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The Piltdown Man

  1. Feb 8, 2005 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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  3. Feb 8, 2005 #2
    Cardiff Giant

    In 1869, New York cigar maker George Hull had a block of gypsum carved in the likeness of a man over 10 feet tall. It was artificially aged, buried on the Cardiff, N.Y., farm of Hull's confederate, William Newell, and then arranged to be "discovered" by workmen. Its discovery was heralded as a great geological find of a huge petrified man, and proof of the Genesis verse: "There were giants on the earth in those days…" People flocked to see the giant for a mere 25 cent admission charge. P. T. Barnum wanted to buy the giant and when Hull refused, Barnum had a copy made and declared Hull's to be phony. Hull finally confessed his fraud and Barnum's fake of a fake ultimately drew more people than the original. The Cardiff Giant can be visited today in Cooperstown, N.Y., while Barnum's fake is in Farmington Hills, Mich.

    Footnote: This was the incident that inspired "There's a sucker born every minute" but P. T. Barnum didn't say it. One of Hull's partners, David Hannum did—and Barnum appropriated it.


    Hannum sued Barnum and it was revealed that both giants were fake on February 2, 1870. The judge ruled that Barnum could not be sued for calling a fake giant a fake.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 8, 2005
  4. Feb 9, 2005 #3


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    Some notes...
    (1) Piltdown was a hoax played on the scientific community (not by the scientific community).
    (2) The specimen, although initially accepted by English scientists, was not readily accepted by scientists in other countries. Nationalistic pride was part of the reason for the rapid acceptance. But science goes beyond a country's borders.
    (3) When the hoax was discovered, the Piltdown specimen was dropped from the mainstream. Good science is error-correcting.
  5. Feb 9, 2005 #4


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    The thing that's always interested me more than the Piltdown hoax itself is the investigation into who actually perpetrated the hoax.
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