Because we all like a good detective story

At the always excellent Skulls in the Stars blog, here is a fantastic story of a “scientific” swindler operating in the US in the 1880s. It’s a long, but fascinating read.


In the 1880s, a fascinating chain of letters appeared in the magazine Science and in other publications, including the New York Times. The scientific community was being victimized by a clever confidence man, who was working his way into members’ trust and then stealing from them. The exploits span at least 7 years and stretch over much of the United States. Most surprising about it, however, is that the con artist was so successful because he was apparently trained as one of their own.

The swindled scientists actually end up admiring the conman, as he is obviously a talented paleontologist. Here’s a quote from one of the last letters about the man:

Don’t know where he went, but he certainly is very gifted and smart, and is well posted in paleontology, and would make the best I have ever known provided he stuck to it and honesty.

Impressive history writing from a consistently good blog.


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