Plagiarism @ Oxford
University Press : Lost Elements
In 2016, the scholarship of Steven Krivits (
Publisher and Senior Editor, New Energy Times ) exposed
massive "plagiarism in the book Lost Elements by Marco
Fontani, Mariagrazia Costa and Mary Virginia Orna. The text
was taken without attribution from Robert Nelson's book Adept
Founded in 2000, the New Energy Times LENR News Site is the
leading source of original, independent news and investigations
about low-energy nuclear reactions.
From: “S.B. Krivit”
Sent: Dec 20, 2016 9:47 AM
To: Jeremy Lewis, Marco Fontani, Mary Virginia Orna, Maria
Costa, Robert A. Nelson
Subject: Plagiarism in Lost Elements
I would like to inform you of plagiarism in the book Lost Elements
by Marco Fontani, Mariagrazia Costa and Mary Virginia Orna. The
text was taken without attribution from Robert Nelson’s book Adept
Please let me know whether OUP takes any action on this matter.
From: "Steven B. Krivit" <email@example.com&...
To: Robert Nelson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Book is out -- address typo
Date: Dec 20, 2016 9:20 AM
I just want to give you a heads-up that I discovered that large
portions of your book were plagiarized by Marco Fontani,
Mariagrazia Costa and Mary Virginia Orna, in the book The Lost
Elements: The Periodic Table’s Shadow Side.
I have exposed this matter in my book.
I am about to notify Oxford University Press of the problem. I
will tell you all about it.
Are you ready?
From: Steven B. Krivit
Sent: Tuesday, December 20, 2016 11:45 AM
To: LEWIS, Jeremy
Subject: Lost Elements
I am told by Lois Ilberry's office that you are the editor for the
Fontani et al book Lost Elements. Is this correct?
On 12/20/2016 8:47 AM, LEWIS, Jeremy wrote:
Yes, I am the editor responsible for that book. What can I help
Steven B. Krivit
Publisher and Senior Editor, New Energy Times
369-B Third Street, Suite 556, San Rafael, California 94901
Author of Hacking the Atom: Explorations in Nuclear Research, Vol.
Author of Fusion Fiasco: Explorations in Nuclear Research, Vol. 2
Author of Lost History: Explorations in Nuclear Research, Vol. 3
Editor-in-Chief Wiley & Sons Nuclear Energy Encyclopedia:
Science, Technology, and Applications
Co-editor of Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions and New Energy:
Technologies Sourcebook Volume 2 (ACS Symposium Series)
Co-editor of Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions Sourcebook Volume 1 (ACS
LENR Contributor to the Elsevier Reference Module in Chemistry,
Molecular Sciences and Chemical Engineering
LENR Contributor to the Elsevier Encyclopedia of Electrochemical
Fontani-Costa-Orna Book and Nelson Book
Publisher and Senior Editor, New Energy Times
By Steven B. Krivit
Published Dec. 20, 2016
In 2014, Oxford University Press published a book written by Marco
Fontani, Mariagrazia Costa and Mary Virginia Orna, and edited by
Jeremy Lewis, called The Lost Elements: The Periodic Table’s
Shadow Side. Fontani and Costa are chemists at the University of
Florence, Italy. Orna is a professor of chemistry at the College
of New Rochelle, New York.
The 530-page book is an eloquent, interesting description of
supposed discoveries of new elements which turned out to be
illusory. The dust jacket reads, "Throughout its formation, the
periodic table of elements has seen false entries, good-faith
errors, retractions and dead ends. In fact, there have been more
falsely proclaimed elemental discoveries throughout history than
there are elements on the table as we know it today."
The book contains a 33-page section called "Modern Alchemy: The
Dream to Transmute the Elements Has Always Been With Us." This
section is primarily about elemental transmutation research that
took place in the 1910s and 1920s. The authors also briefly
discuss modern science experiments in the field of low-energy
nuclear reaction (LENR) research.
