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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

quack An ignorant person who pretends to have knowledge of medicine and wondrous remedies. The word is short for quacksalver, meaning, one who “quacks” (makes a loud noise) about a remedy (a salve).
      Though a multitude of quacks have been exposed and convicted for their activities, the support of their dupes is eternal. An early American scientist/philosopher offered a more specific comment on the breed.

Ben Franklin, who was aware of that strange quirk of human nature that elects the victim as chief supporter of the trickster.

      Ben Franklin said:

      There are no greater liars in the world than quacks——except for their patients.

      One prominent British quack of the 1830s who went by the title of St. John Long, developed a salve that he claimed indicated disease by raising a rash on any afflicted body part to which he applied it. The means of using this salve need hardly be puzzled over for long. This fraud was convicted of manslaughter and was fined for causing the death of one patient, then the following year he was brought up on another such charge and acquitted. This time he was driven in triumph from the courthouse in a nobleman's carriage and cheered by the crowds.
      At this writing, quackery is becoming more and more popular worldwide, particularly in the United States, and threatens to supersede much of modern medicine. Political and legal considerations have prevented open discussion or even the questioning of procedures that are clearly without merit. The highly litigious nature of American society has effectively provided the quacks with protection, and the public suffers because it cannot afford to defend itself, and politicians fear censure.

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Copyright (C) 1995-2007 James Randi.

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