Langmuir’s talk on Pathological Science (December 18, 1953)

I. Langmuir
(Colloquium at The Knolls Research Laboratory, December 18, 1953)
Transcribed and edited by R. N. Hall

PREFACE (by R.N. Hall)

On December 18, 1953, Dr. Irving Langmuir gave a colloquium at the Research Laboratory that will long be remembered by those in his audience. The talk was concerned with what Langmuir called “the science of things that aren’t so,” and in it he gave a colorful account of several examples of a particular kind of pitfall into which scientists may sometimes stumble.

Langmuir never published his investigations into the subject of Pathological Science. A tape recording was made of his speech, but this has been lost or erased. Recently, however, a microgroove disk transcription that was made from this tape was found among the Langmuir papers in the Library of Congress, This disk recording is of poor quality, but most of what he said can be understood with a little practice, and it constitutes the text of this report.

A small amount of editing was felt to be desirable. Some abortive or repetitious sentences were eliminated. Figures from corresponding publications were used to represent his blackboard sketches, and some references were added for the benefit of anyone wishing to undertake a further investigation of this subject. The disk recording has been transcribed back onto tape, and a copy is on file in the Whitney Library.

Gratitude is hereby expressed to the staff of the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress for their cooperation in lending us the disk recording so we could obtain the best possible copy of the Langmuir speech, and for providing access to other related Langmuir papers.


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