John Hampden (1819-1891) was an English scientist of the Royal Academy. He believed in Flat Earth Theory and performed the Bedford Level Experiment several times, most notably as a part of his wager with Alfred Russel Wallace. He vigorously promoted the flat earth idea in England. He founded the Truth-Seeker's Oracle and Scriptural Science Review in 1876. Hampden was a Biblical literalist and based his views on scripture (No one can believe a single doctrine or dogma of modern astronomy, and accept Scriptures as divine revelation.) although he defended them through observation and experiment.
Hampden was born to John and Margaretia Hampden in 1819. Not much is known about his childhood apart from the fact that he took great interest in both science and religion.
Wager with Wallace
In 1870, John Hampden offered £500 to anyone who could prove that the Earth was round by repeating the Bedford Level Experiment. Alfred Russel Wallace, needing money, accepted the offer and the two went to the Bedford Level to perform Rowbotham's experiment.
Although Wallace has been awarded the bet by the referee, John Henry Walsh, an editor of The Field sports magazine, Hampden took an issue with the execution of the experiment, which deviated from Rowbotham's description, and rejected his demonstration. Despite his objections, the money was awarded to Wallace. Hampden then produced a pamphlet titled Is Water Level Or Convex After All? The Bedford Canal Swindle Detected & Exposed, accusing Wallace of cheating.
He then sued A. R. Wallace, claiming the bet to be invalid, and issued multiple postcards demanding the return of his money as well as accusing him of being a cheat, a swindler, an impostor, and a thief (among other things). His persistence caused Wallace to sue Hampden for libel. After many long court battles the bet was deemed to be invalid and Hampden's money was returned to him in full. However, throughout the resolution of the conflict, Hampden had to pay multiple libel suits to Wallace, issue two apologies and was ultimately imprisoned for his remarks.
The court case, together with some of Hampden's libelous remarks, was described in The Times in March 1875:
The Hampden-Wallace conflict greatly popularised the Bedford Level Experiment, giving it media attention and encouraging some individuals to reproduce it.
- Hampden, John (1870): The Bedford Canal swindle detected & exposed. A. Bull, London.