My interest in the man who called himself Frank Nimrod began when I chanced on an item listed in an online catalogue, a book called Solved Riddles: Elementary Mass, Material Mass, Momentum-Energy-Continuity. Seeing that it was self-published, I ordered it immediately: self-published science books with strange titles I find irresistible. I didn't realise it would start me on a new mission: to collect the works of one of the oddest authors I've encountered.
(The Author, San Francisco, 1964. Stapled loose sheets. 68pp.)
I was not disappointed in Solved Riddles: as you can see from the picture, its cover is more than a little eccentric. Its contents are equally so: inside there are pages of equations, tables and graphs and it looks dauntingly technical, but a closer examination reveals some unusual features. For one thing, it is written in a strangely fractured form of English, with passages like this:-
“We shall be controllers of errors to amend them by relistic [sic] analysis of nature.”
“The supposed validity of the Doppler effect for the calculation of the velocity of the very distant stars would be explainable if it would be possible that the photons lose a convenient quantity of energy during their travel because of the impacts with material or subatomic particles.”
“When a rifle bullet of small mass-quantity hits a body with its rapid transit of short time it is harmful.”
Another peculiarity is the reproduction of whole pages from other books, specifically from the works of an obscure and now forgotten physicist: I L Erdelyi. Professor Erdelyi, a Hungarian who worked at a university in Brazil, seems to have been completely forgotten since he published a few works in the 1950s. (There is another much more famous Erdelyi known to science: the mathematician Arthur Erdelyi, but the two should not be confused). These pages unlock the mystery of this book: it would appear it was based on material from Erdelyi's books and papers - which as far as one can judge were only slightly crackpot - but since Nimrod did not actually understand the technicalities involved he introduced several major idiocies. The end result is an entertainingly useless piece of work.
Nimrod's stupidities include his failing to realise that one of his graphs must (by virtue of the most elementary mathematics) be a straight line, so the divergent points he draws show only that he can't do his sums; several meaningless tables showing, for example, that two tons of TNT are twice as explosive as one (well I never); and a passage in which he tries to correct the errors of various great scientists including Newton and Einstein, but instead succeeds in demonstrating his ignorance of the difference between a spiral and an ellipse:
Our earth and all other planets around our sun; our moon around earth, etc., all are turning in spiral path continuously...
(Bizarre underlining in original)
With the bravura of the true crank, Nimrod draws together many topics in a slim volume: within a mere sixty pages he covers relativity, sub-atomic particles and astronomy; he proposes a new “Atom-smasher”; he demystifies ultrasonics; and finally under the characteristic heading “The Future of the Flying”, he discusses designs for space rocket engines. All these are somehow connected by his hero Erdelyi's wonderful “Momentum Theory”.
Intrigued by this strange book and its author, I searched the Internet for more information, but to little avail. There are no books by Frank Nimrod listed in the catalogues of either the Library of Congress or the British Library; WorldCat lists only one book, titled Confrontation of contemporary and momentum physics (1967), in the stock of a French library. I did not find anything about Nimrod himself at all, except that his is a very unusual surname: according to Name Statistics only about 1250 people in the US share it.
I was able, however, thanks to AddALL to find two more of his books, one entitled Book of Parents and Educators and the other The Last Judgment As Final Control of The World History, each as wonderfully pointless as Solved Riddles.
Book of Parents and Educators
(The Author, no date. Paperback. pp 1-138 && 1-66.)
The cover of this book shows two photographs which one may reasonably assume to be of its author at different ages. If one looks carefully, one may discern that in each he is wearing a dog-collar: in fact as we will see, Nimrod was a Catholic priest. The book claims to contain two volumes in one: Education of Children from Birth to Puberty and Short History of Education. (Whether the two books were ever published separately or not I have been unable to discover.) Its authorship is credited to “Frank Nimrod & al.” though no trace of anyone else's hand is to be found in its content, so it is possible this may be a feeble attempt to lend it greater authority.
Let us turn to the Education of Children from Birth to Puberty. What would a book on this subject be expected to contain? Perhaps some discussion of different methods of teaching reading; whether children are best taught in small groups; how best to instill discipline; and so on? But no, instead we encounter such topics as:-
“The make-up of the human body”
“The organ of the body that maintains equilibrium”
“Danger of the sunshine”
“First aid with those who are saved from the water” and
“Be careful with gas”
In fact the entire book is dedicated to the subject of child health rather than education, a worthy subject certainly but a rather confusing one to find under this title. But even if it were more appropriately labelled, Nimrod's strange English and the sheer inanity of his scribblings would still be ridiculous. Some examples:-
“Men of modern age, and even children have a lot of trouble with their teeth.”
