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Public Underst Sci. 2005 Jul;14(3):249-68.

Did Kettlewell commit fraud? Re-examining the evidence.


H.B.D. Kettlewell is famous for several investigations conducted in the early 1950s on the phenomenon of industrial melanism, which are widely regarded as the classic demonstration of natural selection. In a recent (2002) book-length popularization of this episode in the history of the science, science writer Judith Hooper draws attention to what she interprets as discrepancies in the results reported by Kettlewell in his first scientific papers on the subject. On the basis of correspondence among Kettlewell and his associates, a survey of scientific publications that mention outstanding questions surrounding the phenomenon, as well as interviews with his son, surviving colleagues, and scientists who have worked on industrial melanims, Hooper all but explicitly concludes that Kettlewell committed fraud. The following essay critically examines her evidence in support of this allegation, including her discussion of his character, the alleged motives, and whether fraud was even committed. None of Hooper's arguments is found to withstand careful scrutiny. The concluding section draws several conclusions about how history of science should be depicted to the public.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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