograms would be found characteristic of epilepsy; distorted and accentuated brain waves of epileptics were later found to be important clinical diagnostic symptoms. He also conceived a plan for an academy of science in Jerusalem and started a new series, Scripta Academica, to which Prof. Chaim Weizmann, president of the World Zionist Organization and noted scientist, contributed the first monograph in biochemistry. This series was dedicated to the memory of Velikovsky's father, who had died in Palestine in December 1937.

Velikovsky also had an idea for a book, and to complete the necessary research he decided to interrupt his practice for an extended visit to America. The Velikovskys and their two school-age daughters arrived in New York in the summer of 1939, and the doctor plunged into his library research. The intended book had been conceived as an analytic study of Freud's own dreams as recorded in his writings, and a comparative study of the lives of three personages - Oedipus, Akhnaton, and Moses - who had figured prominently in Freud's thoughts and works.

The research was nearly completed by the spring of 1940, and Velikovsky began to make preparations for the return home. Then, at the last moment before an already-postponed sailing, he chanced upon an idea that was to completely alter his life plans and keep him in America for decades.

Reflecting upon events in the life of Moses, Velikovsky began to speculate: Was there a natural catastrophe at the time of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt? Could the plagues of Egypt, the hurricane, the parting of the waters, and the smoke, fire, and rumblings of Mt Sinai described in the Bible have been real and sequential aspects of single titanic cataclysm of natural forces? If the Exodus took place during - or because of - an upheaval, perhaps some record of the same events has survived among the many documents of ancient Egypt; if so, might not such a record be a clue to the proper place of the Exodus in Egyptian history?

After weeks of search Velikovsky came upon the story he sought. A papyrus bearing a lamentation by one Ipuwer had been preserved in the library of the University of Leiden, Holland, since 1828. Translation of the document by A. H. Gardiner in 1909 had disclosed an account of plague and destruction closely paralleling the Biblical narrative, but the similarities escaped Gardiner's attention. Ipuwer bewailed the collapse of the state and social order during what seemed to be a calamity of natural forces. Mention of Asiatic invaders (Hyksos) made it appear that the sage Ipuwer had witnessed the downfall of the Middle Kingdom (Middle Bronze Age) in Egypt.

For nearly 2000 years scholars have conjectured and debated about the proper place of the Exodus in Egyptian history. But the end of the Middle Kingdom which is conventionally assigned to the eighteenth century B. C. had never been considered; it seemed much too early according to Hebrew chronology. All efforts have been directed towards finding a likely niche in New Kingdom history. Velikovsky, however, felt confident that his method of correlation was valid; he resolved to establish the coevality of the Exodus and the Hyksos invasion as a working hypothesis and pursue the inquiry through subsequent centuries. He discovered so much apparent substantiation for the novel synchronization that he was soon compelled to face up to its inherent dilemma: either Hebrew history is too short by more than five centuries, an inconceivable premise - or Egyptian chronology, a proud joint achievement of modern historians, archaeologists, and astronomers, and the standard scale against which all Near Eastern histories are calibrated, is too long by an equal number of centuries. The latter alternative seemed just as inconceivable; all the excess centuries would have to be found and eliminated from post-Middle Kingdom history, that portion of Egyptian history considered by all scholars to be unalterably reconstructed and fixed in time. But soon Velikovsky found the apparent explanation for the discrepancy: certain Egyptian dynasties appear twice in conventionally accepted schemes - first, their stories appear as they have been pieced together from the monuments and other relics of Egypt; then in history gleaned from Greek historians, the same characters and events are given secondary and independent places in the time table. 'Many figures... are "Ghosts" or "halves" and "doubles". 'Events are often duplicates; many battle are shadows; many speeches are echoes; many treaties are copies. '

In the fall of 1940 Velikovsky traced events similar to those described in the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua in the literature of ancient Mexico. This confirmed his growing suspicion that the great natural catastrophes that visited the Near East had been global in scale. Immediately he expanded his research to embrace records of all races. The next five or six years he spent developing parallel themes - reconstructions of ancient political history and recent cosmic history - and as month followed month the intimate details of a new concept of the world emerged. Two manuscripts were the product of his labours: Ages in Chaos traced Near Eastern history from -1500 to -300; Worlds in Collision documented the evidence and sequence of catastrophes on earth and in the solar system. The late Robert H. Pfeiffer, then Chairman of the Department of Semitic Languages and Curator of the Semitic Museum at Harvard University, read an early draft of Ages in Chaos in 1942 and conceded that the revolutionary version of history might well be correct. He felt the work should receive a fair trial and objective investigation. He also read subsequent drafts of the manuscript and made efforts to help find a publisher for it. To one prospective publisher he wrote: 'I regard this work - provocative as it is - of fundamental importance, whether its conclusions are accepted by competent scholars or whether it forces them to a far-reaching and searching reconstruction of the accepted chronology. ' Notwithstanding Pfeiffer's endorsement, eight publishers returned the manuscript.

Before seeking a publisher for Worlds in Collision, Velikovsky tried to enlist the help of scientists in arranging for certain experiments that would constitute crucial tests for his thesis, which was essentially three-fold: (1) There were global catastrophes in historical times; (2) these catastrophes were caused by extraterrestrial agents; and (3) these agents, in the most recent of the catastrophes, can be identified as the planets Venus and Mars, Venus playing the dominant role. All three postulates would be largely substantiated if it could be shown that, contrary to all conventional expectations, Venus (1) is still hot - evidence of recent birth, (2) is enveloped in hydrocarbon clouds - remnants of a hydrocarbonaceous comet tail, and (3) has anomalous rotational motion - evidence suggesting that it suffered unusual perturbations before settling in its orbit as a planet. The first two of these points were selected by Velikovsky in 1946 as the most crucial tests for his entire work.


He was confident of ultimate vindication for his conclusion that Venus is hot despite the fact that the outer regions of its envelope were known to have a temperature -25 deg C. Even as recently as 1959 astronomers believed that because of the great reflecting power of its clouds, the ground temperature on Venus could differ little from that on earth. Venus orbits closer to the sun, but more solar radiation is reflected away from Venus than from the earth. Nevertheless, Velikovsky argued that the seeming contradiction in evidence long available - apparent slow rotation, yet nearly identical temperatures on shadowed and sunlit surfaces of the envelope of Venus - is illusory because the planet is young: it is hot and radiates heat from day and night hemispheres alike [Fifteen years later, in 1961, radio astronomers announced that radiation from Venus indicated that its surface must have a temperature of 600 degrees F. And in February 1963, after analyzing data from Mariner II, scientists raised this temperature estimate by another 200 degrees Ref. [3] No convincing explanation has yet been advanced to square this evidence with orthodox cosmologies.]

