100 and 50 years ago

    100 YEARS AGO

    Philosophy as Scientia Scientiarum and a History of Classifications of the Sciences. The relation of science to philosophy is, in theory, filial. It is, perhaps, no contradiction of the filial relationship that in practice it has an unfortunate tendency to run to mutual recrimination. The man of science too often ignores the philosopher, or despises him as an obscurantist who habitually confounds abstraction with generalisation. To the metaphysical philosopher, on the other hand, the typical specialist in science is a variety of day-labourer, dulled by the drudgery of occupational routine... Prof. Flint's new book should serve as a mediating influence between philosophical and scientific interests. It brings together into one convenient source the leading attempts made, from Plato to Karl Pearson, towards a classification of the sciences... How invaluable a service Prof. Flint has thus rendered to future investigators, can be appreciated only by those who have tediously toiled at the scattered literature of this subject. Its bibliography appears hitherto to have been left unorganised — having escaped even the ubiquitous zeal of German scholarship.

    From Nature 30 March 1905.

    50 YEARS AGO

    The Piltdown saga has now been concluded. The British Museum (Natural History) has brought together under the title “Further Contributions to the Solution of the Piltdown Problem”... the views of a large number of specialists who have described their work on the specimens — work which has resulted in demonstrating without any doubt that the whole thing was a hoax... Dr J. S. Weiner's book, “The Piltdown Forgery”, deals rather with the many personalities in the case... The story unfolds with the discovery of Piltdown I, and we find not a few of the local amateurs a little suspicious that all is not as presented. We now have evidence for staining of specimens; we have the ‘happy’ find of Piltdown II which was to clinch the matter... It all reads like a novel, and I have no intention of spoiling it for others by saying more. It is a book to be read with interest and profit. Such a hoax nowadays is impossible; but it was one actually perpetrated and it was a great success.

    From Nature 2 April 1955.

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    100 and 50 years ago. Nature 434, 573 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/434573b

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