Piltdown Man Hoax: Probably The Biggest In Scientific History Done By A Single Forger
Through the molecular techniques, advance radioactive dating and morphometrics, a group of scientists and experts further debunked the claim of a fossil discovery linking apes to humans in 1912 and concluded that the falsification was done by a single forger.
Paleontologist Arthur Smith Woodward and amateur antiquarian, geologist, archeologist, local historian and solicitor Charles Dawson discovered a fossil remain of the so-called Piltdown man. The fossil was given a scientific name Eoanthropus dawsoni. The discovery attracted the general public especially fellow scientists. It sparked debates among the scientific community whether the claim was true or not.
In 1953, it was later found out that the remains were a patchwork of different fragments of bones from an orangutan species and two human species. The falsification of the fossil discovery was believed to be fabricated by the both the discoverers. It was until the morphological and genetic evidences gathered by scientists from Royal Society Open Science, pinpointed that only Charles Dawson is the single culprit guilty of the hoax.
The claim was further discredited after several discrepancies in the geomorphometrics of the fossil fragments; inconsistent data of radiocarbon accelerated dating which concluded that the fragments have different ages and the DNA analyses consistently pointed out that the fossil came from an orangutan and 2 humans.
Charles Dawson was determined to be the sole perpetrator. It was found out in several analyses that the forger was not a trained conservator since there where traces of evident poor handling of the fossils, which resulted to several damages. This evidence disproves the participation of Arthur Smith Woodward, who is an expert paleontologist. The scientists also noticed that the assemblage of the fragments conviniently coinsides the predicted features of the "missing link" species like a work of someone who has access to the then royal scientific society.
This discovery led to the investigation of the life and works of Charles Dawson and to what made him risk his career and reputation to become a scientific forger. It was also discovered that despite being a noble man and scientist, his contributions as an archaeologist and geologist barely contributed to the advancement of science. It was also during the time when several scientists were on the move to discover the "missing link" in ape and human evolution. It was also coincidental that he was in his last nomination for election as new Fellow of the Royal Society in 1913.
This hoax was believed to be a great scientific discovery for over 40 years before the science itself disproved it. The evolution of science and knowledge should progress forward through honest and reliable findings. What we can learn from this is that dishonest scientific work driven by lust for fortune and fame, will not progress science but regress us backward to our primitive means.