From Abracadabra to Zombies
reader comments: Blondlot
6 Aug 1998
I recently read your article on Blondlot in your excellent Skeptic's Dictionary. An interesting sidelight on the case is provided by William Broad and Nicholas Wade in Betrayers of the Truth (Oxford University Press). I quote: "The reason why the best French physicists of their day continued to support Blondlot after Wood's critique was perhaps the same as the reason for which they uncritically accepted Blondlot's findings in the first place. It all had to do with a sentiment that is supposed to be wholly foreign to science: national pride. By 1900 the French had come to feel that their international reputation in science was on the decline, particularly with respect to the Germans. The discovery of N-rays came just at the right time to soothe the self-doubts of the rigid French scientific hierarchy."
reply: National pride has also been invoked to explain why some British anthropologists accepted Piltdown man. Too bad the French couldn't wait a bit. Antoine Becquerel, a French physicist who discovered natural radioactivity, and Marie and Pierre Curie were awarded the 1903 Nobel Prize in physics. That should have helped their national pride