Ptolemy, Lavoisier and scientific plagiarism | Science

Ptolemy, Lavoisier and scientific plagiarism | Science

The mimicry shown by the chameleon, the rockfish or the green caterpillar responds to a primitive behavior that is aimed at survival, either to go unnoticed by the enemy or to stalk a prey.

Therefore, to be recognized as a pioneer in the scientific field with the appropriation of foreign discoveries, obeys a variant of that rare ability for imitation that only some organisms have to survive. That said, plagiarism can be defined as a variant of camouflage.

Consequently, the first scientific cheater we have knowledge of was Claudio Ptolemy. The prestigious sage, author of Almagest, the great astronomical treatise written in the second century, maintained that, in its model of the Universe, the Earth remained motionless and that both the sun and the moon, as well as the other planets, revolved around it.

His geocentric theory was in force for more than a millennium and his treatise considered as an example of the study of astronomy. In it there are erroneous data, which led to demonstrate that Claudius Ptolemy had plagiarized the catalog of stars made by Hipparchus where the stars that could only be seen from Rhodes, where Hiparco developed his astronomical studies were presented.

Well plagiarism can be defined as a variant of camouflage

It is necessary to point out that Hipparchus of Rhodes would elaborate the first celestial catalog grouping the stars in six categories or magnitudes according to their brightness. But his work did not stay in this, because Hipparchus also discovered the accuracy of each equinox and calculated eclipses. Based on the observation of one of them, he estimated the distance to the Moon with very little margin of error. If it is not for Hipparchus of Rhodes, Ptolemy's work would be smaller.

It was in the 70s of the last century when the American historian of science Robert Russell Newton told us something similar in his work The Crime of Claudius Ptolemy, a book where he pointed to Ptolemy as the most prestigious fraud in the history of science. Robert Russell Newton was not discovering something new, but he would develop the criticism of Claudius Ptolemy that the French astronomer Jean-Baptiste Josep Delambre had already done in his famous work on the history of astronomy, dated 1817 and where he asked if Tolomeo came to make some observation or they were all plagiarized.

After the publication of the book The Crime of Claudius Ptolemy, the historian R.R. Newton was accused by some members of the scientific community of belittling the early ages of astronomy. In this way, The Crime of Claudius Ptolemy It served as a controversy to revise the treatise of the astronomer of Alexandria, a scholar who could well have been a pioneer also in facing the issue to defend against accusations of plagiarism, as did the French scientist and founder of modern chemistry Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, when he was accused of not citing the scientist Joseph Priestley in a work that showed that combustion was oxidation.

The thing was that Joseph PriestleY He knew he had discovered a gas, but he was not aware of its discovery. It was when experimenting with a mouse that he realized that the newly discovered air was responsible for breathing, as well as combustion. For Joseph PriestleyIt was deflogged air.

A year later, in 1775, the experiment would reach Antoine Lavoisier who decided that the air discovered was not deflogged air, but the active principle of the atmosphere, an element that was finally given the name of oxygen. In this way, Lavoisier was recognized for something that Joseph Priestley had already discovered.

To protect himself from accusations of plagiarism, Lavoisier would respond to behavior of the most primary, identifying himself with the hunter who captures a piece. With a rare skill for the facundia in extreme moments, Lavoisier came to defend himself saying something like "Whoever raises the hare is not always the one who kills it".

The stone ax it is a section where Montero Glez, with a will to prose, exercises his particular siege on scientific reality to show that science and art are complementary forms of knowledge.


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