Velikovsky thought his second deduction about Venus - hydrocarbon dust and gases must be present in its atmosphere and envelope - might be investigated spectroscopically. To this end in April 1946 he approached Prof. Harlow Shapley, then director of Harvard College Observatory. Without going into detail, Velikovsky explained that he had developed a hypothesis about recent changes in the order of the solar system and that his conclusions might be checked in part by spectral studies of Venus. Shapely pointed out that sudden changes in the planetary order would be inconsistent with gravitational theory; nevertheless, he agreed to consider performing such experiments if another scholar of known reputation would first read and then recommend Velikovsky's work. At Velikovsky's behest, Prof. Horace M. Kallen, co-founder of the New School of Social Research and at that time dean of its graduate faculty - a scholar already familiar with the work - wrote Shapley to urge that he conduct the search for hydrocarbons on Venus if at all possible. But to Kallen's plea, Shapley, who had refused to read the manuscript, replied that he wasn't interested in Velikovsky's 'sensational claims' because they violated the laws of mechanics; 'if Dr Velikovsky is right, the rest of us are crazy. ' Nevertheless, Shapley recommended that Velikovsky contact either Walter S. Adams, director of Mt. Wilson Observatory, or Rupert Wildt at McCormick Observatory.

In the Summer of 1946 Velikovsky directed identical inquiries to both Wildt and Adams, stating that he had a cosmological theory implying that 'Venus is rich with petroleum gases and hydrocarbon dust. ' So strong were these implications that he believed the presence or absence of these materials in the atmosphere and envelope of Venus would constitute crucial support or refutation for his thesis, and therefore he wished to know if the spectrum of Venus might be interpreted in this sense. Wildt replied that the absorption spectrum of Venus shows no evidence of hydrocarbons. Adams pointed out that the absorption bands of most petroleum molecules are in the far infra-red, below the range of photographic detection, and that hydrocarbons known to absorb in the detectable range are not apparent in the spectrum of Venus.

All this notwithstanding, Velikovsky elected to defer once more to his historical evidence; he left in his manuscript and later in the published book the statement that a positive demonstration that petroleum-like hydrocarbons are or are not present in the envelope of Venus would be a decisive check on his work. [On the basis of an apparent ability to condense and polymerize into heavy molecules at a temperature near 2000 F in the atmosphere, the clouds of Venus must consist of heavy hydrocarbons and more complex organic compounds; thus concluded Mariner II experimenter Lewis D. Kaplan in February 1963.] Ref. [4] .

At the end of July 1946 the late John J. O'Neill, science editor of the New York Herald Tribune, agreed to read Velikovsky's manuscript. O'Neill was immediately impressed, and he devoted his column for August 14 to the work. In his opinion, 'Dr Velikovsky's work presents a stupendous panorama of terrestrial and human histories which will stand as challenge to scientists to frame a realistic picture of the cosmos. '

Between June and October 1946 Velikovsky submitted his manuscript to one publisher after another, but the consensus was that the heavily annotated text was too scholarly for the book trade. Eventually, however, the trail led to Macmillan Company, where trade-books editor James Putnam saw possibilities in the book. In May of 1947 an optional contract was signed and then, after another year in which various outside readers, among them O'Neill and Gordon Atwater, then Curator of Hayden Planetarium and Chairman of the Department of Astronomy of the American Museum of Natural History - examined the manuscript and recommended publication, a final contract was drawn and signed.

By March 1949 word of the book Macmillan was preparing for publication had spread among people in the trade. Frederick L. Allen, editor-in-chief of Harper's Magazine, sought authorization to present a two-article synopsis of Worlds in Collision and had Eric Larrabee, then an editor on the Harper's staff, prepare a tentative condensation from galley proofs. Allen wished to submit this for approval, but Velikovsky did not respond to the proposal for more than six months. In the fall, however, after more urging, he agreed to see Larrabee to discuss a one-article presentation of his theme; Larrabee then rewrote his piece completely.

Larrabee's article, 'The Day the Sun Stood Still, ' appeared in Harper's for January 1950. The issue sold out within a few days, and so great was the demand from readers that a number of dailies both here and abroad reprinted Larrabee's text in full.

In February 1950 Reader's Digest featured a popularization of Velikovsky's findings prepared by the late Fulton Oursler, who emphasized their corroboration of Old Testament history.

Collier's Magazine, in February and March 1950, published two instalments of an announced three-part series. Velikovsky, who had agreed only to serialization - not adaptation or condensation, was so dismayed by the cavalier treatment being accorded his work in the highly sensationalized manuscripts submitted for his approval that he threatened to make a public disavowal of the Collier's articles unless each was severely revised. After long, stormy sessions, the first two manuscripts were approved; Collier's abandoned the third.

Early in February 1950, when Worlds in Collision was about to go to press, Putnam called on Velikovsky to show him two letters Macmillan had received from Harlow Shapley. In the first, dated January 18, Shapley expressed gratification over a rumour that Velikovsky's book was not going to appear, and astonishment that Macmillan had even considered a venture into the 'Black Arts. ' In his second letter, written on January 25 after Putnam had answered the first, discounting the alleged rumour and assuring him that the book would appear on schedule, Shapley, who had still not seen the manuscript, remarked: 'It will be interesting a year from now to hear from you as to whether or not the reputation of the Macmillan Co. is damaged by the publication of, "Worlds in Collision". ' At the very least, release of the book would 'cut off' all relation between Shapley and Macmillan. He also announced that, at his request, one of his colleagues who was also a classicist was preparing a 'commentary' on Larrabee's article. He concluded with an expression of his hope that Macmillan had thoroughly investigated Velikovsky's background; however, 'it is quite possible that only this "Worlds in Collision" episode is intellectually fraudulent. '

This second letter apparently struck close to home for Macmillan president George Brett, for he personally answered Shapley to thank him for 'waving the red flag. ' Brett promised to submit the book to three impartial censors and to abide the majority verdict of the three.

Apparently the majority again voted thumbs up; the book was published on schedule. The identities of the last-minute censors were never officially revealed, but one of them, Prof. C. W. van der Merwe, Chairmen of the Department of Physics at New York University, later disclosed to John O'Neill that he had been enlisted by Macmillan and had been one of the two who voted in favour of publication.

Meanwhile, the February 25, 1950, issue of Science News Letter, a publication then headed by Harlow Shapley, printed denunciation of Velikovsky's ideas by five authorities in as many fields: Nelson Glueck, archaeologist; Carl Kraeling, orientalist; Henry Field, anthropologist; David Delo, geologist; and Shapley himself, speaking for astronomers. This medley of protest came forth just as Worlds in Collision went to press - none of the critics had seen the work.

