From: B.J.PEISER@livjm.ac.uk <B.J.PEISER@livjm.ac.uk>
To: email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 17. oktober 1997 12:23
Subject: William Comyns Beaumont: Britain's Most Eccentric & Least Known Cosmic Heretic
William Comyns Beaumont (1873 - 1956)
Britain's Most Eccentric and Least Known Cosmic Heretic
By Benny J Peiser
Liverpool John Moores University
School of Human Sciences
It is generally believed that the American scholar and founding father of meteoritic studies, H.H. Ninninger, was the first 20th century scientist to have associated mass extinctions with cosmic impact catastrophes. In his paper "Cataclysm and Evolution" (Popular Astronomy 50/1942, pp. 270-272), Ninninger reviewed the new research on Apollo asteroids and the handful of the known (and relatively small) meteorite craters. He added one and one together and hypothesises that
"[...] it is not at all improbable that the Earth bears many scars of far greater dimensions than the largest known meteorite craters. [...] If the dimensions of the lunar craters are to be taken as any indication of the sizes of the bodies that the Earth has encountered, then there must have occurred great changes in the shore-lines, the elevation and depression of extensive areas, .[...] Violent climatic changes would have resulted, locally at least, from the heat of the impacts and from changes in the content of the atmosphere. Many general changes might have resulted from a possible shifting of the poles, in the cases of the largest impacts. These changes would have necessitated faunal and floral readjustments. Species would have disappeared and new ones would have developed to take their places. Changes in geographical range would have brought about new adaptations, and we should expect, in general, just those breaks in the series that are actually found in the rocks".
That was back in 1942. It took almost 40 years, when, in 1980, Luis Alvarez and his colleagues arrived on the stage of mankind's global debating club, before the scientific community was ready to engage in a general discussion about Ninninger's original suggestion. Harvey Ninninger, however, was not the first 20th century catastrophist to speculate about impact triggered mass extinctions. As early as 1925, one of Britain's leading scientific publishing houses (Chapman & Hall) released a rather inconspicuous book ("The Riddle of the Earth") by William Comyns Beaumont, an English super-eccentric, in which he anticipated most of the current neo-catastrophist paradigm:
"Geologists all agree that the termination of the later Tertiary Age witnessed one of these startling and revolutionary changes on the face of the earth, and I submit that the occasion of such a change and of all the sudden geological ages was due to the fall of enormous bodies of meteors, or, perhaps, to the earth's appulsion with a great solid body falling through space, and that such a body or collection of bodies came from the direction of the present north-east, fell mainly upon a certain position of the Northern Hemisphere, occasioned vast earthquakes, and deposited not only certain mountain ranges but also volcanoes, causing among other matters the sinking of someland and the uprising of others." (Beaumont/Way 1925, 90)
The book, which was, as far as I am aware, never reviewed in any scientific journal or newspaper, fell out of the press still-born. Without any feedback from the scientific community, Beaumont turned to even more eccentric theories. In his next book, "The Mysterious Comet: Or the Origin, Building up, and Destruction of Worlds, by means of Cometary Contacts" (Rider & Co), published in London in 1932, Beaumont - almost prophetically - summed up his conclusions of more than 20 years of cometary research:
"The science of meteorism is of utmost importance to the world. It is in fact the only philosophical science of real importance because modern astronomy largely reduces itself to mathematical calculations as to the relative distance of celestial bodies, and these seem to have little practical value to anyone. It uses geology where geology is useful and discovers its weak spots as it does vulcanism and seismology. It explains much of the past which archaeologists and biologists cannot do, and reveals a great deal of the future. [...] Meteorism will teach us the origin and evolutions of planets. Meteor impact explains the existence of mountain ranges not internal 'crinklings,' the existence of volcanoes, earthquakes, the land surfaces, the seas, and the very air we breathe. Nothing else does. Meteorism explains the creation of species, of great saurians, reptiles, mammals, fish, birds, and insects, as well as the origin of the human species. It may astonish my reader if I assert that species are still brought periodically by meteor agency into our world, and that also plagues and pestilences come from a similar source. But I will produce the evidence to such effect./ In spite of the vast importance of the subject meteorism is scarcely recognised as yet as a science. No encouragement is given to the student to prosecute a subject which if it did no more for humanity would doubtless save many thousands of lives by the mere establishment of principles of meteorism."
70 years ago, nobody took such heretic ideas seriously. Charles Lyell and Charles Darwin's theory of gradualist uniformitarianism was still the scientific dogma of the day. Without any response, Beaumont's interest turned to even more occult ideas such as historical catastrophism and revised ancient history.
I have recently published a brief paper on Beaumont's ideas on historical catastrophism and their influence on Immanuel Velikovsky's similar speculations (see attached text below). Some day, the fantastic, bizarre and almost forgotten history of 19th and 20th century catastrophism, in it scientific, religious and occult forms, will need to be written. It is quite a story.
Benny J Peiser