The Long Fall of Jan Hendrik Schon

image Here's a guy who has fallen a long, long way down. Back in 2002 Jan Hendrik Schön was the soft-spoken boy wonder at Bell Labs, thought to be on a fast-track for a Nobel Prize. He had apparently solved the problem of how to construct a transistor out of a single molecule, which is like the holy grail for building a super-powerful nano-computer. But then his career collapsed when it turned out that 16 out of 21 of his published papers contained bogus data. Remarkably, as investigators studied his articles more carefully, they realized that he had used one particular chart in totally different contexts in a variety of his papers (would it have really killed him to whip up some new fake charts in excel?). Now Schön's alma mater in Germany has stripped him of his doctorate. Ouch. Talk about kicking a guy when he's down.


Posted on Fri Jun 11, 2004


For those interested, Japanese television will air an analysis of Jan Hendrik Schon's fraudulent work in August 2004. They address some of the issues not covered by the Beasley report, including the responsiblity of Bell Labs / Lucent, the co-authors, and the journals which published the work.

The beginning of Schon's downfall arose from a tip about the multiply-used graphs from within Bell to the outside. This information led to the formation of the Beasley committee, which investigated certain publications, but not patent applications.

Ironically, in the 1980's Robert Slutsky (UCSD) came under investigation triggered initially by multiply-used graphs which showed up in his review for tenure. Later work on citations to Slutsky's fraudulent work showed that citations continued even after the work was retracted but did slow down after widespread publicity of the fraud. It might be interesting to do a similar study on citations to Schon's work.

One might contemplate outcomes for Schon and Slutsky if they created different graphs for each dataset. Actually, it's scary.

Lawrence B. Ebert
Posted by Lawrence B. Ebert  on  Tue Jun 29, 2004  at  07:55 PM
Now, with the Hwang matter, involving fraud in the paper in Science, 2005, 308, 1777, we have the use by the authors of multiple photographs of one cell line to represent more than one cell line.

Although the editors of Science assured the public on December 6, 2005 that there was a mere photographic mix-up, and that photographs of 11 different cell lines had been originally presented, Hwang admitted about 10 days later that only 8 cell lines existed at the time of submission to Science (March 15, 2005). See

The panel of Seoul National University has concluded that all eleven cell lines disclosed in the Science paper were fictional.
Posted by Lawrence B. Ebert  on  Fri Dec 30, 2005  at  08:50 AM
I have followed his work closely. He was a nice ,cute guy. I don't know what happened.
Posted by Soumitra Rajagopal  on  Thu Feb 01, 2007  at  05:23 PM
Nice and cuteness has nothing to do with science. That was the reason for his downfall. Our perceptions of smartness, cuteness and the flimsy social attributes are to blame for this. Unfortunately there are too many who bask in this false image of superiority. The comment mentioned above by this person Soumitra as being "cute" shows a very shallow vision of what we value in society.
Posted by Robin "Killer" Whale  on  Wed May 27, 2009  at  05:29 PM
Lightwave Logic in Newark Delaware has accomplished what Hendrik Schon was working on. An electro Optic polymer that is stable up to 325c and is compatible with silicon. They just complete their first 100 modulators. Electro Optic computing, here we come.
Posted by Don  on  Sun Jan 24, 2010  at  04:09 PM
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