Dr Beringer's fossils: A study in the evolution of scientific world view

Annals of Science 39 (4):371-380 (1982)
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This paper deals with a major problem of the early days of the science of palaeontology, the nature and origin of fossils. In 1725, the German physician and academician, Dr Johann Beringer, was deceived into believing that fraudulent, carved stones were true fossils. Despite an extensive analysis, Beringer was not able to fit his ‘fossils’ to any contemporary concept of how fossils originate. The reason for Beringer's inability to classify his stones is explored here. It is argued that the carvings embodied a sixteenth-century, Neoplatonic, concept of fossils, a concept that was outdated in Beringer's time. Beringer chose not to explain his stones rather than to accept the meaning they implied



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