On March 14, the commentary on Larrabee's article by Shapley's colleague, astronomer Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, appeared in The Reporter. (An earlier draft of the article had been mimeographed and circulated widely by direct mail to scientists, science editors, and publishers.) Stringing phrases from three sentences appearing on as many pages of Larrabee's article into a sentence of her own, Gaposchkin set it in quotation marks and introduced it as 'Dr Velikovsky's astronomical assertions. ' The gist of her thoroughly abusive article was that electromagnetic phenomena are of no importance in space, and in a purely mechanical solar system the events of Worlds in Collision are impossible. The March 25 issue of Science News Letter, in a 'Retort to Velikovsky, ' who had as yet not been heard from, cited Gaposchkin's critique as recommended reading for all scientists - 'a detailed scientific answer to Dr Velikovsky. '

On April 11 The Reporter reproduced letters to the editor from Larrabee and Gaposchkin. Larrabee challenged the propriety of her attack on a book she had not yet seen, and Gaposchkin acknowledged that her review had been based on popularized preview articles only; she remarked that she had since read the book (published April 3, 1950) and found it to be 'better written... but just as wrong. '

The last few weeks before Worlds in Collision made its appearance were spent in strategic manoeuvring by the leaders of the resistance forces. The late Otto Struve, then director of Yerkes Observatory at the University of Chicago and an ex-president of the American Astronomical Society, penned letters to both John O'Neill and Gordon Atwater, requesting them to abandon their earlier positions with respect to Worlds in Collision. Atwater, unaware that he was facing an inquisition, replied that he believed Velikovsky's work had great merit, and although he did not accept all its conclusions in detail he was preparing a favourable review of the book for This Week magazine. He was planning - indeed had already publicly announced - a planetarium programme to depict the events of Worlds in Collision. O'Neill composed a heated reply, but then destroyed it. He let it be known that his earlier appraisal of the book had not since been altered in any way.

Atwater's planetarium programme was scuttled immediately. During the last week of March he was summarily fired from both his positions with the museum - as Curator of Hayden Planetarium and Chairman of the Department of Astronomy - and requested to vacate his office immediately. Thus, when his review in This Week appeared on April 2, an article in which he pleaded for open-mindedness in dealing with the new theory, the credentials printed alongside Atwater's name were already invalid. Last-minute attempts to influence This Week not to publish this cover story failed when the editor sought and followed O'Neill's advice.


O'Neill's prepared review for the Herald Tribune had been scheduled to appear on April 2. But instead of O'Neill's article readers of that Sunday's issue found a review written by Struve. No concrete arguments were presented by Struve to justify his rejection of the book; 'It is not a book of science and it cannot be dealt with in scientific terms. ' He went on: 'It was necessary for readers to wait until a recent issue of the "Reporter" to learn, through Mrs. Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin... that the observations of Venus extend back five hundred years before the Exodus, thus refuting the absurd theory of a comet that turned into a planet. ' Velikovsky, however, had specified no date for the eruption of Venus from Jupiter, except that it had occurred some time before the Exodus. And, as Velikovsky pointed out in his book, the Babylonian tablets (Venus Tablets of Ammizaduga) cited by Gaposchkin to support her claim ascribe such erratic motions to Venus that translators and commentators have been baffled by them ever since they were discovered in the ruins of Nineveh in the last century; he also pointed out that even if the apparitions and periods of Venus recorded on the tablets date from early in the second millennium, which is disputed among scholars, they prove only that Venus already then moved erratically and quite unlike a planet.

Reviewing Worlds in Collision in the New York Times Book Review, also on April 2, the late chief science editor of the Times, Waldemar Kaempffert, followed Gaposchkin into the same territory and falsely accused Velikovsky of suppressing the Venus Tablets of Ammizaduga. Kaempffert seemingly had not read the book very carefully before condemning it, for not only did Velikovsky describe the tablets and quote the complete texts of observations from five successive years out of twenty-one, but he discussed opinions written by various orientalists and astronomers who had studied the tablets (Rawlinson, Smith, Langdon, Fotheringham, Schiaparelli, Kugler, Hommel). In the next few months, 'a surprising number of the country's reputable astronomers descended from their telescopes to denounce Worlds in Collision, ' to quote the Harvard Crimson of September 25, 1950. Newspapers around the country were barraged with abusive reviews contributed by big-name scientists; some of these writings were syndicated to ensure better coverage.

Ignoring Velikovsky's alternate explanation that, perhaps in the grip of an alien magnetic field, a 'tilting of the (earth's) axis could produce the visual effect of a retrogressing or arrested sun, ' Frank K. Edmondson, director of Goethe Link Observatory, University of Indiana, wrote: [5] 'Velikovsky is not bothered by the elementary fact that if the earth were stopped, inertia would cause Joshua and his companions to fly off into space with a speed of nine hundred miles an hour. ' This argument, first formulated by Gaposchkin, is at best disingenuous, for the all-important time factor - the rate of deceleration - is completely ignored.

Paul Herget, Director of the Observatory, University of Cincinnati, derided the ideas expressed in Worlds in Collision [6] , but advanced no specific counterarguments on scientific grounds. Nevertheless, he concluded that all the book's basic contentions were 'dynamically impossible. ' Frank S. Hogg, director of David Dunlop Observatory, University of Toronto, and Oregon astronomer J. Hugh Pruett both reiterated the erroneous Gaposchkin-Struve notion that observations of Venus made before the time of the Exodus refute Velikovsky's theme [7] , [8] . California physicist H. P. Robertson chose the easy path of invective: 'This incredible book... this jejune essay... [is] too ludicrous to merit serious rebuttal. ' [9]

Atomic scientist Harrison Brown disdained to list the 'errors in fact and conclusion' that he estimated would fill a letter 'thirty pages in length. ' Instead, in his review of Worlds in Collision in the Saturday Review of Literature [10] , Brown assured his readers that 'the combination of modern astronomy, geophysics, geochemistry, paleontology, geology, and physics can state the following:

'The earth did not stop rotating 3,500 years ago. [Brown, too, disregarded Velikovsky's alternative explanation for the visual effect of an arrested sun.]

'Venus was formed much earlier than 3,500 years ago. Indeed, it is probably about a million times older than Dr Velikovsky suggests.

'Venus was not formed from a comet emanating from Jupiter (or, for that matter, a comet emanating from anything else). '

The balance of Brown's review was devoted to 'book-and magazine-publishing irresponsibility. '

Despite the vigour of the protracted campaign to discredit its author, Worlds in Collision was heralded enthusiastically by many science writers and reviewers, and the book topped the best-seller lists of the New York Times and the New York Herald Tribune for twenty successive weeks in 1950. [By a strange oversight, however, the Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year covering 1950 failed to note the existence of Velikovsky's book in its recapitulation of the year's bestsellers.]

