Nature Magazine
Louis XVI

This letter appeared in Issue #156 of RALPH:

    I have just heard a statement on British TV that Louis XVI Went to the guillotine as Louis Capet (correct spelling unknown).

    Could you throw any light on this matter please?

--- Dorothy Wood

A long-time RALPH reader (and critic), Wanda Felix, responded:

    In answer to the RALPH letter writer's question about Louis XVI, this is a quote from Wikipedia:
    Although he was beloved at first, his indecisiveness and conservatism led the people to reject him and hate in him the perceived tyranny of the former kings of France. During the French Revolution, he was given the family name Capet (a faulty reference to Hugh Capet the founder of the dynasty), and was called Louis Cape in an attempt to discredit his status as king.

    He was also informally nicknamed Louis le Dernier (Louis the Last), a derisive use of the traditional nicknaming of French kings.

    The complete entry can be found at

Our editor responded:

    We never quote from Wikipedia. It is an amateurish slop-heap, put together by those who think they can do better than the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

    For the sane man, as well as one who values truth, or what's left of it, Wikipedia is the Encyclopedia Melancholia, recycled from scrap heaps probably better left off in the Alpharetta, Georgia city dump.

Wanda Felix responded:

    From CNET News ---

    "Wikipedia is about as good a source of accurate information as Britannica, the venerable standard-bearer of facts about the world around us, according to a study published this week in the journal Nature. Many critics have tried to downplay its role as a source of valid information and have often pointed to the Encyclopedia Britannica

    as an example of an accurate reference.

    For its study, Nature

    chose articles from both sites in a wide range of topics and sent them to what it called "relevant" field experts for peer review. The experts then compared the competing articles --- one from each site on a given topic --- side by side, but were not told which article came from which site.

    Nature got back 42 usable reviews from its field of experts. In the end, the journal found just eight serious errors, such as general misunderstandings of vital concepts, in the articles. Of those, four came from each site.

Our editor responded:

Dear Boob:

Anyone who cites CNET news must have his head examined to determine how much peanut butter is stored up there, mixed in with what should be a brain. The same for Nature, except it's crunchy style --- more peanuts, less room for thoughts.

Send us e-mail


Go Home

Go to the most recent RALPH