“Considering adults, by way of urination, about one liter of fluid leaves the body per day,”
“A well filled stomach, or alcohol in case of adults, dulls and slows down the reflexes”
“The cannibals can tell us that the fresh and warm brain, just taken out of the cranium is very sweet.”
“The centers of different systems in the brain can also get tired, the best way to rest them is with sleeping.”
“Our nose does not only serve the purpose of respiration, but the purpose of smelling also.”
”[Astrologers'] statements are deceitful naivities or intentioned falsifications! They are unworthy pedants!”
“Halls are very useful for keeping our coats and shoes there and for other purposes which we'll later mention.”
“Bread appears on the market as white or brown bread.”
“Poisoning ... can happen from food and gases, bug killers and things like that.”
The breadth of learning not displayed in this book is staggering. But what of Short History of Education? Is that another treasure? Well, as he says in his preface:-
Knowledge of the history of education is good for all educators. We may see how excellent leaders dealt with the problems of education from the offsprings of well educated moral personages who will accommodate themselves well into our society. Correct educational tendency was always to know the spiritual endowments (capacity) and inclinations, based on which is to find the moral principles for sound efficatious [sic] education. Any deviation from moral education resulted always in tragedy and ruin of society and nation.
An unarguable position, illustrated in the pages that follow by many examples, all of which demonstrate that an educator is worthy only insofar as his or her philosophy accords with that of Frank Nimrod. Since he was a priest it is not a surprise to see him propose Christ as the greatest teacher, and to disagree with the prohibition, in the US, on religious teaching in public schools:-
Such public schools do not “educate” only instruct for business purposes! It is a big destruction of the community!
We also learn, usefully, that:
In the philantropic [sic] schools the rewarding has great a role, especially in sports. They avoid the corporal punishment, supplying it with fine, doing certain works, watchmanship, “in effigie [sic] hanging”. (Sentencing to death imaginatively!) If they could not amend the child they excluded him from the school within ceremonial drumbeat.
On which way of doing things he comments:
CRITIQUE: the philantropic education can go so far in error! Such punishments are also in the Soviet-Communist system. See the book of Makarankow about the Soviet education, even if they do not say that it is philantropic.
Both parts of this Book of Parents and Educators share with Solved Riddles the appearance of having been written with somebody else's works open on the desk. In this case the actual sources are harder to identify as he unhelpfully omits to include any facsimiles of their pages, but it would seem likely that he had a reference on child health and another on the history of education from which he took much of the content of this book, though he evidently took the trouble to paraphrase his source material so that everything here bears the stamp of his unique style.
The Last Judgment as Final Control of the World History
(The Author/Vantage Press, New York, 1977. Cloth, dust-jacket. 403pp.)
Nimrod's earlier books were produced ultra-cheaply: for this, his great work, he turned to one of the better vanity press publishers: the Vantage Press, who contrived to turn out something that almost looks like a proper book (if you ignore the poor quality of the printing and the binding cloth).
With this book he felt he had a most important message to convey: his vision of the end of the world and the last judgment upon its inhabitants. But as one might expect having read his other books, this is somewhat out of the ordinary, even amongst the many weird visionary texts of eschatology.
It is a much longer book than his others, over 400 pages, and it is written mainly in the style of a drama with many, many, many players from every era of history. The bulk of the book is a sort of call-and-response in which Christ addresses some historical figure or group and they answer him. But there is a strangely pedagogic quality to the dialogue, which is perhaps best conveyed by example:-
CHRIST: Sargun I! Give a true characterization of the later Assyrians!
SARGUN I: The Assyrians were belligerent, strong, daring, brave, blood-thirsty, pillaging cruel conquerors. Their end showed them as false and sensual people.
ALL: Do not torture us any more - we are damned!
CHRIST: Hammurabi! What about your code and the spirits!
HAMMURABI: My code included many good social orders, however, the punishments were cruel. Consequently Abram, the son of Thare, left the country. The Chald-Assyrian people fell into polytheism. We put Ea, Bel, Baal, Assur, Marduk , and Istar - gods and goddesses - into the stars so that we might receive their guidance from above. From these cults we developed astrology, superstition, enchantment, fascination, i.e., the occultism with good and wicked spirits.
MANY: Ouch! Don't torture us! We are damned!
Doesn't Christ sound like a schoolteacher eliciting rote-learned answers from his class? Will he insist that Robespiere conjugate the verb 'décapiter'? No: but he does get Hans Christian Andersen to tell us that:-
ANDERSEN: I was the creator of modern Danish prose, especially with my famous collection of tales, though I also produced other things.
