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University of Arizona

May 29,1952

Professor Robert H. Pfeiffer,
Department of Semitic Languages and History,
Harvard University,
Cambridge 38, Massachusetts.

Dear Professor Pfeiffer:

In the May number of Harper’s Magazine, on page 107, is an advertisement of the Doubleday Company for Velikovsky’s new book, “Ages in Chaos.” This advertisement quotes you as follows regarding the author’’ claims in this hook:

“His conclusions are amazing, unheard, of, revolutionary, sensational. If his findings are accepted by historians, all present histories for the period before Alexander the Great must be discarded, and completely rewritten. If Dr. Velikovsky is right, this volume is the greatest contribution to the investigation of ancient times ever written.”

Read carefully, this quotation is completely non-committal. It could even have “been lifted from a condemning criticism of the book. But, detached in this way from whatever associated context that it may have had, it is clearly intended by the publishers to indicate that there is a reasonable likelihood that these “unheard of, . . . sensational” conclusions will be accepted by competent historians. Will you please tell me whether you really intended to give this likelihood the weight of your own professional judgment? Or is the publishing industry continuing to live down to the some standard of ethics which characterized its promotion of the same author’’ preceding book?

I ask this question because, as you surely must know, all competent reviewers have condemned the validity of the same author’s antecedent book, “Worlds in Collision,” and many have denounced the integrity of its scholarship. Such reviewers include not only scientists but also distinguished scholars of your own field. I refer you to the review in ISIS by Neugebauer, of the Institute for Advanced Study, and to the review in THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SCIENCE by a group of Yale faculty members.

I suppose you were not consulted by the publishers regarding any other content of their advertisement. I invite your attention particularly to the statement at the top of the advertisement to the effect that the book “Worlds in Collision” rocked the scientific world. It did not rock any scientific world. It was never even advertised, by either of its publishers, Macmillan or Doubleday, in any scientific journal or magazine that I have been able to find in our University Library. On the contrary, the sales promotion was conducted only in publications usually accessible to the scientifically uninformed. The only world that was rocked was the publishing world, because of the ethical nadir to which it descended.

If you wish any confirmation of the opinions expressed in the foregoing paragraph, I take the liberty of suggesting that you might consult either Professor F. L. Whipple. Chairman of your Department of Astronomy, or Dr. Payne-Gaposchkin, Phillips Astronomer in the Harvard. Observatory, both of whom have taken the trouble to express themselves publicly regarding that book.

I have personally been very much interested in the social and ethical phenomena associated with these two publications, and I should appreciate very much your answer to the inquiry of my third paragraph.

Yours very sincerely,

Edwin F. Carpenter (H 22)
Steward Observatory

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