On May 25, 1950, when sales of his book were at their peak, Velikovsky was summoned to Brett's office and told that professors in certain large universities were refusing to see Macmillan salesmen, and letters demanding cessation of publication were arriving from a number of scientist. Brett beseeched Velikovsky to save him from disaster by approving an arrangement that had been tentatively worked out with Doubleday & Company, which had no textbook department. Doubleday, with Velikovsky's consent, would take over all rights to Worlds in Collision. As evidence of the pressure being brought to bear, Brett showed Velikovsky a letter from Michigan astronomer Dean B. McLaughlin, who insisted Velikovsky's book was nothing but lies. On the same page Mclaughlin averred he had not read and never would read the book.

While Velikovsky pondered his next move - whether to approve the transfer of rights to Doubleday, or to make an independent search for a new publisher - his scientist-critics apparently began to see their problem in a more serious perspective. Inability to dismiss the events of Worlds in Collision, gleaned from a multitude of sources, suggested that a substantial assault upon his method and sources was in order.

The June 1950 issue of Popular Astronomy carried another attack on Velikovsky by Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin. Her words were prefaced by a few lines from the magazine editor, who explained, 'We are giving greater prominence to this analysis of "Worlds in Collision" than is usually accorded to book reviews... for two reasons. 1. This book has been brought to the attention of a large reading public by having been mentioned favourably in several popular magazines. 2. The analysis here given is by a recognized authority in the field of astronomy, the science with which the book comes into closest contact, or sharpest conflict. '

Gaposchkin's 'analysis' was divided into two parts, first place being devoted to 'the Literary Sources. ' By the simple ruse of ignoring both contextual material and corroborative references, she purported to show that Velikovsky had misrepresented his sources. Her 'Scientific Arguments' included restatements of undemonstrable dogmas and a highly sarcastic synopsis of Velikovsky's thesis.

Prof. Otto Neugebauer of Brown University, a specialist in Babylonian and Greek astronomy, in an article for Isis [11] that was mailed far and wide in reprint form, accused Velikovsky of wilfully tailoring quoted source material. To support this charge, Neugebauer specified that Velikovsky had substituted the figure 33°14' for the correct value, 3°14, ' in a quotation from the work of another scholar. When Velikovsky protested in a letter to the late George Sarton, then editor of Isis, that the figure given in his book was correct and the 33°14' was in fact Neugebauer's own insertion, not his, Neugebauer dismissed the incident as a 'simple misprint of no concern' that did not invalidate his appraisal of Velikovsky's methods. And the reprint was circulated by an interested group long after its errors had been pointed out.

The fundamental position of Neugebauer is that the voluminous Babylonian astronomical texts from before the seventh century B. C., all of which are inconsistent with celestial motions as we know them, were composed in full disregard of actual observations; Velikovsky regards these records as representing true observations of the heavens before the last catastrophe.

Four Yale University professors collaborated in preparing a rebuttal to Velikovsky for the American Journal of Science [12] , which was edited by geologist Chester R. Longwell. Sinologist K. S. Latourette acknowledged that Velikovsky 'has combed an amazing range of historical records for evidence to corroborate his thesis, ' but apparently Latourette could find no specific arguments to refute that thesis. George Kubler, mexicologist, derided the suggestion set forth in Worlds in Collision that the Mesoamerican civilization must be much older that scholars then conceded; 'The Mesoamerican cosmology to which Velikovsky repeatedly appeals for proof did not originate until about the beginning of our era. ' [In December 1956 the National Geographic Society announced: 'Atomic science has proved the ancient civilization of Mexico to be some 1,000 years older than had been believed. '] Rupert Wildt took Velikovsky to task for doubting the validity of celestial mechanics based upon gravitation and inertia only, to the exclusion of electromagnetic forces. Longwell scorned the notion that petroleum might have a cosmic origin. [Prof. W. F. Libby, chemist of the University of California, has since suggested that petroleum may be found on the moon. Prof. A. T. Wilson of Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand, in 1960 produced high molecular weight hydrocarbons by electric discharges in a methane-ammonia (Jupiter-like) atmosphere; in 1962 he, too, suggested that the earth's petroleum may be of cosmic origin and that oil may be found on the moon.]

The article authorized by the four Yale professors and signed by Longwell was given a preview run in the New Haven Register on June 25, 1950. A seven-column banner in blue ink above the text proclaimed: '4 Yale Scholars "Expose" Non-Fiction Best-Seller. ' After receiving assurances from Doubleday that it was immune to pressure from textbook writers and buyers, Velikovsky approved the transfer of rights on June 8, 1950. On June 11, columnist Leonard Lyons spread the news, and on June 18 the New York Times noted: 'The greatest bombshell dropped on Publishers' Row in many a year exploded the other day... Dr. Velikovsky himself would not comment on the changeover. But a publishing official admitted, privately, that a flood of protests from educators and others had hit the company hard in its vulnerable underbelly - the textbook division. Following some stormy sessions by the board of directors, Macmillan reluctantly succumbed, surrendered its rights to the biggest money-maker on its list. '

Leonard Lyons reported that the suppression was engineered by Harlow Shapley. When queried, however, Shapley told Newsweek, 'I didn't make any threats and I don't know anyone who did. ' The late George Sokolsky also discussed the case in his column, and shortly afterwards received a letter from Paul Herget, who was apparently disappointed that all the credit was going to Shapley. Herget wrote, and Sokolsky quoted: 'I am one of those who participated in this campaign against Macmillan... I do not believe that [Shapley] was in any sense the leader... I was a very vigorous participant myself... ' Dean McLaughlin wrote to Fulton Oursler: 'Worlds in Collision has just changed hands... I am frank to state that this change was the result of pressure that scientists and scholars brought to bear on the Macmillan Company... '

On June 30, Fred Whipple, Shapley's successor as Director of Harvard College Observatory, informed the Blakiston Company, then owned by Doubleday, that, rather than continue to be a fellow author in the same house with Velikovsky, he would turn over to charity future royalties from his Blakiston-published Earth, Moon and Planets and would make no further updating revisions in the text so long as Doubleday controlled Blakiston.

Dumping its offensive best seller, however, was but the first step in the re-establishment of Macmillan's reputation. There remained matters of purgatorial sacrifice and public recantation. James Putnam, a 25-year veteran with Macmillan, had been entrusted with making the arrangements to contract for and publish Velikovsky's manuscript. His judgement in urging that Macmillan accept Worlds in Collision had been confirmed in spectacular fashion when the book became a best seller. Nevertheless, the negotiations to transfer publishing right to Doubleday were carried on without his knowledge, and as soon as the transfer had been consummated, Putnam's good friend, editor-in-chief H. S. Latham, was delegated to inform him that his services were being terminated immediately. [In January 1963 Latham expressed in a letter to Velikovsky the great regret he still feels for Macmillan's capitulation.]