When I learned about the Lost Elements book, I had just completed
the manuscript for my book Lost History: Explorations in Nuclear
Research, Vol. 3. Lost History describes the elemental
transmutation research that took place in the 1910s and 1920s.
By 1930, the research from the previous two decades had largely
been dismissed as errors and mistakes. However, very few confirmed
errors or mistakes were ever identified. The reason the research
was dismissed was that the results were not theoretically
understood and the experiments were difficult to repeat.
Consequently, the research was omitted from subsequent scientific
News of this forgotten body of research didn't resurface until the
1980s, when a researcher and author named Robert Nelson spent many
days poring through Chemical Abstracts at the University of
California, Berkeley. Nelson suspected that the research had
merit, and a chapter in my book discusses Nelson and his quest.
In the mid-1980s, Nelson began self-publishing his research
findings in a book called Adept Alchemy. Nelson appears to be the
only person who has found and documented this body of lost
research — at least in the English-language — since the 1930s.
In 2012, I began writing my book Hacking the Atom: Explorations in
Nuclear Research, Vol. 1, describing nuclear transmutation work
performed during 1990-2015. At that time, I was aware of only a
fraction of the 1910s and 1920s research. As I began checking that
research, I found Nelson's book and discovered, through his work,
that a substantial additional body of important scientific history
I decided that it was of sufficient scope and importance to merit
its own book, and this led to my critical analysis of that
research and writing of my book Lost History. Although I have done
my own research and investigation for Lost History, Nelson
provided the road map for me as well as many of the
bibliographical references that led me to the original scientific
In August 2015, one of my editors was checking facts and brought
Fontani's book, Lost Elements, to my attention. I was surprised to
learn that Lost Elements broadly (but superficially) discussed
most of the transmutation experiments that took place in the 1910s
and 1920s. I assumed that Fontani, Costa and Orna had performed
their own research, analysis, and writing. The book is
well-written and appears to be a scholarly reference.
I noticed that some of the facts in the Fontani-Costa-Orna book
conflicted with facts I obtained from my own investigation. I
began to check references that the authors had cited. Rather
quickly, I ascertained that Fontani, Costa and Orna apparently had
not performed their own research, analysis or writing for that
section of their book.
The structure of the Fontani-Costa-Orna "Modern Alchemy" section
not only mirrors the scope of coverage in Nelson's book, it also
duplicates, without attribution, many complete sentences and
paragraphs; some with tiny changes and others verbatim
duplications without attribution. The authors knew of Nelson's
book. In their "Modern Alchemy" section, they provide more than
100 references to sources. Yet despite directly copying an
abundance of Nelson's text without attribution, they cite Nelson's
1998 book as one of their sources. They also list his book in
their bibliography, and they say nothing more about Nelson.
The Same Text
Within a few pages, the pattern became clear to me. When Fontani,
Costa and Orna discussed specific technical details of the 1910s
and 1920s research, they copied text directly from Nelson without
giving him any credit.
I did a few spot checks further into the "Modern Alchemy" section.
Not only did I find that the plagiarism in this section recurred,
but I also found that the authors made strategic omissions and
changes in the descriptions they appropriated from Nelson in order
to bolster their thesis that all of these reported transmutations
were invalid. In some cases, Fontani, Costa and Orna made
statements that appear to be incorrect, though they are not fully
to blame; some of these errors were in the original Nelson text.
The Fontani-Costa-Orna book was produced with the financial
support of Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze. In the
acknowledgments, the authors cite assistance from people at the
University of Siena, the University of Florence, the University of
Illinois, Oregon State University, the Italian Chemical Society,
the Committee of the International Congress of History of
Chemistry, the Italian Society for the Advancement of Science, the
Tokyo Institute of Technology, the Japan Isotopes Data Institute,
the Chemical Heritage Foundation, the American Chemical Society,
and the Institute for Chemicals and Fuels from Alternative Sources
(Canada), among others. The authors even acknowledged people who
assisted with the book but who have since died.
