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Catastrophist Pioneers

"Like the early memory of a single man, so the early memory of the human race belongs to the student of psychology. Only a philosophically and historically, but also analytically trained mind can see in the mythological subjects their true content . . . " - I. Velikovsky, From AAAS Speech (1974)

There is a long list of scholars who have picked up the scent and followed the trail of ancient catastrophism and a radically different ancient world than what modern mythology would have us accept.

Isaac de la Peyrère
In 1655, the French lawyer and theologian Isaac de la Peyrère (1596-1676) departed from Christian consensus with his ‘pre-Adamite’ thesis. Taking a cue from earlier Jewish discourse, de la Peyrère reasoned that a race of humans had existed long before Adam and the ‘creation of the world’ as narrated in Genesis really concerned only the latest episode in a continuous cycle of cosmic destruction and creation.

Thomas Burnet
In the 1680s, the English theologian Thomas Burnet (c. 1635? – 1715) argued that the earth’s rotational axis had originally been perpendicular to the ecliptic plane, producing a uniform season and climate on earth, until the deluge precipitated the tilting of the axis: ‘… the Position of the primæval Earth was strait, its Axis being always placed and retained in a parallel Line to the Axis of the Ecliptick, whence all the Motions of the Heavens were uniform, and the Course of the Year was pure and unmixed, without Differences of Seasons’.

William Whiston
Between 1696 and 1708, the English polymath William Whiston (1667-1752) proposed that the earth was originally a comet, which was only transformed into a planet following the impact of another comet. The deluge transpired when the earth passed through the – supposedly watery – tail of the same or yet another comet. From classical writings, Whiston further inferred that the earth’s rotational axis had acquired its tilt on the same occasion and that the year had originally consisted of only 360 days. A planet in cometary phase, extremely close flybys of a comet, catastrophic tilting of the earth’s axis and a shorter year were defining characteristics...

Nicolas Antoine Boulanger
In a work published posthumously in 1766, the French mathematician, linguist and philosopher Nicolas Antoine Boulanger (1722-1759) submitted that the human mind as a whole suffers from a deeply-rooted psychological trauma, induced by cosmic catastrophes on a global scale, which myths and rituals collectively and exclusively commemorate: ‘All cults, hydraulic in origin, were commemorative rehearsals of the one catastrophe which weighed heavily upon man.’

Giovanni Rinaldo
Giovanni Rinaldo, count of Carli-Rubbi (1720-1795), was an Italian economist and antiquarian with an impressively versatile mind. Based on a study of ancient sources, Carli – in his American Letters, composed between 1781 and 1783 – speculated that the earth, prior to the deluge, completed a smaller orbit around the sun, resulting in a year of 360 days. A passing comet transformed the former circular shape of the earth’s orbit into an elliptic one, triggered worldwide floods and conflagrations, caused the ‘extension of the axis of the earth’s path’ responsible for the current length of the year and resulted in a reversal of the direction in which the sun is seen to rise or set. Catastrophic consequences of a close encounter with a comet, an apparent reversal of ‘west’ and ‘east’ and an original year length of 360 days are all salient aspects...

Johann Gottlieb Radlof
In 1823, the German philologist Johann Gottlieb Radlof (1775-1827/1829) released a slim booklet containing a set of radical ideas that establish him as the earliest known ‘planetary catastrophist’. Radlof accepted Olbers’ hypothesis (c. 1802) that the minor planets Ceres, Pallas, Juno and Vesta recently discovered in the ‘asteroid belt’ between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter were the remnants of a former giant planet moving in that orbit.
       Relying heavily on classical traditions, Radlof dubbed this planet ‘Phaethon’ and contended that it fell apart within human memory upon collision with a comet. He further surmised that the planet Venus was one of the remaining fragments, which embarked on a ‘phase of wandering’, involving a few close encounters with Mars, before settling into its current orbit.
       Due to these turbulent events, the earth’s rotational axis inclined from its original untilted position with respect to the equatorial plane: ‘Because of the collisions of the two disturbed cosmic bodies Hesperus and Phaëthon, but especially because of the former’s change of orbit and the equilibrium ratios of all planets of our solar realm that were changed entirely as a result, the centre of gravity of our earth must also have been disrupted and its former position with respect to the pole changed twice.’ Floods, fires, earthquakes and prolonged darkness ensued as well.

