January 17, 2002 [bracketed updates 2004]
From: Dennis Rawlins, DIO: The International Journal of Scientific History < dioi.org >
Box 19935, Baltimore, MD 21211-0935 Telephone 410-889-1414      [Email: dioi@mail.com.]

To: Richard Fienberg, Editor-in-Chief, Sky & Telescope
49 Bay State Rd, Cambridge, MA 02138-1200 Telephone 617-864-7360      Fax 617-576-0336


Long bloody decades after initially defending Ptolemy's integrity out front (e.g., Owen Gingerich Science 193:476; 1976) and proposing privately that Ptolemy's thefts were just the fantasy of no'count skeptics, even Ptolemy's most fanatical defenders are reduced to owning (Sky&Tel 103.2:38-44; 2002 Feb) that for his 1025-star catalog he indeed took hundreds of star-places from Hipparchos — but these bad-losers still can't admit they were bested (by the very Ptolemy-skeptics they'd long sneered at), instead alibiing, in a classic diversion-switch retreat-routine: [a] It hasn't been proved that Ptolemy swiped every single star. (Translation: all we're finally arguing about is just how big a thief Ptolemy was.)
[b] So-what [argues S&T], D.Hoffleit's modern Yale Catalog also uses others' data. The latter tack is about on the logical & ethical level of defending a bank-robber by pleading that, well: doesn't everybody withdraw money from banks? How many, MANY times does one have to repeat the obvious (e.g., HASTRO 1 2000/2/2; or DIO 2.3 [1992] pp.103&113): Hoffleit does not claim 1st hand observation, while Ptolemy explicitly does so claim, at Almagest 7.4 (G.Toomer transl. p.339), in lengthy detail, for all his catalog's stars.

The universe's richest mudmine is the last ditch of a controversy. “The Great Ptolemy … Dispute” essentially ended decades ago, on the evidence produced by R.Newton & myself. But instead of just frankly (& providently: DIO 10 p.105) admitting their increasingly obvious original mis-step, defenders grotesquely magnified their unwisdom by resorting to defamation ([partial list:] DIO 1.1 p.8) of those with whom they merely disagreed: stretching the last ditch's length into 1/3 century of inevitably unpleasant spatting. Since 1977 (full text: DIO 4.3 pp.133-134), Gingerich has been incapable of writing an anonymous referee report on my work without demeaning my character. (I.e., he attacks behind-the-back [or through surrogates, as in the present case], while refusing to debate DR face-to-face.) Note that, even now, Schaefer must portray the Controversy's winners as men of “rancor” & “abuse”, while admiring the losers (JHA editors Gingerich & J.Evans) as “premier”, un“extreme” — and the exposed plagiarist Ptolemy is: The Greatest.

Schaefer very praiseworthily acknowledges the shunning which has too long disgraced the Ptolemy Controversy. But he puffs the central shunner as the “premier” journal in the field: the Journal for the History of Astronomy, officially edited by Michael Hoskin, though Hoskin's own research-output does not involve math beyond high school level — which may help explain why the seething JHA (while trying for 19 yrs to exile DR permanently from the field) has been frustrated in seeking DIO errors to carp at (see the 2001 Feb JHA's lead-paper attempt, where abuse-scorning Schaefer calls [p.21] a DR parameter “ludicrous” & “absurd”), even while DIO has corrected blunder after blunder after blunder published by the refereeing-challenged JHA (partial catalog: DIO 4.1 p.48).
[Fuller catalog posted 2010.]

In a passage some of whose wording is oddly reflective of Gingerich's equally-unverified 2000/4/22 HASTRO accusation [detailed DR reply: HASTRO 2000/5/9], Schaefer claims DR's 1983 “abuse” of Hoskin caused correspondence-severance. This takes the commendably open (if politically risky) step of declassifying the hitherto-private-gossip false basis for DR's [19 yr] banishment from the JHA. (The JHA hotly denies R.Newton's titular charge that data-theft is a crime; but the JHA deems serf-backtalk a crime deserving life-sentence exile.) Even had I “abused” Hoskin, this would hardly excuse the current situation: the publishers of the leading US and British journals of astronomical history have not communicated in nearly two decades. That sick hyper-breach is solely Hoskin's achievement and desire. [Would Hoskin even deny it? Worse: why cannot the “science press” even ask him to?]

