In 1725, Johann Beringer served as the chair of natural history at the University of Würzburg and was chief physician to the prince bishop of Würzburg. By most accounts, he was also deeply arrogant, which made him unpopular with colleagues and inspired some of them to concoct a prank to discredit him and put him in his place. This real prank has morphed into a fictionalized tale of hubris and gullibility, boogeyman to scare young paleontologists. But the real story isn’t quite as melodramatic as that.
Our listener mail came from Facebook (and also Twitter; we got notes from several people about it) and is about the question of Caesar’s toed horse. The story comes from Suetonius’ “The Lives of the Twelve Caesars,” which you can read all of online for free at Project Gutenberg. Thanks to Adam and Jim for the tip.
The article we referenced: 10 Famous Fake Antiques and the Suckers Who Bought Them
Episode link: Johann Beringer’s Fossils
Here’s Holly’s research, kicking it off with a digitized version of the entire lithography.
- Beringer, Joannes Bartholomaeus Adam. “Lithographiae Wirceburgensis.” 1726. http://amshistorica.unibo.it/3
- Gould, Stephen Jay. “The Lying Stones of Marrakech: Penultimate Reflections in Natural History.” Harmony Books. April 2000. http://www.amazon.com/The-Lying-Stones-Marrakech-Penultimate/dp/0609601423
- Gould, Stephen Jay. “The Lying Stones of Wurzburg and Marrakech” Natural History. Vol. 107, No. 3, P. 16. April 1, 1998. http://www.questia.com/library/1P3-27497289/the-lying-stones-of-wurzburg-and-marrakech
- Jahn, Melvin E. and Daniel J. Woolf. “The Lying Stones of Dr. Johann Bartholomew Adam Beringer, Being His Lithographiae Wirceburgensis, Translated and Annotated.” University of California Press. 1963. http://books.google.com/books?id=62JiT3uK66EC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
- Museum of Hoaxes. “The Lying Stones of Dr. Beringer, 1725.” http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/archive/permalink/the_lying_stones_of_dr._beringer/
- Scott, Michon. “Johann Bartholomew Adam Beringer.” Strange Science. Jan. 27, 2008. http://www.strangescience.net/beringer.htm
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