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 Alchemy..."


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
Dear Jeremy,
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 Alchemy.

Please let me know whether OUP takes any action on this matter.

From: "Steven B. Krivit" <
 To: Robert Nelson <>
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
Mr. Lewis,
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:
Dear Steven,
Yes, I am the editor responsible for that book. What can I help you with?

Steven B. Krivit
Publisher and Senior Editor, New Energy Times
369-B Third Street, Suite 556, San Rafael, California 94901
T 415.295.7801
Author of Hacking the Atom: Explorations in Nuclear Research, Vol. 1
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 Symposium Series)
LENR Contributor to the Elsevier Reference Module in Chemistry, Molecular Sciences and Chemical Engineering
LENR Contributor to the Elsevier Encyclopedia of Electrochemical Power Sources

Comparison of Fontani-Costa-Orna Book and Nelson Book
By Steven B. Krivit

Publisher and Senior Editor, New Energy Times
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 reference material.

Another Author

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 existed.

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 papers.

Another Book

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's Work

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
 ( ),

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.

Insidious Changes

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 author."

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. 451
Source for next highlighted paragraphs on Fontani-Costa-Orna p. 451

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

Fontani-Costa-Orna Sections

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?

    -----Original Message-----
    From: "S.B. Krivit"
    Sent: Dec 20, 2016 1:56 PM
    To: Robert Nelson
    Subject: Re: Plagiarism in Lost Elements
    Ah, phew!
    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 Orna
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
ISBN: 9780199383344

The Lost Elements: The Periodic Table's Shadow Side

1st Edition
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
ISBN 9780199383344
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.1980.27.2.77) 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 newtonium.

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 for you.

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

Marco Fontani
Born     5 May 1969 (age 47)
Florence, Italy
Nationality Italy
Fields     History of Chemistry, electrochemistry, organometallic chemistry
Institutions : University of Florence
Alma mater : University of Florence
Known for : "The Lost Elements: The Periodic Table's Shadow Side" book

Marco Fontani[1] (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).[2]

He wrote the books: The Lost Elements: The Periodic Table's Shadow Side[3] and Chemistry and Chemists in Florence: From the Last of the Medici Family to the European Magnetic Resonance Center.[4] 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
By Mary Virginia Orna and Marco Fontani
January 04, 2015

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.

Adept Alchemy
Robert A. Nelson