I’m going to run a series of posts here under the heading: “crackpots” who were right. It is surprising just how many times people have published ideas in science that were initially rejected by their peers simply because they went against the accepted wisdom of the time. These people submitted their work to journals only to have them repeatedly rejected with comments from the referees stating that the author simply could not be right. In all the cases I will mention, the idea has eventually been accepted, sometimes after many years and often only when another more influential scientist rediscovered it. Happily the original discoverers were not forgotten and are now recognised, but it is not just the matter of recognition that is of concern. The failure to evaluate the work correctly at the time has lead to delays in the progress of science that can last for decades.
I don’t doubt for one moment that there are many other scientists with similar experiences whose work was forgotten and who did not get their place in the history of science that they deserved. Of course I cannot give examples and write about them because I don’t know who they are. Preprint archives provide one way to ensure that in the future such scientists have the opportunity to be known about later when their work is reevaluated. That is why such archives should be open and unmoderated rather than judging ideas on the preconceptions of the day when the work was done. viXra.org is one of the few general science preprint archives that adheres to this principle.
Of course many ideas that are described as “crackpot” will never turn out to be right. Some of them are obviously wrong from the beginning and are right to be rejected by scientists. I point out this obvious fact only because if I don’t then other people will mention it as if we at viXra.org can’t see it. The problem is that there is no clear line between the obviously wrong ideas and the crazy ideas that could just be right. If we tried to draw such a line we would either be to conservative and keep a few ideas that could never work, or we would be too harsh and risk rejecting something that actually has something valid in it. The solution we adopt at viXra.org is to reject nothing unless it does not even try to make a scientific statement or where there are potential legal issues.
The surprise is that most of the articles submitted here have a lot of good substance to them. Often they are of very good quality and it is not obvious why they would not be acceptable in other archives such as arXiv.org. In fact many of the articles in viXra.org have been accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals. It seems clear to us now that archives such as arXiv.org have set their submission criteria on a line that excludes many good works of science. They assume that these people will find some other way to record their idea and often suggest submission to a journal. As my series of articles will show, this is not always possible. We are confident that one day the “crackpot” who was right will be someone whose contribution is recognised because they submitted their work to us.