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The E-Sylum:  Volume 3, Number 28, July 9, 2000, Article 7

BREEN: FINAL ANALYSIS 

   Mike Hodder writes: "I've read Karl Moulton's essay on 
   Breen's shortcomings and  Stuart Segan's more recent apologia. 
   Karl and I have discussed some of Breen's mistakes of fact, 
   many of which are well known, now.  I'm sure Karl would 
   agree with me when I say no one can be expected to produce 
   flawless work, so mistakes are to be expected. 

   I'm not sure I detect in Breen's work what Stuart characterizes 
   as scientific method, however. If he means making factual 
   observations, constructing an hypothesis to explain them, and 
   then testing that hypothesis by experimentation, discarding it if 
   proven wrong, adopting it as an argument if shown to be right, 
   then I'm not sure I see much if any there. Breen typically 
   reports on what he sees in various sources, documentary and 
   anecdotal. He gives equal weight to both at times. He relies on 
   his memory for details of sales, coins, varieties, and owners, 
   even if his recollections are of events 40 years in the past. He 
   is uncritical of his sources and rarely puts them into their 
   contexts. He finds connections and causations when there is no 
   verifiable evidence for them. There is little of synthesis in 
   Breen and little that's really original, especially in the colonial 
   sections of his opus magnum. There is almost no testing of 
   conclusions. 

   I could go on but there's little point in rehearsing Breen's 
   shortcomings (and god help me when someone starts on mine). 
   In the final analysis, Breen did what no one else had before him 
   and if he produced a flawed book, it's one we all use. Breen's 
   personal life has nothing to do with his published numismatic 
   work. But let's not bang the drum too loudly for his apotheosis, 
   either. Or if we must, let's find some other reason than scientific 
   method for his deification." 

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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