The authors give a special thanks to Peter van der Krogt, "who
published the specialized Web page dedicated to the chemical
elements and their history." Yet among the more than 100 named
individuals, the authors did not acknowledge Robert Nelson, nor
did Fontani, Costa and Orna identify any assistants who did
research and writing on their behalf. I do not know whether all
three authors were involved in the plagiarism. I have not examined
other sections of the book for similar problems.
Nelson, on the other hand, was meticulous in citing his sources.
He was professionally trained as paralegal who specialized in
contracts and his expertise is evident in his citations of
sources. His precise bibliography made it very easy for me to
conduct my own research.
Fontani, Costa and Orna wrote in the acknowledgments that an
Italian version of their book was published in 2009 by the Italian
Chemical Society. That 544-page book is De Reditu Eorum: Sulle
Tracce Degli Elementi Scomparsi, [On Their Return: On the Trail of
the Missing Elements], by Marco Fontani and Mariagrazia Costa.
Nelson appears to have self-published his print version of Adept
Alchemy in 1998. Not only do Fontani, Costa and Orna cite Nelson's
book, his book is also cited by Mark Morrisson in Modern Alchemy,
published by Oxford University Press. Nelson's book is cited, but
not dated, in Joseph Farrell's self-published 2009 book
Philosopher's Stone. In 1998, Nexus magazine published one of
Nelson's chapters, "The Transmutation of Mercury Into Gold," in
its Oct.-Nov. issue.
Nelson registered the domain name for his Web site in 2000, and at
some point, perhaps in 2005 (but certainly no later than May
2006), published an Internet version of his book at the address
According to the Internet Archive
( http://tinyurl.com/oyznkz9 ),
Nelson's book was online by May 10, 2006. Nelson has graciously
given me permission to upload a copy (PDF) of his book to the New
Energy Times Web site.
I began my review of the Fontani-Costa-Orna book on page 451 and
examined the next three pages in detail. Once I saw the pattern of
blatant plagiarism, I only made spot checks on pages 461, 468 and
476. Each of those three pages showed the same pattern of
plagiarism and I did not feel the need to check any other pages.
Fontani, Costa and Orna also made several insidious changes that
distort and misrepresent this history. The first one I noticed was
on page 451 of their book. They discuss the work of chemists
Gerald Wendt and Clarence Irion at the University of Chicago.
Fontani, Costa and Orna wrote two sentences about Wendt and Irion
without citing sources: 1) "Their work was viewed with suspicion
at the time and, today, cognizant physicists have commented that
their experimental design was faulty" and 2) "The harsh criticism
of Harkins and Allison was a hard blow for Wendt, one that
eventually interrupted his research activities."
Although Fontani, Costa and Orna borrowed ample text from Nelson
on this page, they omitted Nelson's quote of Wendt which gives the
actual reason for his and Irion's termination of the work: "The
work was stopped by the failure of the health of the senior
Nelson, in turn, had quoted (and cited) Wendt from a primary
source. The Wendt/Irion paper published in the Journal of the
American Chemical Society, and footnote 8, page 1893 reads: "The
work was stopped by the failure of the health of the senior
author, necessitating a complete rest for a year or more."
On Sept. 9, 2015, before I had any idea about the plagiarism, I
sent an e-mail to Fontani and asked him for his sources on the
uncited statements above. Fontani replied the following day with a
secondary source that was published 73 years after the fact: "We
consulted the original papers of the persons you mention in your
email, and we also consulted several secondary sources, listed
below: Le bugie della Scienza. Perché e come gli scienziati
imbrogliano by Federico Di Trocchio (1995), Genio incompreso by
Federico Di Trocchio (1996)"
That's when I began to examine the Fontani-Costa-Orna text more
closely and found the duplications. On Fontani, Costa and Orna's
page 468, which is significantly borrowed, I found another
insidious change on the topic of unexplained production of neon
and helium in vacuum tubes.
