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The lighter side of scientific fraud

A 34-year-old medical journal spoof is finally debunked

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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Sometimes scientific fraud endangers patients, wastes precious public funding, and sullies the reputations of journals, researchers, and science in general. Other times it's just hilarious.Such is the case with "cello scrotum." In 1974, a British doctor sent a very short letter to the __British Medical Journal__ (__BMJ__) describing a case of the disorder in one of her patients, a professional cellist. Elaine Murphy, then a professor at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital in London, has admitted to inventing the condition and submitting the joke letter, which was signed by her husband John. To the pair's surprise, the letter was accepted by the __BMJ__ and published in the journal's May 11 issue.
"I did once come across a case of 'cello scrotum' caused by irritation from the body of the cello. The patient in question was a professional musician and played in rehearsal, practice, or concert for several hours each day,"...

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