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“Even referees were not infallible.” – L. F. Richardson

October 12, 2010 Filed under Blog, Featured, Reviewing, Uncategorized 

Happy 129th birthday (11 October 1881) to Lewis Fry Richardson, who pioneered the first numerical weather prediction and for whom the Richardson number is named. Jim Matthew of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society lent me a copy of his biography Prophet or Professor? by Oliver Ashford. As I was reading it today, I came across the following story, which relates to this blog.

Richardson’s first major scientific contribution was a paper published by the Royal Society of London in 1910: “The approximate arithmetical solutions by finite differences of physical problems involving differential equation, with an application to the stresses in a masonry dam.”

Ashford picks up the story:

“In spite of support from Sir Richard Glazebrook, who had of course been Richardson’s director during his spell at the NPL [National Physical Laboratory], the paper was not accepted by the Society without some difficulty. It had been written in two parts; part A was general while part B dealt with the specific case of a dam. In correspondence with a mathematical friend 40 years later, Richardson recalled that he had been advised by the Society’s Secretary to act on comments made by two referees. ‘Probably he had never read them’, he wrote, ‘for I was appalled to find that the first referee recommended that part A be omitted and B condensed while the second referee recommended that B should be omitted and A condensed! Perceiving that even referees were not infallible, I decided to persist, and after a lot of bother to myself and to other referees I got both parts published.'”

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