March 8, 1950
I apologize immediately for having written such disparaging remarks about an acquaintance of yours. My astonishment stands, but so does my apology. . . .
Last weeks Science News Letter, incidentally, included statements on the Larrabee article from men in other fields— all of distinction, I believe—and they seem to be unfavorable. Time of this week also takes a dim view.
I myself am not writing anything in response to Dr. Velikovsky or Larrabee or anyone. In fact, the only hot communication I have made was this letter to you. I certainly wrote it to the wrong person! In half a dozen groups, chiefly of Harvard University professors (and they are not all ill-mannered, injudicious, or dumb), without exception I have found no one whose views about the Readers Digest survey of the volume, to say nothing of Larrabees article, were other than mine. Many, like Ickes in the New Republic, took the whole business as a joke. Wasnt Larrabee a Lampoon editor?
Perhaps I wrote you that a vice-president of the American Astronomical Society thought that the Council of the Society should send a protest to Macmillan, the famous publisher of highly reputable scientific books; but I said immediately, and so did many others, that such an action would merely give greater publicity to Dr. Velikovskys contributions. Freedom to publish is a basic freedom. . . .
Our trouble about the Macmillan Company and Harpers, if you call it trouble, was that such publications seem to throw doubt on the care with which they referee other manuscripts on which we want to depend. There was no fear whatever of being misled by Dr. Velikovskys views. . . .
In conclusion, I remember that Dr. Velikovsky was a very nice personality, quiet, modest, and apparently genuinely sorry that I and the likes of me had been so misled by Isaac Newton, Laplace, Lagrange, Simon Newcomb, the great national observatories in all the leading countries. He was, in fact, quite charming, as I remember him. No doubt, from what you say, he is a deep scholar in some fields. I have not yet seen statements from scholars to this effect, and possibly you would not value them highly if they should speak adversely. They squabble among themselves—these philosophers of the ancient times and of the fragmentary records. But it is hard to quarrel with a differential equation, or with numbers; and therefore the trained astronomers and physicists, almost to the last man, will insist on the fallacy of Dr. Velikovskys celestial mechanics. Even the planetarium lecturer, who is almost totally unknown to astronomers, was evasive in his not unfavorable comments.
In signing off I again apologize for the vigor of my language; but following the precedent of one Galileo, I stand fast on the evidence and assertions that Venus did not participate in the stopping of the rotating of the earth some fifteen hundred years b.c. one cannot be dishonest in such matters and remain a scientist. But I insist on remaining your friend. Neither Dr. V. nor the planet-comet Venus should get between us.