Verne had traveled to Los Angeles at the beginning of 1918. He started going to school – on Mon, Wed and Fri all day and at night as well and on Tues and Thurs for 7 hrs. [He doesn't say what school - from later letters it was the MacKay Business College.] He says he hasn’t seen anything interesting in Calif because all he does is eat, sleep and go to school. [But wait until you see what comes next!]

*Sat. Jan. 26, 1918 L.A.

“By accident I met Dr. Hillman, a lecturer and scientist at one of his lectures and then found that he was stopping [did he mean staying?] at this hotel, so a great part of my time is spent in talking with him when I am not busy. Thru him I have met several of the scientists here on the coast and have had a chance to see some of the experiments that they are working on in such lines as chemistry, zoology and a number of other subjects. This has alone been worth the trip to Calif., for some of the discoveries are truly wonderful.

“I suppose that Dr. Hillman is the brightest chemist and scientist on the Pacific coast if not in the U.S., altho he is not heard of much. [There was a reason for that.] Some day I will get a chance to tell you some of the things that he has told me and the things that the world has not read of yet and will not hear of for several years.

“One thing I saw was that he had made lime, or calcium oxide from pure water and then turned it into iron. [Now we know why he wasn't heard of much - he was a charlatan.] What would your chemistry teacher say if he were told this? [I have a guess. "Verne - Verne - Verne - Verne - Verne - Verne - Verne! What are you thinking?]

I also saw him make from Neon, Xenon, Argon and Krypton, the 4 inert gases in the air, a metal as pure and as beautiful a white as the finest china and as well it has a clear bell-like ring when tapped.

“The doctor has discovered a gas called Ethola which is remarkable and is the lightest known substance. Another thing about it is that there is nothing known which will hold it. [What does he keep it in, then?] He, the doctor, is going to take me up to where they are experimenting on the extraction of radium from ores which are abundant here. I expect this to be interesting. [Thank God V. didn't have any money to invest.]

“How are you progressing in your school now? I hope you like shorthand better than I did. I imagine commercial telegraphy would be about as fascinating to me, but I may have to take it up if I can’t get on in the railroad work. However, I feel sure I can get work with the railway especially if Uncle Sam takes it over…

[This is the last letter until May, 1918. Arrrrrrrgh. I want to know what happened with the charlatan chemist!  Well, there is a gap in the letters here and its seems we will never know what happened with Dr. Hillman. The letters start again at the end of May 1918 and Verne was by then working for the Associated Press. There is no mention of Dr. Hillman. I would like to believe that Verne's good sense triumphed over his inadequate knowledge of chemistry and he realized that Hillman was a charlatan. I have tried to find any info on the internet on this Hillman character, but so far no luck.

Pseudo-science seems to usually piggyback on real science, as it did with Dr. Hillman. I was just looking for something on Youtube and noticed a New Age quack lecture. The quack was pushing the notion that human DNA sequences are changing rapidly and will undergo some big transition in Dec. 2012. He quoted the research of a real physical anthropologist whose blog I happen to follow. Annoying that these parasites do this, but not much you can do about it.]

Preston G.

Retired biochemist. One of 16 grandchildren of Verne Garrison and Dorothy Logan Garrison.

Leave a Reply



You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>