STARGAZERS AND GRAVEDIGGERS by Immanuel  Velikovsky

STARGAZERS AND GRAVEDIGGERS

Memoirs to Worlds in Collision
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KIRKUS REVIEW

The publication of Velikovsky's heterodox scientific theories in 1950 precipitated a ripe little media cause celebre. Now, belatedly, we have Velikovsky's memoir of the affair, largely completed in 1956 but with bits added up to his death in 1979: a blend of reminiscence and self-justification with an amateurish dossier on the bad behavior of his opponents. All the material here has long since seen the light of day, and all of Velikovsky's charges have long since been either conceded or dismissed. No one now denies that many prominent scientists of the time, who rushed to print hysterical condemnations and utterly incompetent critiques of Worlds in Collision, and worse still, put pressure on the publishers to drop the book, made a sorry spectacle of themselves. But neither is anyone (true believers aside) likely to grant Velikovsky a martyr's crown: talk of suppression seems wide of the mark when applied to a best-selling author whose views have received an extensive airing. Velikovsky invests the whole affair with enormous historical significance and high drama. Anyone who raises objections is an "accuser"; any suggestion that the manuscript be refereed is "censorship"; every incident is appealed to "the verdict of tomorrow." The evidence of dark doings by the scientific mafia is larded with reference to what it all really meant ("As a psychoanalyst I have analyzed the sources of the fury and the roots of the blind opposition to my theories. . .") and how well Velikovsky handled it. Thus, we hear the unctuous little parables with which he confounded doubters ("I told a little story: A little girl came to the baker. . ."), and the gentle reproofs he administered to weak reeds about him (to his harassed publisher: you were in the war, yes? "Then why are you so afraid?"). Above all, we hear an endless succession of anecdotes identifying Velikovsky with great men of history, thinkers at first ridiculed for their originality and afterwards revered--not merely the inevitable references to Galileo, but a full budget of Aristarchus, Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, Agassiz, Darwin, Pasteur, Freud, Tesla, Einstein, and the Wright brothers. Though the affair has some significance for the sociology of science, this book contributes nothing to our understanding of it. Only for those who collect every scrap from the Master's pen.
Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1982
ISBN: 1906833176
Page count: 345pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1982




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