Here is Nelson's original text: "... neon in vacuum tubes. The
matter has not been resolved. The first such report ... "
Here is the changed Fontani, Costa and Orna text: "... neon in
vacuum tubes. Eventually, when the phenomena could not be reliably
reproduced, most scientists concluded that the results were due to
contamination. The first report ... "
I published this report on New Energy Times on Dec. 20, 2016. At
that time, I notified Fontani, Costa, Orna, Nelson, the Oxford
University Press office in the U.K. Lewis, the OUP editor in the
U.S., and Nobel Prize winner Roald Hoffman, who wrote the preface
to Lost Elements.
Examination of the Fontani-Costa-Orna Book
Fontani-Costa-Orna, p. 451
Source for first highlighted paragraph on Fontani-Costa-Orna p.
Source for next highlighted paragraphs on Fontani-Costa-Orna p.
Fontani-Costa-Orna, p. 453
Source for first highlighted paragraphs on p. 453
Source for next highlighted paragraphs on p. 453
Fontani-Costa-Orna, p. 454
Source for first highlighted paragraphs on p. 454
Source for next highlighted paragraphs on p. 454
Fontani-Costa-Orna, p. 461
Source for first highlighted paragraph on p. 461
Source for next highlighted paragraphs on p. 461
Fontani-Costa-Orna, p. 468
Source for next highlighted paragraphs on p. 468
Fontani-Costa-Orna, p. 476
Source for next highlighted paragraphs on p. 476
Not only was text copied, but the structure was largely copied as
well. The Fontani-Costa-Orna book "Modern Alchemy" section mirrors
the all the topics in the Nelson book Part II section except
Nelson's chapter on carbon.
Nelson Part II Original Chapters
Chapter 1 Transmutation of Silver [to Gold]
Chapter 2 Transmutation of Ores
Chapter 3 Transmutation of Carbon
Chapter 4 Decomposition of Tungsten
Chapter 5 Transmutation of Lead [to Mercury and Thallium]
Chapter 6 Transmutation of Hydrogen, [Helium and Neon]
Chapter 7 Transmutation of Mercury [to Gold]
Chapter 8 Biological Transmutation
Chapter 9 Cold Fusion
Fontani-Costa-Orna Mirrored Sections
VII.1. A Piece of Research Gone up in Smoke: Decomposition of
Tungsten into Helium
VII.2. Transmutations of Mercury into Gold
VII.3. Transmutations of Silver into Gold
VII.4. Transmutation of Ores
VII.5. Other Transmutations
VII.6. Biological Transmutation
VII.7. The Transmutation of Hydrogen into Helium and Neon
VII.8. Radiochemistry: a Child of Both Physics and Chemistry
VII.9. Transmutation of Lead into Mercury
VII.10. Some like It "Cold"
VII.11. Is Cold Fusion Hot Again?
From: "S.B. Krivit"
Sent: Dec 20, 2016 1:56 PM
To: Robert Nelson
Subject: Re: Plagiarism in Lost Elements
I am so glad that you took this with a positive
attitude and a sense of humor.
I was a little worried you would be very angry.
Hopefully, the blatant nature of what they did, and my exposition
of it brings you some unintended satisfaction and recognition.
now I have told everyone:
I can't tell you how mind-boggling it was for
me to have discovered this during my writing process...
The Lost Elements
The Periodic Table's Shadow Side
Marco Fontani, Mariagrazia Costa, and Mary Virginia
Tells stories of errors and mistakes in the development of the
Periodic Table of Elements, from its conception to the present.
Covers topics like false discoveries, scientific retractions, and
elements removed from the Table.
Published: 03 November 2014
576 Pages | 55 illustrations
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
The Lost Elements: The Periodic Table's Shadow Side
by Marco Fontani, Mariagrazia Costa, Mary Virginia Orna
The Periodic Table of Elements hasn't always looked like it does
now, a well-organized chart arranged by atomic number. In the
mid-nineteenth century, chemists were of the belief that the
elements should be sorted by atomic weight. However, the weights
of many elements were calculated incorrectly, and over time it
became clear that not only did the elements need rearranging, but
that the periodic table contained many gaps and omissions: there
were elements yet to be discovered, and the allure of finding one
had scientists rushing to fill in the blanks. Supposed
"discoveries" flooded laboratories, and the debate over what did
and did not belong on the periodic table reached a fever pitch.
