Author's PhD claim denied by Victoria University

Last updated 18:33 02/03/2010

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An American author, whose book on the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima has been controversially dumped by its publisher, does not hold a doctorate from Victoria University as he claims, the university said today.

Charles Pellegrino's The Last Train from Hiroshima had received strong reviews and had been optioned for a possible film by Avatar director James Cameron, but the book's publisher Henry Holt and Company has told Associated Press it will no longer print, correct or ship copies of the book.

Doubts were raised about the book a week ago after Pellegrino acknowledged that one of his interview subjects had falsely claimed to be on one of the planes accompanying the Enola Gay, from which an atom bomb was dropped by the United States on Hiroshima in 1945.

Since then the publisher has been unable to confirm the existence of two other men mentioned in the text, a Father Mattias who supposedly lived in Hiroshima at the time of the bombing, and John MacQuitty, identified as a Jesuit scholar presiding over Mattias' funeral.

Now Pellegrino's own background has also been questioned.

His website, lists him as receiving a PhD. in 1982 from Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand.

But the university said today that he had no such degree.

"He doesn't have a PhD from Victoria," a spokeswoman told NZPA.

On his website, Pellegrino claimed he had had to combat New Zealand censors to see his work in print, including his early works Darwin's Universe: Origins and Crises in the History of Life and Time Gate: Hurtling Backward through History.

"During a period in which 'evolution' became a bad word [in New Zealand] punishable by revocation of credentials and confiscation of property [the 1980's], I refused an order from a department chairman to withdraw my books Darwin's Universe and Time Gate from press," he told a contemporary writers' website

He claimed to have had to defend himself before an "ad hoc" tribunal in New Zealand, where he "earned his doctorate".

He claimed that by 1997, the New Zealand tribunal had dissolved and "ad hoc committee defendants" had their credentials officially reinstated.

The Victoria University spokeswoman said Pellegrino's claims were being investigated.

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