At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science held in Cleveland in December 1950, a Mr. Charles Skelley, representing the Macmillan Company, addressed the members of a committee specially appointed to study means for evaluating new theories before publication. He pointed out that, as a contribution to the advancement of science, his firm had 'voluntarily transferred' its rights to a 'book that the panel regarded as unsound... ' His remarks were duly recorded and reported by panel chairman Warren Guthrie [13] . Harvard geologist Kirtley Mather was the main spokesman before the panel, discussing possible methods of censorship.

The British edition of Worlds in Collision was rushed into print within two months of a contract between Doubleday and Victor Gollancz, and in September British scientists began to publish reviews. Spencer Jones, quoted in part at the beginning of this account, concluded: 'It is a pity that so much erudition should have been wasted in following so false a trail. ' However, he was mistaken in arguing that, if there had been catastrophes such as Velikovsky described, 'we should find that, at a certain epoch in past time, the positions of Mars and Venus were identical. ' Velikovsky, in a letter published in The Spectator on October 27, 1950 called attention to the Royal Astronomer's error; the last catastrophe took place not between Mars and Venus, but between Mars and earth. He also pointed to the present close approaches of the earth and Mars every 15 years, the similar axial inclinations of these two planets, and the similar lengths of their days as vestiges of near contact and magnetic interference in the past.

Evolutionist J. B. S. Haldane, author of Science and Ethics, reviewed the book in the New Statesman and Nation for November 11, 1950. Haldane misquoted Velikovsky, then ridiculed the misquotation; he mismatched dates and the events Velikovsky had associated with them; he concluded that book was 'equally a degradation of science and religion. '


In the fall of 1950 Frederick Allen sought a scientist to participate in a debate with Velikovsky in the pages of Harper's Magazine. Shapley and Neugebauer, among others, declined the opportunity, but Princeton astrophysicist John Q. Stewart accepted. The debate appeared in Harper's for June 1951, introduced by several background paragraphs prepared by the editors, who noted that 'there has been a remarkable lack of explicit criticism of the book based on careful reading. '

Given the floor first, Velikovsky presented an 'Answer to my Critics. ' One by one he described and analyzed fallacies in the principal physical or historical arguments that had been advanced against his book. Among these points were the matters of ancient eclipses, early observations of Venus, the substance of comets, electromagnetic forces and effects in the solar system, and the consequences of stopping the earth's spin or tilting its axis in space.

Stewart's article was titled 'Disciplines in Collision. ' He relied heavily on Gaposchkin's earlier writings, quoting in full her synopsis of Velikovsky's theme - a passage filled with parenthetical sneers. Stewart charged that records of ancient solar eclipses contradict Velikovsky's thesis of changes in terrestrial and lunar movements in the second and first millennia B. C. But Velikovsky, in his rejoinder, printed in the same issue of Harper's, showed that the alleged eclipses, in the original sources, are accompanied neither by dates nor by locality specifications. Moreover, of the three mentioned records, the text of one (Chinese) referred to a disturbance of celestial motions which had prevented the occurrence of a predicted eclipse, and commentary about a second (Babylonian) by Kugler, the greatest authority on Babylonian astronomy, called attention to the fact that an eclipse would not be possible at all on the indicated day of a lunar month; Kugler conjectured that the phenomenon reported might have been a darkening of the sky due to passage of the earth through 'an immense train' of dust and meteorites. [In 1959 Prof. André Danjon, director of Paris Observatory, established that there are abrupt changes in the earth's rotational speed following solar flares; this he ascribes to electromagnetic influences. One implication of this discovery is that eclipses cannot be dated by retrospective calculation.]

Stewart also claimed that the geographic position of the terrestrial axis could never change; but since the debate of 1951 the idea of wandering of the axis with respect to the crust of the earth has gained the acceptance of science.

According to Stewart, 'Tombs dated from the fourth millennium B. C. were not destroyed by ocean floods in Ur (of the Chaldees). ' But Velikovsky, in his rejoinder, quoted Sir Leonard Wooley, the excavator of Ur: 'Eight feet of sediment imply a very great depth of water and the flood which deposited it must have been of a magnitude unparalleled in local history... a whole civilization which existed before it is lacking above it and seems to have been submerged by the water. '

The August 1951 issue of Harper's carried a letter to the editor from Julius S. Miller, professor of physics and mathematics at Dillard University. Miller cited what he called a 'glaring paucity and barren weakness of explicit criticism' on the part of Velikovsky's critics. He concluded: '( 1) The Velikovsky notions are not altogether untenable; ' and '( 2)... not yet refuted. '

Laurence Lafleur, then associate professor of philosophy at Florida State University, brought a new argument to bear against Velikovsky in the November 1951 issue of Scientific Monthly: '... the odds favour the assumption that anyone proposing a revolutionary doctrine is a crank rather than a scientist. ' Lafleur itemized seven criteria for spotting a crank.


Test 6. Velikovsky's theory is in no single instance capable of mathematical accuracy. Its predictions, if capable of any, would certainly be so vague as to be scientifically unverifiable.

Test 7. Velikovsky does show a disposition to accept minority opinions, to quote the opinions of individuals opposed to current views, and even to quote such opinions when they have been discredited to the point that they are no longer held even as minority views. For example, we may cite the notion that the earth's axis has changed considerably.

So Lafleur concluded that Velikovsky qualified as a crank 'perhaps by every one' of these test. But having established this 'we must still deal with feeling, first, that scientists should have attempted to refute Velikovsky's position, as a service both to him and to the public... ' Thus the professor acknowledged that much of earlier criticism - thousands of words printed in the span of more than a year and a half - was denunciation rather than refutation. But in his own attempt to perform the recommended 'service, ' Lafleur, even with the aid of astrophysical theorems contrived for the occasion, fared no better than the scientists. On the assumption that an electroscope would detect it, he denied that the earth carries an electric charge. (No scientist corrected, in print, this mistaken notion or any other wrong statement by any critic during the entire Worlds in Collision controversy.) Lafleur also claimed that an approach between two celestial bodies close enough to bring their magnetic fields into conflict must inevitably bring about collision, evaporation, and amalgamation of the bodies.

