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Harlow Shapley

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Harlow Shapley (November 2, 1885 – October 20 1972) was an American astronomer instrumental in organizing a campaign in academia against Immanuel Velikovsky's controversial book Worlds in Collision.



It was Velikovsky who first contacted and briefly outlined his theory to Harlow Shapley on April 13, 1946, at the Commodore Hotel in New York. Shapley notes a conflict with Newtonian gravitation, which Velikovsky acknowledges, and Shapley suggests a couple of scientists who might be able to carry out some tests suggested by Velikovsky, and that he would read his manuscript "If Professor [Horace] Kallen reads and recommends it".[1]

A few days later, Velikovsky wrote to Shapley suggesting some scientific tests, ".. which bears directly upon my reconstruction of historical cosmology". On May 23, 1946, Horace Kallen wrote to Shapley that he was "impressed by what Dr. Velikovsky has had to say and the way in which he has established his hypothesis that I feel as eager as he to have it undergo the crucial test which the spectroscopic analysis he suggests would be". Shapley replied to Kallen that:

"The sensational claims of Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky fail to interest me as much as they should, [..] because his conclusions were pretty obviously based on incompetent data. [..] If in historical times there have been these changes in the structure of the solar system, [..] then the laws of Newton are false. [..] if Dr. Velikovsky is right, the rest of us are crazy"[2]

Velikovsky notes that "Shapley had not seen a single line of my manuscript, did not know a single argument or literary source I employed [and he] did not become intrigued enough to read the book about which he expressed himself so vehemently".

Reaction to Worlds in Collision

To come.


  1. Immanuel Velikovsky, Stargazers and Gravediggers (1983) "At Mademoiselle", 1983, William Morrow and Company, Inc, New York, ISBN 0-688-01545-X. "I give our conversation as I reproduced it in a letter written four years later to Ted O. Thackrey of the New York Post, an acquaintance of mine.
  2. Ibid., "One Who Read And One Who Didn't"

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