With the discovery of radioactivity, the discourse only
intensified. Throughout its formation, the Periodic Table of
Elements has seen false entries, good-faith errors, retractions,
and dead ends. In fact, there have been more falsely proclaimed
elemental discoveries throughout history than there are elements
on the table as we know it today.
The Lost Elements: The Periodic Table's Shadow Side collects the
most notable of these instances, stretching from the nineteenth
century to the present. The book tells the story of how scientists
have come to understand elements, by discussing the failed
theories and false discoveries that shaped the path of scientific
progress. We learn of early chemists' stubborn refusal to
disregard alchemy as a legitimate practice, and of one German's
supposed discovery of an elemental metal that breathed. As
elements began to be created artificially in the twentieth
century, we watch the discovery climate shift to favor the
physicists, rather than the chemists. Along the way, Fontani,
Costa, and Orna introduce us to the key figures in the development
of today's periodic table, including Lavoisier and Mendeleev.
Featuring a preface from Nobel Laureate Roald Hoffmann, The Lost
Elements is an expansive history of the wrong side of chemical
discovery-and reveals how these errors and gaffes have helped
shape the table as much as any other form of scientific progress.
Book Review: The Lost Elements
Books and recommendations from Scientific American
The Lost Elements: The Periodic Table's Shadow Side
by Marco Fontani Mariagrazia Costa Mary Virginia Orna
Oxford University Press, 2014 (($39.95))
The journey to the periodic table of elements we know today was
not smooth. Chemists Fontani, Costa and Orna tell the story of the
false starts and stray paths that led to the “discovery” of many
elements that turned out not to be. Some, such as “didymium,” were
later revealed to be composites of multiple elements; others, such
as “brevium,” were isotopes, or variations, on other elements (in
this case, protactinium). Many of these efforts, the authors show,
were not wasted but rather helped to clarify the true nature of
the elements we know now and the chemical laws they obey. “There
are many more elemental ‘discoveries’ later shown to be false than
there are entries in the present table,” they write. “Some of
these were good-faith errors, some were the result of personal
wishful thinking, some were the fantasy children of
pseudoscientists — and all have their fascinating stories.”
This article was originally published with the title "The Lost
Elements: The Periodic Table's Shadow Side"
The lost elements: the periodic table’s shadow side
By Bill Griffith
17 March 2015
Marco Fontani, Mariagrazia Costa and Mary Virginia Orna
Oxford University Press
2014 | 576pp | £25.99
Recently, a number of new books on the periodic table have
appeared. This one, however, is different: it deals with spurious
elements – those that have been claimed over the last 300 years
but that do not exist or contain species already known. Vladimir
Karpenko’s classic paper on the topic (Ambix, 1980, 27, 77, DOI:
10.1179/amb.19184.108.40.206) lists 180 examples; this book has some
480 candidates, sometimes making valiant attempts to identify what
they might have been.
The material is chronologically arranged. It starts rather
uneasily with a chapter on ‘elements’ announced before 1789 –
however, the concept of elements was only defined that year. The
next and more successful section covers the years until 1869, the
date of Mendeleev’s first periodic table. Some 36 genuine elements
were identified, but also at least 50 spurious ones. In 1869–1914
another 23 genuine new elements were discovered, as well as 140
false ones, mostly inspired by Mendeleev’s tables. When Henry
Moseley, Niels Bohr and Frederick Soddy laid a theoretical basis
for the periodic table in the early 20th century, vacancies still
existed, such as the elements 43 (technetium), 75 (rhenium) and 85
(astatine). Hafnium, discovered in 1925, begat more spurious
ancestors than any other, including the so-called elements asium,
celtium, euxenium, jargonium, and oceanium. The book’s final
sections cover the years post 1939, with trans-uranides, modern
transmutations and bizarre elements, such as anodium, cathodium
and big dipperian.