Only a 'C' for that one, I think. What about Beethoven?:-
BEETHOVEN: I became deaf. This turned out to be greatly advantageous for me in becoming a composer since it compelled me to think about my work.
Oh, Ludwig, you were just coasting until you went deaf. But look now, here's someone we've met before:-
CHRIST: Erdelyi! What has your impulse theory given for world contemplation!
ERDELYI: I had a better insight into the world of matter than my predecessors. My impulse theory fitted as well as a key. At the same time, I claimed that the etheron, which communicates the impulses, also had to be created, because even that cannot come into existence on its own. Moreover, in the beginning the portioning of impulses had to be initiated by a higher power. Therefore God exists! My theory explained the creation in the following manner: the ether, and the elementary impulse-portions rushing on it, became the establishment of radiation - with other words 'the creation of the sky' - and from these the primary stars came into existence. How? We have to know that stars and planets are condensed radiation. Through the inert mass of etheron, all radiation can only in time travel from one point of the ether sea to the other. The etheron at one time can receive many impulses until it is saturated.
If this 'jedliks' or elementary impulse doses saturate the etherons of a ten-billionth of a cubic centimeter, they create a tension state of an electron-positron pair. And in case these two are forced to meet, they will part again as radiation. But if they remain as new masses of 'jedliks' arrive, they will establish the proton and the antiproton. One proton and one electron gives hydrogen, while the combination of more will yield heavier elements - the world of matter already known.
Good old Erdelyi. Even if nobody else knows who he is, his old friend Nimrod will ensure he gets his rightful place in heaven, at least in this version of events, which, the appendix to this book says, is the one “most likely to happen”. Let us hope he is wrong, as his vision suggests the last days will be tedious to the point of madness. Even the blessed will be crying out “Do not torture us any more” by the end.
Who was 'Frank Nimrod'?
The Last Judgement provides quite a lot of information about its author, including that he was, like his hero Erdelyi, Hungarian, that he was a Jesuit, and that he taught at the University of San Diego, California between 1958 and 1962. Armed with this skeletal biography, I contacted a few people in the Catholic hierarchy in California and discovered a little more. Here is the substance of the first answer I received, from Brother Daniel Petersen of the Society of Jesus, Provincial Archivist for California:-
The Hungarian Province catalogs (1948ff--the earliest we have) list a certain Francis S. Nemeth (born 1 january 1899, ordained a priest 6 july 1924, entered the Jesuits 16 july 1927 and pronounced final vows 2 february 1942) He is listed in the catalogs as being at the following locations and works:
1948 Listed as “in via” to the Argentine Province. 1949-53 Montevideo, Uruguay. Pastoral work among Hungarians. 1954 Perth, Australia. Pastoral work with Hungarians. 1955 Brisbane. Pastoral work with Hungarians. 1956 Melbourne. Writer and researcher in natural sciences. 1957-59 Chieri, Italy. Writer. 1960 Buffalo, N.Y. Candidate in the Order of Piarists.
In 1961 he disappears from the catalogs, apparently having left the Jesuits. In the 1960 Official Catholic Directory (New York, P. Kenedy) a Francis Nemeth is listed as a faculty member at the San Diego College for Men (now University of San Diego). There is no indication of subject taught. The 1961 Directory lists him in Our Lady of the Rosary parish, San Diego, as an assistant pastor; in 1962 he was on the Aquinas High School faculty in San Bernardino, California (San Diego diocese), and the following year, 1963 as at St. Simon's parish, Los Altos, California (San Francisco Archdiocese) as assistant pastor. There are no further listings in subsequent directories. He does not appear in the necrology for 1964 so perhaps he left the active priesthood at that time.
In another e-mail, Monsignor Steven Callahan, Vicar General, Diocese of San Diego, states:-
Father Francis Nemeth taught Physics and Chemistry lab at the San Diego College for Men. He was seeking to incardinate in the Diocese of San Diego and excardinate from the Jesuits. His request was refused because his English language skills were not adequate for him to minister effectively. It looks like he applied to the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the Diocese of Oakland.
(Incardination is moving from one diocese to another, or as here, one branch of the priesthood to another.) So his real name was Francis Nemeth: a surname fairly common in Hungary. Why he chose the name Nimrod as his nom de plume, and whether he was ever a real Professor - as he claims he became in 1939 in Hungary - I don't know. But I think he deserves an honorary chair at one of the great universities, assuming there is one that has a Department for the Writing of Books in Broken English on Subjects of which One Knows Very Little.
