Tracking a Scientific Con-Man

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception

The Saga of the Scientific Swindler! (1884-1891)
by Skulls in the Stars
February 24, 2011

When reading of the achievements of a giant of scientific thought such as Einstein, Feynman or Darwin, it is far too easy to envision the person, and scientists in general, as some sort of being above the worries of daily life. The reality, of course, is that scientists are subject to the same emotions and problems as the rest of humanity: they can be irrational at times, angry at others. Scientists can be fleeced by a clever con-man “” and can even become the con-man themselves.

In the 1880s, a fascinating chain of letters appeared in the magazine Science and in other publications, including the New York Times. The scientific community was being victimized by a clever confidence man, who was working his way into members”™ trust and then stealing from them. The exploits span at least 7 years and stretch over much of the United States. Most surprising about it, however, is that the con artist was so successful because he was apparently trained as one of their own.

Read the whole article here.