4. Critical Review of Earlier Experiments

4.1. Research Before 1840

Generally insufficient information to judge the experiments.

4.2. Wiegmann and Polstorff's Experiment

Criticism regarding the following points:

  1. The experiment only consisted of the development of Lepidium seeds to seedlings; because no nutrient solution was given, development was unable to proceed, no noticeable assimilation.
  2. Only the total weight of ash from the seedlings was compared with that of the same number of seeds. Therefore the existence of transmutation in the narrowest sense is not excluded [for example, if an element of a certain atomic weight transmutes into half the quantity of an element with twice its atomic weight the total weights of the system, before and after, would remain unchanged].
  3. The precision of the weighing is presumably of the order of 0.1mg. For a total weight of 2.5mg this is a possible variation of 4 to 8%. A creation of this order of magnitude is thus not completely excluded.

4.3. Later Research

Von Herzeele (1876 - '83). His work was rediscovered by accident in about ca.1930 (the philosopher W. H. Preuss had dedicated an article to him; Preuss defended the idea that inorganic nature was a product of the organic; Herzeele was in agreement, apparently inspired by Goethe).

Herzeele experimented with seeds and even roots which were allowed to develop under glass bell jars. His analyses give the impression of professionalism, despite the lack of details. Of a more unfortunate nature, he gave no consideration for the variability of the plant material. The occasional large effects that he found were therefore not significant. This was clearly shown to be true by a replication by Holleman - executed in a laboratory in Leiden in 1933 (Repeat of Herzeele experiment) - of his most spectacular transmutations .

Spessard (1940). This was the only published experiment in which an organic process was studied in a hermetically sealed container. The bottles were weighed after some years. At the end, living protozoa were still to be seen through the glass walls. Presumably plant assimilation and animal respiration followed each other more or less in balance [plants produce oxygen and consume carbon dioxide, animals take in oxygen and produce carbon dioxide]. There was a weight increase of a few tenths of a milligram (with a balance accuracy of 0.02mg). Sources of error, so far as they were known, were carefully eliminated. The predicted continuation of this work did not appear. The increase in weight that was found was far too big to be considered as a materialisation of the received light rays. [I am curious as to why, of all the possible critique of this work (insufficient controls, no information on whether steps were taken to prevent the settling of dust on the outside of the vessel or other external contamination), Holleman chose an argument from within the paradigm of atomic theory; see section 1.2 and section 3.1.1.]

Kervran (1966, 1972a, b, 1976). A researcher who, just as Goldfein (see below), at the level of nuclear chemistry, made biological transmutation plausible. [I consider that Holleman was being either generous or naive here; Kervran's model is a simple and potentially useful one - if proved to be true - but it is highly simplistic and has been severely criticised by nuclear physicists (see de Gee, 1973; Zvirblis, 1977]. Practical researches that were undertaken at his instigation in Switzerland and Japan were lacking with regards criterion 3.1.4. [Kervran's practical experiments have in my opinion and I believe that of Holleman, been rightly criticised for their generally unscientific nature; evidence given was often circumstantial or anecdotal; controls were generally absent or inadequate (3.1.2); raw data and its statistical handling, if any, were not published (3.1.2); the studied organisms were not always kept in any sort of closed system (3.1.1). See de Gee (1973), Paster(1980). Nevertheless, a large volume of work relating to this subject was brought together by Kervran that cannot be entirely be ignored].

Goldfein (1978) developed a model on a microscopic scale, whereby biological transmutation may be possible. The DNA spiral in the cell's nucleus [sic] could work as a cyclotron at a molecular scale, the thus developed electron stream could transmute specific atoms. [The postulated cell structure involved was in fact the mitochondria and not the nucleus.] The author had assumed that the light energy taken up in the form of matter can be re-released as energy. The weight increase was actually ca.3 orders of magnitude larger than can be calculated from the hypothesis. [See section 5].