How to Avoid Spreading Error Scientists Must Search for Corrections

In 1954 Conway Zirkie reviewed the fascinating history of the patterns and context of citations to the falsified scientiflc experiments published by Vien- nese zoologist Paul Kammerer. Using two types of salamanders and the male of the midwife toad, Kammerer claimed in the 1920s to have shown that acquired characteristics were inherited. But, as Zirkle recounts, “the acquired chareacters... turned out to be india ink.” (Science Vol. 120, 1954. p. 189). The truth about Kammerer

Eugene Garfield
Aug 9, 1987

In 1954 Conway Zirkie reviewed the fascinating history of the patterns and context of citations to the falsified scientiflc experiments published by Vien- nese zoologist Paul Kammerer. Using two types of salamanders and the male of the midwife toad, Kammerer claimed in the 1920s to have shown that acquired characteristics were inherited. But, as Zirkle recounts, “the acquired chareacters... turned out to be india ink.” (Science Vol. 120, 1954. p. 189).

The truth about Kammerer’s work was known and revealed in print as early as 1926. Nonetheless, later researchers, many of whom were unaware of the nature of Kammerer’s evidence, repeatedly cited his publications and took the conclusions he presented at face value. Zirkle warned readers that the consequences of fraud in scientific publication may be far-reaching. “A single knowing misrepresentation may start a chain reaction,” he wrote (p. 190).

Commenting on Zirkle’s paper shortly thereafter, P. Thomasson and...