Similarly, the AAS's Historical Astronomy Division (co-founded by the JHA's Gingerich) has never been able to officially invite2 DR as a speaker (much less debater), though I publish the US' top astronomical-history journal and am the prime surviving figure on one side (the winners) of the hottest controversy in the entire field [according to S&T itself]. Schaefer rightly welcomes (as do I) the 1999 Notre Dame Workshop debate [on the Ancient Star Catalog's origins], but he fails to note that it occurred (decades late) only
[a] after extreme private shaming-pressure [DIO 8 [1998] ‡5 §J [pp.56-57] ] and
[b] on the condition that I not be on the platform.
[Note added 2010. Though DR was DIO's main researcher on the Ancient Star Catalog (at that time, anyway: since succeeded by Keith Pickering & Dennis Duke), it was arranged that he be permitted just 3 minutes of comment from the floor, enforced with a big hammer and bigger smile by syc-up David Devorkin. (Hammer evidently in anticipation of loud DR outbursts, though in years of smears that he's the sort who'd do so, it has never happened and will not. Myth believed also by craven Noel Swerdlow & R.Kargon. [Demonstrating his impressive versatility, RK has contributed to Baltimore's artistic reputation by (2006/6/10, Meyerhoff Hall) adding a prominent snorophone to Brahms' orchestration of his 2nd Piano Concerto.] NS&RK actually called in a rent-a-cop for a Swerdlow speech on Galileo at JHU, which it knew DR was attending. Even Kargon's own JHU Hist.Sci Dep't had a chuckle at this paranoid excess. DR cheerily greeted the cop on the way out: “Fellow Galileo-fan, eh?”) Loud interruption has happened to DR, but never by him. Good-natured tolerance of Devorkin's latest insult was one of a long history of pacific gestures by DR (see, e.g., next paragraph), all of which have proved a waste of good intent & time (though usefully & unambiguously establishing which party seeks hostility with rebels and thus is responsible for decades of un-useful enmity with DIO), because all gestures by establishments are actually jestures: conditional-on and in-anticipation of the rebel being ultimately bribable or threatenable into obeisance, which will never work with DIO, as several impossibly arrogant establishments have now evidently realized — which explains B.Rawlins' skypork-prediction.]

Outside & inside DIO, the very finest scholars of ancient astronomy have in the last few years buried past friction in order to reach an amiable and productive peace. It would endanger that peace to fully answer Schaefer's inverse-fantasy that Ptolemy-skeptics started the undeniable ugliness of the Controversy; so I refrain from detailed reply, adding only that his implication that my style is at fault is patently anachronistic:
[a] He implies this by using [out of a context which ALL should read fully] a defiant 1991 DR quote, published 8 years after Hoskin's banishment [of DR].
[b] I entered the Controversy in 1976; the unremitting (& one-sided) smearing of the late [exceedingly polite] R.Newton began in 1968.

Another Schaefer plus: S&T 72.1:70 (1986) misattributed3 invention of the now-universally-used compact refraction-correction format, but Schaefer 2001 found that this format first appeared (both versions: [for] apparent & true [altitude]) in the 1st half of the very Rawlins 1982 April PASP paper (eqs.8a&8) of which Schaefer 2001 was questioning the 2nd half.

1. [Schaefer's reference to “spammed hate mail ” (!) apparently refers to three 2000 HASTRO postings]: Jan #159, Feb #8, May #9. Hate mail? Decide for yourself.
2. I report this not as a complaint of personal deprivation (hardly! — given my rating of the HAD's leadership), but rather as a measure of the HAD's present openness and worth — which should be made known to the astronomical community. Can one imagine the HAD's parent AAS shunnishly and debatelessly taking one side of a central controversy, for decades on end?!
3. I hope you can finally correct the record here, as you kindly did at S&T 100.3 pp.14-16 (2000 Sept) regarding another DR priority: finding maximal solar tides by an eigenvalue-Lagrange-multiplier approach, the accuracy of which your 2000 May cover-story had beautifully confirmed.

[Bracketted comments added subsequent to letter's transmission.]