The American Philosophical Society met in Philadelphia in April 1952, and as part of a symposium on 'Some Unorthodoxies of Modern Science, ' a paper, 'Worlds in Collision, ' by Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin was read. Once again Mrs Gaposchkin repeated most of her earlier arguments, prefacing them with an account of her 'Herculean labour' in ferreting out the alleged fallacies in Worlds in Collision. She chose to disregard the great mass of Velikovsky's evidence and isolate certain quotations from their context, making it appear that Velikovsky had read into them ideas of his own. (See comparison of texts, Appendix 2.) Her audience could conclude only that Velikovsky had been guilty of the most heinous disregard for the rules of scholarship. Towards the end of her address, which was read in her absence, Gaposchkin professed bewilderment: 'Why is it, if scientists are really the open-minded men they think themselves, that they are under so much criticism of the "Science is a Sacred Cow" variety? I confess I do not understand why the revulsion against science takes this form... '

Velikovsky was in the audience at the same meeting, and he was permitted to come forward to offer a rebuttal to arguments presented earlier by archaeologists astronomers, and geologists. The audience listened attentively and responded warmly. But when he requested that his remarks be reproduced along with Gaposchkin's in the society's Proceedings [14] , his bid was rejected. Appended to Gaposchkin's paper, however, was a 'quantitative refutation of Velikovsky's wild hypothesis' by Donald H. Menzel, also of Harvard Observatory. '... let us make the assumption with Velikovsky and try to determine what would happen if the sun and the planets suddenly acquired gross electric charges. ' Menzel calculated that for electric forces to contribute ten per cent of the gravitational attraction between earth and sun equally charged, but of opposite polarities, each must acquire a voltage of 10 19 volts (10 raised to the 19th power); the energy necessary to place such charge on the sun would be 5 x 10 43 ergs (10 raised to the 43rd power), 'as much energy as the entire sun radiates in 1, 000 years. ' Menzel then purported to show that the greatest charge a positive sun could retain was 1800 volts. Now, the specification of suddenly acquired charge, which Menzel apparently sought to ridicule by calculation of the energy required to emplace it, is wholly arbitrary and misleading; nothing in Velikovsky's thesis suggests that solar and planetary charges are acquired suddenly. Furthermore, Menzel's necessary assumptions as to the dielectric properties of the sun, earth, and space were wholly gratuitous and unsupported by observational evidence. (It has been established in space probes since 1960 that interplanetary space, especially close in to the sun, is filled with plasma. Thus Menzel's assumptions are inapplicable to the situation. Furthermore, in 1960, Prof. V. A. Bailey of the University of Sydney, Australia, reported [15] : 'It has been found possible to account for the known orders of magnitude of five different astronomical phenomena... by the single hypothesis that a star like the sun carries a net negative charge... ' Bailey calculated that the necessary charge on the sun would produce an electric field with a potential at the surface of the sun on the order of 10 19 volts.)

Walter S. Adams, director of Mt. Wilson and Palomar Observatories, was a rare exception among astronomers who participated in discussions of Worlds in Collision. In correspondence with Velikovsky, Adams complimented him on the accuracy of his presentation of astronomical material, though he could not accept the premise that electromagnetism participates in celestial mechanics. Whenever Velikovsky requested information or explanations pertaining to astronomical phenomena, Adams answered courteously and in minute detail. In February 1952 the author of Worlds in Collision visited the California astronomer at the solar observatory in Pasadena and discussed with him at first hand some of the problems raised by the historical evidence.

Constructive criticism came also from Professor Lloyd Motz, astronomer of Columbia University, with whom Velikovsky on many occasions discussed problems of celestial mechanics. Motz holds conventional views.

S. K. Vsekhsviatsky, director of Kiev observatory, has corresponded with Velikovsky on problems in solar system phenomena and has cited Velikovsky's works on numerous occasions in support of his own positions in theoretical matters.

Volume I of Velikovsky's Ages in Chaos appeared in March 1952. Proceeding from the premise that Egyptian and Israelite histories may be synchronized by equating the upheaval described in Exodus with the catastrophe that befell Egypt at the end of the Middle Kingdom, Velikovsky worked down through the centuries from the fifteenth to the middle of the ninth, highlighting contacts between the peoples of the two lands -- Egypt and Palestine. The synchronization is carried almost to the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty in Egypt, to the days of Akhnaton, who thus is revealed as a contemporary of Ahab and Jehoshaphat in the ninth century rather than a precursor of Moses, as in orthodox chronology. Unpublished portions of Ages in Chaos must dispose of six apparently superfluous centuries in conventional Egyptian history, and Velikovsky promises that in doing so, his work will show that no enigmatic half-millennium-long 'dark ages' need to be inserted in Aegean, Mesopotamian, or Anatolian histories.

William F. Albright, Spence Professor of Semitic Language at Johns Hopkins University, reviewed and rejected Velikovsky's second book in the New York Herald Tribune for April 20, 1952. Albright's only specific argument was that Velikovsky had mistaken the cuneiform plural sign, mesh, in some of the El Amarna letters for the name of the Moabite King Mesh (a) But in his text Velikovsky twice called attention to the fact that in several instances in these letters the conventional reading cannot apply, since the grammatical construction definitely pertains to an individual - a rebellious vassal of the king of Samaria (Sumur), well known from the Bible.

Professor Harry Orlinsky of Hebrew Union College echoed Albright's remarks [16] , thus documenting his unfamiliarity with the book he purported to review.

The scientific press did not devote space to analyses of Velikovsky's reconstruction of history, but as Albright described it eight years later in the Herald Tribune [17] , there were 'howls of anguish' among the historians.

The Velikovskys moved from New York City to Princeton, N. J., in 1952, and the heretic began to make the acquaintance of scientists in that university community. In October 1953 he was asked to address the Graduate College Forum at Princeton on the subject, 'Worlds in Collision in the Light of Recent Finds in Archaeology, Geology, and Astronomy. ' In the course of this address, in which he was able to cite many items in support of his thesis among discoveries made since the appearance of Worlds in Collision, Velikovsky suggested that earth's magnetic field reaches sensibly as far as the moon and is responsible for certain unaccounted-for libratory, or rocking, movements of that body. He also suggested that the planet Jupiter radiates in the radio-frequency range of the spectrum. (In April 1955, Drs B. F. Burke and K. L. Franklin of the Carnegie Institution startled their audience at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society when they announced their accidental discovery of radio noise emitted by Jupiter. However, when a Doubleday editor wrote to call their attention to the fact that Velikovsky had anticipated just such a finding, one of them replied that even Velikovsky is entitled to a 'near miss' once in a while.) The text of the Forum address was published as a supplement to Velikovsky's Earth in Upheaval in 1955.

From about the time of the 1953 Forum address, through 1954, and into 1955 up to the time of Einstein's death, he and Velikovsky carried on private debate oral, and written, on the issue of colliding worlds and the merits of an electromagnetic solar system. Einstein remained adamant in his conviction that sun and planets must be electrically neutral and space must be free of magnetic fields and plasma. Yet when he learned only days before his death, that Jupiter emits radio noise, as Velikovsky had so long insisted, he offered to use his influence in arranging for certain other experiments Velikovsky had suggested. It was too late. When Einstein died, Worlds in Collision lay open on his desk.

At the same Philadelphia symposium where Gaposchkin's attack on Velikovsky had been read in 1952, I. Bernard Cohen, Harvard historian of science, also spoke. In an abstract of his address released before the meeting Cohen expressed foreboding that the reaction against Velikovsky might signify that his work was of great importance; it appeared that Velikovsky and his book were to be the principal topics of discussion. By speech time, however, Cohen's theme had been altered considerably, and in the printed version of the address in the Proceedings [18] Velikovsky was referred to but once, in an off hand conclusion that Gaposchkin had already discredited him.