Many of these lost elements arose from the credulity,
over-optimism or sheer wishful thinking of their discoverers,
though probably not fraudulence. It is romantic, but incorrect, to
think that carolinium, jospehinium, rogerium and virginium were
the names of loved ones. Strange as some of these species may
seem, those who thought they had found a new element were often as
odd – sometimes amateurs but usually professional chemists. Thus,
the engineer and astrophysicist Henry Rowland invented a
diffraction grating, with which he claimed the element demonium in
1864, Theodor Gross, a zeppelin engineer and designer, announced
bythium in 1897, and the Glaswegian metallurgist Thomas French
reported canadium, announcing it in the 1911 Glasgow Herald. Even
the highly professional William Crookes who had discovered a real
element, thallium, claimed victorium, monium, ionium and
incognitum, while Mendeleev himself predicted coronium and
This reasonably-priced book has excellent indexes of discoverers’
names, the lost elements (preceded by a chronological list of
these) and general subjects. The literature coverage is heroic,
with 1500 up-to-date references, often from obscure journals. A
volume of serious history to dip into, but there are riches here.
If you want to read in detail about anglium, phipsonium, splittium
and many others – and their sometimes exotic discoverers – this is
The Lost Elements: The Periodic Table’s Shadow Side,
by Marco Fontani, Mariagrazia Costa and Mary Virginia Orna
Peter Wothers revels in a treasure trove of ‘wrong’
chemistry and great history
February 19, 2015
[ PDF ]
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Born 5 May 1969 (age 47)
Fields History of Chemistry, electrochemistry,
Institutions : University of Florence
Alma mater : University of Florence
Known for : "The Lost Elements: The Periodic Table's Shadow Side"
Marco Fontani (born May 5, 1969 in Florence ) is a chemist and
chemistry historian, author of over 120 publications in materials
chemistry, organometallic chemistry, electrochemistry and the
history of chemistry. He is also a member of the Italian National
Society of History of Chemistry (Gruppo Nazionale di Storia e
Fondamenti della Chimica).
He wrote the books: The Lost Elements: The Periodic Table's Shadow
Side and Chemistry and Chemists in Florence: From the Last of
the Medici Family to the European Magnetic Resonance Center.
Both edited in Italian and English.
He has been working at the Department of Organic Chemistry at the
University of Florence since 2003.
"University Of Florence profile". Retrieved 2016-07-31.
"GNSC members list". Retrieved 2016-07-31.
Fontani, Marco; Costa, Mariagrazia; Orna, Mary Virginia (2014).
The Lost Elements: The Periodic Table’s Shadow Side. Oxford
University Press. p. 576pp. ISBN 9780199383344.;
Fontani, Marco; Costa, Mariagrazia; Orna, Mary Virginia (2016).
Chemistry and Chemists in Florence: From the Last of the Medici
Family to the European Magnetic Resonance Center. Springer-Verlag.
p. 136pp. ISBN 978-3319308548.;
The elements that weren’t -- A
periodic table of failure, fraud, and overconfidence
January 04, 2015
By Mary Virginia Orna and Marco Fontani
In the popular imagination, science proceeds with great leaps of
discovery—new planets, new cures, new atomic elements. In reality,
though, science is a long, grueling process of trial and error, in
which tantalizing false discoveries constantly arise and vanish on
further examination. These failures can teach us as much—or
more—than its successes.
The field of chemistry is littered with them. Today only 118
elements have been documented, but hundreds more have been
“discovered” over the years—named, publicly trumpeted, and
sometimes even included in textbooks—only to be exposed as bogus
with better tools, or when a fraud was sniffed out. Their stories
read like a catalog of the ways science can go awry, and how it
moves forward nonetheless.
Hover over the periodic table below for a selective tour of 17
illustrative “lost elements” drawn from a new compendium of bogus
chemical discoveries—and what we learned in spite of them.