Antoine Bernard Alfred
The French aristocrat Antoine Bernard Alfred, baron d’Espiard de Colonge (1810-), rehearsed similar ideas in a book published in 1865: a giant planet once existed in the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars; the moon was either captured or formed from a detached portion of the earth at the dawn of history; and extreme cosmic perturbations attributed to the close passage of a ‘vast planetary or meteoric body’ thoroughly affected the face of the earth. The baron emphasised the eye-witness quality of mythical records: ‘… the mythology, I say, is the history of anything close that took place on the earth itself at a certain time which chronology cannot exactly determine.’
       He also introduced the concept of distinct chronological ‘ages’ associated with cosmic catastrophe as a new ingredient to the evolving catastrophist cocktail: the stars were invisible at first, while the sun metamorphosed in the course of four eras; and all human cultures preserved the memory of a bygone ‘age of the gods’: ‘The golden age or terrestrial Paradise … is anterior to grand events that changed everything on the earth …’

Ignatius Loyola Donnelly
In bestsellers published in 1882 and 1883, the American politician and amateur scientist Ignatius Loyola Donnelly (1831-1901) perpetuated the enthralling hypothesis of a comet’s near-collision with the earth, provoking mayhem in the form of floods, fires, mass extinction and tectonic changes on a global scale.
       Donnelly specifically appealed to the comet’s interruption of the earth’s rotation as a potential explanation for the prolonged day of Joshua: ‘Were the heat, the conflagrations, and the tearing up of the earth’s surface caused by such an arrestment or partial slowing-up of the earth’s revolution on its axis?

William Comyns Beaumont
William Comyns Beaumont (1873-1956) was an eccentric British journalist and lecturer, whose aberrant astronomical speculations, published between 1925 and 1932, find startling counterparts in Velikovsky’s books, which appeared some 2 decades afterwards: many geological features as well as mass extinctions were due to a cometary collision; cometary tails deposited vermin as well as hydrocarbons; religion arose from the fear and worship of comets; Saturn was a former comet responsible for the Biblical deluge; Venus’ apparent colour, diameter and orbit changed in historical times; countless deities were identified with planets or commemorated a cometary dragon; cosmic lightning was of paramount importance; the year originally lasted 360 days and catastrophes necessitated calendar revisions; and scholars had erroneously inflated ancient chronology by several centuries. To top it off, Beaumont had associated his cometary planet Saturn with a smattering of catastrophic events dated to the 14th century BCE, linked the intruder to the Greek myth of Phaethon and argued that it spawned planetary offspring in the form of Jupiter.

Hans Schindler Bellamy
In publications from 1936 to 1959, an obscure, possibly Austrian researcher using the pseudonym Hans Schindler Bellamy (1901-1982) continued the theme of myth as the ‘fossil history’ of dramatic environmental events. Building on Hanns Hörbiger’s theory of moons spiralling into the sun unless intercepted by planets, Bellamy asserted that human traditions recorded the disintegration of a former moon as well as the capture of the present one ‘out of transterrestrial space where, not so very long ago, it existed as an independent planet’; as a dazzling comet, this moon interacted with the earth in ways that gave rise to the rich mythical genres of ‘deluge and dragon-fight, earth-end and earth-creation, of gods and heroes’.

Alexander Pavlovitch Braghine
In a populist work released in 1938, the American (?) colonel Alexander Pavlovitch Braghine (1878-1942) extensively mined mythological traditions in his efforts to reconstruct the cosmic cataclysms that had apparently occurred in two time frames, at c. 10,000-9,000 BCE and at c. 4,000 BCE. Starting again from Hörbiger’s moon theory, the thrust of Braghine’s argument was that a giant cometary interloper – perhaps Halley’s Comet – caused a former moon to impact onto the earth and the present moon as well as Venus to assume their current orbits: ‘The irruption of the said giant comet into the solar system produced the following modifications: Venus came nearer to the sun and therefore became less visible to us than before, the Moon was thrown aside, and, entering into the Earth’s gravitational field, became an earthly satellite, and our old, small satellite, thrown still nearer to our planet, fell upon its surface.’ Geological disasters, tilting of the earth’s rotational axis, a gradual diminution in the amplitude of the axis’ nutation and adjustments to calendars ensued. Seriated epochs of catastrophe, snaring of the moon and alterations in the rotational properties of Venus and the earth, with their concomitant calendar reforms, are all part...

...the concepts of ‘charged planets’ and ‘electric comets’ [were] pondered by Elias Loomis (1868), Richard Anthony Proctor and Osborne Reynolds (1871), Sir William Huggins (1885) and Kristian Birkeland (1913).

Immanuel Velikovsky is the latest widely-known planetary catastrophist to make much of an impression on the world of establishment academia, and he stood on the shoulders of most if not all of these predecessors.

The credit for the above list of documented pioneers:

The info is taken from an article by Rens van der Sluijs at: http://www.thunderbolts.info/wp/2012/07/19/on-the-shoulders-of-suppressed-giants-part-one/

Other early modern era catastrophist scholars and scientists:

Georges Cuvier
Considered by some to be the father of paleontology, Cuvier was a giant in the study of natural history and in taxonomical classification of fauna. He fostered many promising ideas such as multiple life form mass extinctions, catastrophe as being the basic explanation for many geological developments and formations, comparing anatomies of living forms with fossils, earth dominated by reptiles in the past, and creation of new species after major catastrophes.

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