In July 1955, Scientific American published Cohen's tribute to Albert Einstein, whom he had met on just one occasion, for an interview. Cohen took the opportunity to ridicule Velikovsky with isolated adjectives allegedly quoted from Einstein. In an exchange of letters with Otto Nathan, executor of Einstein's estate, in the September 1955 issue of Scientific American he conceded that Einstein had compared the reception of Velikovsky with that accorded Johann Kepler and had noted that contemporaries often have trouble differentiating between a genius and a crank. Cohen ended by saying .'... There is no basis for concluding that Professor Einstein might not have had a friendly feeling for the author in question or that he might not have had some interest in his work... Professor Einstein sympathized with the author when he was attacked and disliked the methods used by some of his attackers. '


During the same period Velikovsky himself was completing the manuscript of Earth in Upheaval, a book presenting the evidence of recent catastrophes on earth. Einstein had read portions of the manuscript and contributed suggestions in marginal notes; before his death, according to Helen Dukas, his secretary, he was intending to write a letter requesting the curator of the Department of Egyptology at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to arrange for carbon-14 tests that might check the thesis of Ages in Chaos. Despite her transmission of this appeal, and decade-long efforts directed to the British Museum and other institutions by Velikovsky, the New Kingdom and late periods of Egypt, which span more than 1,200 years in conventional chronology, generally have been left out of testing programmes. In more than one instance, however, relics from this period have been adjudged 'contaminated' because they yielded unexpectedly low ages.

Earth in Upheaval appeared in November 1955. Velikovsky examined the century-old principle of Lyellian uniformity by comparing its tenets with anomalous finds from all quarters of the globe: frozen muck in Alaska that consists almost entirely of myriads of torn and broken animals and trees; whole islands in the Arctic Sea whose soil is packed full of unfossilized bones of mammoths, rhinoceroses, and horses; unglaciated polar lands and glaciated tropical countries; coral and coal deposits near the poles; bones of animals from tundra, prairie, and tropical rainforest intimately associated in jumbled heaps and interred in common graves; the startling youth of the world's great mountain chains; shifted poles; reversed magnetic polarities; sudden changes in sea level all around the world; rifts on land and under the seas.

Then Velikovsky took up the question of evolution, arguing that Darwin had rejected catastrophism in favour of Lyell's uniformity because the catastrophists of his day would not acknowledge the antiquity of the earth. But in reality catastrophes suggest the only plausible mechanisms for the phenomenon of evolution by mutation. Thus Darwin's contribution to the theory of evolution, which dates from Greek times, consisted only in the as-yet undemonstrated hypothesis that competition can give rise to new species. In the controversy that followed the publication of The Origin of Species, the issue revolved around whether or not evolution was a natural phenomenon, and it was resolved quite properly in the affirmative. But what was obscured in the uproar, argued Velikovsky, was the inadequacy of Darwin's hypothesis; 'if natural selection... is not the mechanism of the origin of species, Darwin's contribution is reduced to very little - only to the role of natural selection in weeding out the unfit. ' Velikovsky proposed in Earth in Upheaval that evolution is a cataclysmic process: '... the principle that can cause the origin of species exists in nature. The irony lies in the circumstance that Darwin saw in catastrophism the chief adversary of his theory... '

It appears that at first scientific journals and reviewers, aware of the adverse effect of their earlier agitation against Worlds in Collision, chose to ignore Earth in Upheaval. But a few months after it appeared a New York radio station presented a 'Conversation Programme' in which Jacques Barzun, then newly appointed to the position of Dean of the Graduate Faculties at Columbia University, and Alfred Goldsmith, president of the Radio Engineers of America and vice president in charges of research for Radio corporation of America, discussed the book, with Clifton Fadiman as moderator. All three participants were enthusiastic and affirmative towards Velikovsky's method, scholarship, and convincing manner of presenting his evidence; they considered that his work may be a beginning towards important new concepts in science and history. All agreed that his work deserved objective treatment from scientists.

From this favourable discussion of Earth in Upheaval may have come some pressure to discuss it in other scientific media. In March 1956 Scientific American presented a review by Harrison Brown. His words, however, were devoted to an apology for the misbehaviour of scientists who had suppressed Worlds in Collision and to a restatement of his own earlier position with respect to that book. In a seven-column article, Brown dismissed Earth in Upheaval without challenging one of its points. He dealt with the new book in a single paragraph, then reverted to the old controversy. But he again refrained from producing any of the arguments against Worlds in Collision which he had claimed would fill thirty pages. [In 1963, Brown declared in a letter to one of Velikovsky's Canadian readers that his review of Earth in Upheaval had been directed against the 'abominable behaviour of scientists and publishers. ']

In December 1956, when the International Geophysical Year was in the planning stage, Velikovsky submitted a proposal to the planning committee through the offices of Prof. H. H. Hess of Princeton University: '... It is accepted that the terrestrial magnetic field ... decreases with the distance from the ground; yet the possibility should not be discounted that the magnetic field above the ionosphere is stronger than at the earth's surface. ' Also, 'an investigation as to whether the unexplained lunar librations, or rocking movements, in latitude and longitude coincide with the revolutions of the terrestrial magnetic poles around the geographical poles' might well be included in the programme. Hess was notified by E. O. Hulburt of the committee that should the first proposition be proven right by experiments already planned, the second might be investigated later. [As it turned out, the most important single discovery of the IGY was that the earth is surrounded by the Van Allen belts of charged particles trapped in the far reaching geomagnetic field.]

Earth in Upheaval came to the attention of Claude Schaeffer, professor at College de France and excavator of Ras Shamra in Syria. Schaeffer's independently conceived theory that ancient Middle Eastern civilizations had suffered simultaneous natural catastrophes on five occasions in the third and second millennia B. C. had been set forth in a 1948 volume, Stratigraphie Comparée et Chronologie de l'Asie Occidental. [Velikovsky published an abstract of his own thesis in Scripta Academica in 1945.] Schaeffer wrote enthusiastically to Velikovsky and the two began a correspondence that has continued ever since. In 1957 Velikovsky met Schaeffer in Switzerland and again in Athens.

