Pseudoscience/Timelines

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A timeline (or several) relating to Pseudoscience.

While skeptical criticism of superstition dates back to ancient times (e.g., the writings of Lucian), the term "pseudoscience" appears to have been used first in 1843 by Magendie, who referred to phrenology as "a pseudo-science of the present day" [1]

1784: Louis XVI of France names a scientific committee to investigate mesmerism. Lavoisier, Benjamin Franklin, and Joseph Ignace Guillotin participate. The Committee organizes what some regard as the first placebo-controlled trial, finding Mesmer's claims baseless.
1872: Victorian polymath Francis Galton, in "A Statistical Inquiry into the Efficacy of Prayer," observes that clergymen (who presumably pray more) do not live significantly longer than men from other professions.
1885: The Society for Psychical Research (London) publishes the "Hodgson Report" declaring the Mahatma Letters of Madame Blavatsky fraudulent.
1910: The Carnegie Foundation publishes the (Abraham) Flexner Report recommending the closure of many U.S. medical schools, the survivors to be supervised by state branches of the American Medical Association. Among its targets are osteopathic, chiropractic, and naturopathic colleges.
1920's: The Scientific American offers a cash-prize for successful demonstration of mediumship; illusionist Harry Houdini contributes his expertise in order to expose trickery.
1968: Charged with evaluating U.S. Air Force Project Blue Book, the (Edward) Condon Report concludes--amidst committee in-fighting and mutual accusations of bad science--that UFO's are not worth studying.
1969: Founding of two major ufology-promoting organizations: CUFOS (the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies) and MUFON (Mutual UFO Network).
1972: Stage magician James Randi "debunks" self-styled telekenetic Uri Geller, leading to mutual lawsuits.
1974: The American Association for the Advancement of Science organizes a symposium attacking the catastrophist theories of Immanuel Velikovsky. Astronomer Carl Sagan participates. [2]
1976:
1983: San Francisco General Medical Center physician Randolf Byrd organizes a blind study of intercessory prayer, the first of many such studies. He finds the prayed-for group to be 11% more likely to recover, a statistically-significant figure given his sample size.
1988: Ellen Bass and Laura Davis publish The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, a book promoting recovered memory therapy.
1989: Physicists Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons of the University of Utah announce the discovery of cold fusion, which has since been discredited by most mainstream scientists.
1991: The United States government establishes an Office of Alternative Medicine (now the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine) as part of the National Institutes of Health. The center supports research into CAM.
1995: Satanic ritual abuse case Hamame v. Humenasky results in a multi-million dollar verdict, the first of several against practitioners of recovered memory therapy.
2005: Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District results in a decision against intelligent design.
2006: Twenty Idaho State University faculty members sign a petition protesting their university's support for "fringe science". Their target is Bigfoot researcher, biologist D. Jeffrey Meldrum.




  1. Phrenology
    Magendie, F (1843) An Elementary Treatise on Human Physiology. 5th Ed. Tr. John Revere. New York, Harper, p 150
  2. The proceedings were published as Scientists Confront Velikovsky (Norton, 1977), ed. by Donald Goldsmith.