Ohio History Journal

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Professor of History and Dean of the Graduate School,

Western Reserve University

Worlds in Collision, by Immanuel Velikovsky, is still on the

best seller lists. The book, written by a Russian-born physician and

Bible student who explored the sciences from medicine and law to

psychoanalysis in many European centers of learning, continues to

be the storm center of one of the liveliest controversies that has

ever shaken the scientific and publishing world. Is the book, in

spite of the author's reported ten years of laborious research, a

gigantic hoax on historians and scientists, or is it to be accepted

as a serious challenge to Newton and Darwin?

This extraordinary volume was hailed by an unusual amount

of publicity in publications like Harper's and Colliers; it was sum-

marized in the Reader's Digest in advance of publication by the

author of The Greatest Story Ever Told; and the science editor

of the New York Herald Tribune endorsed it as a "magnificent

piece of scholarly research." Clifton Fadiman, expert of "Informa-

tion, Please," concluded that the book "may well turn out to be

as epochal" as the work of Newton and Darwin. Despite such

fanfare, however, the Macmillan Company, original publisher of

Velikovsky's treatise, relinquished its publishing rights to Double-

day. One can only wonder what went on behind closed doors during

the editorial conference that ended in the transfer of a best seller

to a competitor, but it is generally assumed that the extraordinary

decision was prompted by the pressure of many distinguished Mac-

millan authors who resented having their scholarly and scientific

books appear in such strange company. The whole transaction, in-

cidentally, raises the issue of censorship in a new form, and this

time in reverse, for in this case it was not a profit-conscious cor-

poration which interfered with freedom of expression, but a group

of scholars who apparently challenged a publisher's right to print

either scientific facts or intellectual rubbish. Presumably every book