P.D. Magnus

Fibs in the Wikipedia

Fibs in Wikipedia

These are details of research conducted in November and December 2007. For discussion and analysis, see the paper in First Monday.


Raw data

Bertrand Russell

In the same year, Russell published a volume of poetry under the psuedonym Christian Bellows. The poems primarily addressed humanistic concerns that he later revisited in works such as "Why I am not a Christian."

Not fixed [link]

René Descartes

While there, Descartes first encountered hermetic mysticism. Although he was briefly a Free Mason, he later abandoned mysticism in favor of reasoned inquiry.

Not fixed [link]

Corpus Aristotelicum

There are no surviving editions of Aristotles' Theophrastian ethics, which considered issues in the ethics of animal care. Records indicate that a copy existed as late as the tenth century, in the city of Cordoba.

Flagged: 01:30 [link]

Ludwig Wittgenstein (F)

He was twice forced to pay fines for misuse of strychnine, which he used to control squirrels around the garden.

Reverted: 02:36 [link]

David Hume

Hume had begun wrestling with local sportsmen in Bristol, and continued the activity in France until a shoulder injury forced him to stop.

Not fixed [link]

51:58 after the fib was inserted, an anonymous vandal changed a few sentences into sexually explicit nonsense. This was undone immediately, and the user who undid it flagged the fib 'citation needed' two minutes later.

Baruch Spinoza

He supplemented his income by selling stolen jewelry that had been smuggled into Holland from France.

Flagged: 08:32 [link]

Friedrich Nietzsche

In a letter to Victoria Regina, Nietzsche even entertained the possibility of burning the remaining copies to collect on insurance.

Not fixed [link]

Gilbert Ryle

After retiring, Ryle bought a small farm. He tinkered with automated processes to care for livestock, although they never proved to be commercially viable.

Not fixed [link]

Michel Foucault (F)

Foucault participated in art therapy, producing paintings of subjects such as his mother and the Eiffel Tower. Several of these paintings were discovered after his death and sold at auction in 1992.

Reverted: 00:03 [link]

The user who undid the change sent a scripted 'User talk' message to the IP address used, warning against "adding content without citing a reliable source."

John Stuart Mill

Following the death of his wife, Mill had a series of mistresses who helped him prepare manuscripts as well as sharing his bed.

Reverted: 00:09 [link]

The user who undid this change undid the following two as well, starting with the Kierkegaard entry. The undoings were accompanied by an escalating series of 'User talk' messages to the IP used. In order to probe diligence of the user, I waited about an hour and a half and then inserted a different fib into the Mill entry:

While staying with the Benthams, Mill had an affair with a chambermaid.

Reverted: 02:03 [link]

This was undone by the same user, who sent a 'final warning' to the talk page for the IP address used.

Søren Kierkegaard (F)

As a young boy Kierkegaard was mauled by a wild dog. Although he recovered, some have suggested that the episode prefigures later themes of anxiety and dread.

Reverted: 00:02 [link]

Karl Popper

While there, he lived on a cooperative farm. He later claimed that nothing prepares the mind for philosophy like milking a cow.

Not fixed [link]

Immanuel Kant

Kant's poetry was much admired, and handwritten manuscripts circulated among his friends and associates.

Not fixed [link]

Nicolas Malebranche

Malenbranche's tutor, Pierre Gassendi, was himself a notable philosopher, but there is no indication that philosophy was part of the curriculum.

Flagged: 45:27 [link]

Jeremy Bentham

As a child, he wrote a series of imaginative dialogues between an unnamed boy and wisdom incarnate in the form of a tiger. These were never published, but reflected the author's early interest in writing and philosophy.

Not fixed [link]

George Berkeley

The Principles consisted of three parts, elaborating consequences for metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics respectively. Of these, only the first was ever published, and Berkeley's drafts of the second and third parts have not survived.

Not fixed [link]

Thomas Reid

Reid and Hume met once when both were in London, and the former indicated a fireplace poker as an example of a material object which certainly exists.

Not fixed [link]

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Hegel found the work isolating and drank heavily when not working. While drunk, Hegel ran naked through the foyer of the house while chanting the Lord's Prayer in Latin.

Reverted: 07:45 [link]

Martin Heidegger

Some of the faculty at Freiburg called him 'Edmund II', a monicker that Heidegger found demeaning.

Reverted: 05:30 [link]

In the edit summary, the user removing the fib called it "undue weight to trivial assertion."

Rudolf Carnap

The Vienna Circle was also a tightly-knit social group. They regularly met to play cards, including a bridge-like game of their own devising called Whistenschaft.

Not fixed [link]

G.E. Moore

His influence outside philosophy includes a reference to him in the signature line of the musical Oliver.

Not fixed [link]

Gottfried Leibniz

Many of his manuscripts are written in a shorthand of his own invention which uses binary numbers to encode sequences of characters.

Not fixed [link]

Alan Turing

Turing suffered from gout, and would often prop his gammy leg on the workbench while assembling circuits.

Reverted: 01:24 [link]

George Santayana

He was an avid cyclist and, in 1923, he went on a cycling tour of Italy with the novelist Taylor Caldwell.

Reverted: 05:02 [link]

The user who undid this change undid the following two as well, starting with this one. No justification was given for the undoing, either in the edit summary or in the 'User talk' page.

Norman Malcolm

He built a greenhouse at his home in Ithaca. He raised orchids, producing several new hybrids including one that bears his name.

Reverted: 05:05 [link]

Thomas Hill Green

Green's correspondence, published in 1912, also gives insight into his philosophy. In a letter to Victoria Regina, he suggests that moral perfectibility will allow humans to transcend their limitations within the next century.

Reverted: 05:01 [link]

Salomon Maimon

In 1799, Maimon was challenged to a duel over an unsettled financial matter. Maimon defended his honor but was shot in the duel and succumbed to his injury early the next year.

Not fixed [link]

J.M.E. McTaggart

Among McTaggart's many interests was antique collecting. His collection boasted the sword that removed Tycho Brahe's nose.

Not fixed [link]

F.H. Bradley

In 1900, Bradley was nearly blinded in a sporting accident. He continued to be philosophically active, but his subsequent works were dictated to an assistant.

Not fixed [link]

A.N. Prior

While at Oxford, Prior wrote a draft of a book on the formal structure of interpersonal awareness. Although he showed parts of the draft to various colleagues, it appears to have been lost.

Not fixed [link]

Norwood Russell Hanson

Hanson was skilled at sleight-of-hand, and would often entertain dinner party guests with card tricks and other feats of legerdemain.

Not fixed [link]


It is known that he lost two fingers on his left hand in a childhood accident, although there is no record of how exactly it occured.

Reverted: 21:09 [link]

Carl Gustav Hempel

Hempel was reknowned for whittling at departmental colloquia. If he liked the talk, he would give the resulting figure to the guest speaker.

Reverted: 00:44 [link]

The user who fixed this (Mlouns) also fixed the following two, in the order they were entered. Mlouns' User page indicates that he has contributed to Wikipedia since 2005, and that he "mostly just do[es] vandal patrol and minor edits."

Michel de Montaigne

Montaigne had been an avid duellist at Guyenne. During this period of isolation, he carried a rapier with him and would challenge anyone who disrupted his work.

Reverted: 00:43 [link]

Thomas Aquinas

In order to highlight the contrast between Christian living and pre-Christian Greek thought, Aquinas encouraged the eating of beans.

Reverted: 00:43 [link]