Postscript September 2011. Another email received recently, from someone who studied under Nemeth:
My 'intern' year, 1970-71 (I was ordained priest in 1971), was at Mater Dolorosa Church in So San Francisco, CA, and it was the typical pastoral year for seminarians, spent in a parish and engaging us in all sorts of ministries except saying Mass. The pastor shared w/ me (and I made a copy of) that letter of FN's listing his reasons why no seminarian should come there.
[the letter mentioned said it would not be "educative"]
I thought, and still think that, w/ his old-school approach to practically everything, he felt threatened by a young person on site, w/ the inevitable new ideas etc. I am not built that way, however, and had no intention of belittling anybody w/ my new ideas, but he obviously was unwilling to give me or the intern program a chance. I was correct in all of this. Even choosing the medium of a letter -- horribly typed, in English as fractured as you've already pointed out -- indicated that he was fearful and very desirous of once again trying to show that everybody else was wrong... and would hear nothing of the give and take that comes w/ a person to person conversation. The letter revealed much more of the real Frank Nimrod, however, in that after saying No to a seminarian, he bemoaned that 'if only I could be given a cathedra (= academic Chair, among other meanings) I would propose a new system that could be educative to the seminarians'. 'I am right, everybody else is wrong, you're all idiots, but I'll set you straight' was his mantra. So, I buckled my seatbelt and got ready for what I knew would be an interesting ride while w/ him at MD.
Those Registers I referred to not only show "Nemeth", but also what, I believe, is the Hungarian equivalent of Francis, i.e., Ferenc. The "Frank Nimrod" signature began c. 1965 (he was assigned there from 1964 to Oct 1970).
He was also a kind of chaplain to a San Francisco group of Hungarian Catholics, meeting often w/ them at their privately owned, i.e. non-Archdiocesan, facility in SF, 'The Stephaneum, Ltd.'.
He was 70 when I came to MD, pleasant enough in the rectory and w/ the parishioners and me, but did have a temper... forever knocking Einstein, Newton et al in favor of his 'Momentum Theory'... spent much time w/ those scientific machines working on his mail-out projects, although I couldn't figure out what he was promoting.
[The "scientific machines" being "scientific mimeograph, scientific copier, scientific bookbinding, scientific stapler, scientific letter stencils, scientific electric typewriter ... "]
I recall thinking that he was obsessed w/ 'wanting a cathedra' (='chair') so that he could set the human race straight on all that was wrong w/ it, especially the USA, by means of what he was drumbeating. In his letter voting No to my going there -- quite predictably, I found out as the months went by -- he sweepingly stated that the seminary training programs were wrong but that, as I've already mentioned, he would set the course aright if only he would be given a cathedra. One day I'll scan you a copy of that monologue that would rival the best of Carson and Leno.
He always added PROF. before and M.S. after his signature, although I never did know the what/where/why of his professorship(s), much less the when/where/of-what the M.S. degree was all about. I did hear that the changing of the name had something to do w/ his fear of the communists in Hungary and their possible reprisals there, but I cannot verify that. My impression was that he was a kind of unawares intellectual sham, albeit well-meaning and not conscious of his own pronounced academic/intellectual limitations... in other words, not nearly as bright as he wanted to appear. He showed no effort at improving his pitiful grasp of English - to do so could possibly make him admit inadequacy-- certainly did not possess an inquiring mind -- not to mention an open one -- and he sang one song: Momentum Theory. He was cavalier in dismissing so many things American (he called us 'Americaners'): the US 'manner' of being Roman Catholic, the educational systems here (church and public), our government structures and leaders, our personal bad habits, immoral lifestyles, the list goes on. He looked like, acted like, moved about like, spoke like (however poorly) a crotchety and cranky old, old man, belying that he was only 70 in 1970. But he was faithful to all of his priestly duties and, as I recall, did not question the Archbishop's decision to transfer him in 10/70.
Well, old Diogenes Laertius [who taught us not to speak ill of the dead] would squirm if he could read the above. But these are my honest recollections of Professor Frank Nimrod, M.S. and they are meant not to denigrate but simply to be honest. He certainly was Sui Generis. Those Riddles he spoke of were undoubtedly not riddles at all, except to Nimrod. He just couldn't admit being unable to solve life's Momentous and Masterfully Scientific theorems such as 2+2=? , so he dreamed up something else, called it a riddle and horribly expressed all of the above in writing that, from what you've said, is plain old nonsensical gobbledegook, w/ a fair amount of dumbness thrown in for good measure, and then said, "The riddle is now solved" !
Scribbled by Alfred Armstrong 13 years 12 months ago