While waiting today for the librarian of the Bible Society to bring me some books, I could not resist the temptation to go and have a look at the English translation of Elena Ceaușescu’s doctoral dissertation.

Elena Ceaușescu, the semiliterate wife of the former Romanian dictator Nicolae Caușescu, seems to have managed to fool a lot of people for a long time. And not just ordinary people, but the ones working in the field where, so the word goes, you are not supposed to believe something without carefully weighing the evidence.

Her doctoral dissertation, Stereospecific Polymerization of Isoprene, was published by Pergamon Press (an Oxford-base publisher at that time, now an Elsevir imprint).

Even more amazing (or scandalous) is the fact that the English edition is prefaced by none other than a Nobel prize winner for chemistry: Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin.

I wonder how much of what Hodgking writes in the preface is the result of sancta simplicitas and how much is in fact guilty ignorance that becomes all the more inexcusable in a scholar of repute. The noted British scientist had visited Romania and should have known better. Was the official propaganda so powerful as to make her blind to the realities in a totalitarian state?

Of course, when you are treated like royalty, you have every reason to see only what is convenient and disregard all the other discordant voices.

Anyway, it is almost inconceivable that this intellectual fraud, perpetrated on a scale which makes our current prime minister’s crass plagiarism pale into insignificance, should have dragged in the mud names of Nobel prize winners.

And that’s not all. Elena Ceaușescu became not only Member of the Romanian Academy (that would not have been so hard), but also (fasten your seat belts!) Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chemistry in 1978.  Shortly afterwards, in 1980, the Institute merged with other organization and became The Royal Society of Chemistry. In 1989 Elena Ceaușescu was excluded (post mortem?) from the society. But in that fateful December 1989 I guess she had other things for which to worry.

Excluded and disgraced she may have been, but her revenge on the scientific milieu proves to be a long-lived one. Her doctoral dissertation (written by other scientists in her name) is so good that it continues to be sold by Amazon and other online bookshops.

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