To the Editor: In the course of the past year or two I have read quite a number of articles on scientific subjects in different magazines by Carl Snyder. They seem very interesting, and I should like to know whether they are quite reliable.—B. F. L.
[This question, which in one form or another has been asked a number of times, must be answered in the negative. Mr. Snyder appears not to have had a scientific training; his articles are sensational and inaccurate. This somewhat sweeping condemnation is easily justified. Let us consider the last article by Mr. Snyder that has come to our attention—'The Mechanism of the Brain' in Harper's Monthly for May. It is a potpourri of truth, half-truth and falsehood concerning chemistry, physics, anatomy, physiology and psychology. Thus we are told:
Within half a column Mr. Snyder passes easily from the ether to electricity:
Physicists may not know all that they would like to know about the ether and electricity, but they know enough not to write nonsense about them.
As an example of misstatement of fact the following may be quoted:
The question of the intellectual attainments of poets may be left to the editor of Harper's Monthly; we are able to state definitely that the weight of Byron's brain is unknown, as is also true in the case of Turgenieff, whose brain is given as the second largest on Mr. Snyder's 'authoritative' list. In the same paragraph Mr. Snyder says:
Apart from such indications as are given by the size of the hat, the only feasible directions would be for the interested person to commit suicide, bequeathing his brain to Professor Wilder's collection.It may seem unkind thus to criticize Mr. Snyder's articles, but it is unfair to the public for magazines, such as Harper's, Scribner's, The Century and McClure's, not to separate their science from their fiction.—Editor.]