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Strabismus and Pseudofossils: A Case Study of Rudolf Ruedemann (1864-1956)

TitleStrabismus and Pseudofossils: A Case Study of Rudolf Ruedemann (1864-1956)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsTollerton, Jr., VP
JournalEarth Sciences History
Keywordshistory of science, pseudofossils, Rudolf Ruedemann

Rudolf Ruedemann (1864-1956), fourth State Paleontologist of New York, was an internationally renowned and well-respected paleontologist. Throughout his long and productive career, he named, described, and figured more than six hundred fossils. Some of those fossils have not stood the test of time, having succumbed to the usual paleontological process of being synonymized, often because the material is poorly preserved or distorted. There are, however, a surprisingly large number of his fossils that are of inorganic origin, that is, they are pseudofossils. Evidence has been discovered that indicates he may have had the eye condition known as strabismus. The major alternative hypothesis, that he knew the fossils were pseudofossils and that he established the species to prove preconceived ideas, as well as minor alternatives, concerning his ego, or his judgement, are demonstrated to be implausible. It is recommended that his collections be re-studied and that this possible eye condition be taken into account.