Oedipus and Akhnaton, a book that presents Velikovsky's identification of Akhnaton as the historical prototype of the legendary Oedipus, appeared in 1960. It was an outgrowth of the originally planned work, Freud and His Heroes, which had been set aside almost twenty years earlier. [' Dreams Freud Dreamed, ' a reinterpretation of the dreams of the founder of psychoanalysis, was published in the Psychoanalytic Review for October 1941.] This work also met with silence on the part of most scholars, although Prof. Gertrude E. Smith of the University of Chicago, one of the nation's leading classicists, wrote a favourable review for the Chicago Tribune [19] . In the New York Herald Tribune [20] . Albright opposed the thesis on the grounds that it was improbable that at such an early time there could have been cultural intercourse between Egypt and Greece; yet Mycenaean ware was found in abundance in the capital city of Akhnaton, and a seal bearing the name of Akhnaton's mother turned up in a Mycenaean grave in Greece. The London Times [21] attacked the book anonymously, using a method familiar from the campaign against Worlds in Collision in America - discussing the book together with one of doubtful value to establish guilt by association.

Ten years after the abrupt cancellation of Atwater's plans to dramatize Worlds in Collision in Hayden Planetarium, U. S. space probe Pioneer V was launched. This experiment was destined to destroy the idea that the earth and other planets are electromagnetically isolated in a near-vacuum space -- the position Einstein could not abandon. After Pioneer had been in solar orbit about six weeks, NASA called a press conference to report its findings. As Newsweek relayed the news on May 9, 1960, 'In one exciting week, man has learned more about the near reaches of the space that surrounds earth than the sum of his knowledge over the last 50 years. Gone forever is any earthbound notion of space as a serene thoroughfare for space travellers... a fantastic amount of cosmic traffic (hot gaseous clouds, deadly rays, bands of electricity) rushes by at high speed, circles, criss-crosses, and collides. ' Among the discoveries credited to Pioneer V are space-pervading magnetic fields, electric currents girdling the earth, and high energy charged particles from solar flares.

Between 1954 and 1960 Velikovsky appeared repeatedly before the faculty and students of the geology department at Princeton University at the invitation of Prof. Hess, who recognized the importance of exposing his students to a dissenting view. On April 12, 1961, Velikovsky again addressed the Graduate College Forum, this time on the subject 'How Much of the Great Heresy of 1950 Is Valid Science in 1961? ' and offered an extensive list of confirming finds from celestial and terrestrial spheres. Later that same month American radio astronomers announced that the surface temperature of Venus must be 6000 F, and scientists began an energetic search for an 'acceptable' explanation of this new aspect of the solar system.

About the time Mariner II approached Venus, late in 1962, Princeton physicist V. Bargmann and Columbia astronomer Lloyd Motz wrote a joint letter to the editor of Science [22] to call attention to Velikovsky's priority in predicting three seemingly unrelated facts about the solar system -- the earth's far-reaching magnetosphere, radio noise from Jupiter, and the extremely high temperature of Venus -- which have been among the most important and surprising discoveries in recent years. They urged that the Velikovsky thesis be objectively reexamined by science.

Also at that time it was announced [23] that ground-based radiometric observations at the U. S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington and at Goldstone Tracking station in California had shown Venus to have a slow retrograde rotation, a characteristic that puts it in a unique position among the planets.

Feeling vindicated by these developments and encouraged by the publication of the Bargmann-Motz letter in Science, Velikovsky sought to publish a paper showing that the points brought out in that letter were but a few among many other ideas set forth in his books that have already been supported by independent research. The attempt was in vain; Philip Abelson, the editor of Science, returned Velikovsky's paper without reading it and published instead a facetious letter from a Poul Anderson, who claimed that 'the accidental presence of one or two good apples does not redeem a spoiled barrelful. '

Mariner II, when its findings were revealed, confirmed Velikovsky's expectations, showing the surface temperature of Venus to be at least 800 deg F and the planet's 15-mile-thick envelope to be composed, not of carbon dioxide or water as previously supposed, but of heavy molecules of hydrocarbons and perhaps more complicated organic compounds as well.

Retrograde rotation, organic molecules in the envelope, and extreme heat on Venus find no convincing explanation, though they have already caused much deliberation; yet in Worlds in Collision two of the three phenomena were claimed as crucial tests for the thesis that Venus is a youthful planet with a short and violent history, and the third (anomalous rotation) supports the same conclusions.

In spite of the clamour against the heretic, his books have found an enthusiastic following in every country of the world. Here and there small study groups have sprung up; Velikovsky's books are required reading in the courses of professors in a number of universities. Letters from enthusiastic readers have poured in upon the author through all the years since Worlds in Collision appeared. The British edition of that book is now in its fourteenth printing, and the American edition is regularly reprinted. A German edition went through five printings at the hands of its first publisher, then was attacked and suppressed in 1952 by theologians (Kirchlich-historische Kreise); after being unavailable for about six years, it is now back in print at the hands of a Swiss publisher.

Seldom in the history of science have so many diverse anticipations - the natural fallout from a single central idea - been so quickly substantiated by independent investigation. One after another of Velikovsky's 'wild hypotheses' have achieved empirical support, but not until December 1962, in the Bargmann-Motz letter to Science, was his name ever linked in the pages of scientific journals with any of these 'surprising' discoveries, and never yet by the discoverers themselves. A platitude, repeated on various occasions, has it that any one who makes as many predictions as Velikovsky is bound to be right now and then. But he has yet to be shown wrong about any of his suggestions. Prof. H. H. Hess, who is now Chairman of the Space Board of the National Academy of Science, recently wrote to Velikovsky: 'Some of these predictions were said to be impossible when you made them; all of them were predicted long before proof that they were correct came to hand. Conversely, I do not know of any specific prediction you made that has since proven to be false. '

This record would appear to justify a long, careful look at Worlds in Collision by the guild that not only refused to look before condemning it in the past, but actively campaigned to defame its author.

Notes (References cited in "Minds in Chaos")

1. The Spectator, London, September 22, 1950.

2. Zeitschrift fuer Gesammte Neurologie und Psychiatrie, 1931.

3. Chicago Tribune, February 27, 1963.

4. Newsweek, March 11, 1963.

5. Indianapolis Star, April 9, 1950.

6. Cincinnati Inquirer, April 9, 1950.

7. Toronto Globe and Mail, April 22, 1950.

8. Los Angeles Times, May 14, 1950.

9. Engineering and Science, Pasadena, Calif., May 1950.

10. April 22, 1950 (Saturday Review of Literature).

11. Isis, Vol. 41 (1950).

12. Amer. Jour. Science, Vol. 248 (1950).

13. Science, April 30, 1951.

14. Proc. Amer. Phil. Soc., Vol. 96 (1952).

15. Nature, Vol. 186, May 14, 1960.

16. Jewish Bookland, September 1952.

17. New York Herald Tribune Book Review, May 29, 1960.

18. Proc. Amer, Phil. Soc., Vol. 96 (1952).

19. Chicago Tribune, April 3, 1960.

20. New York Herald Tribune, May 29, 1960.

21. London Times Literary Supplement, January 20, 1961.

22. Science, Vol. 138, December 21, 1962.

23. Science, Vol. 139, March 8, 1963; The National Observer, December 31, 1962.


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