Looking for title or author of a sci-fi short story about a man who somehow accidentally travels back in time to the stone age, where he tries to survive and help people, but ends up having his glasses broken and his attempts to grow "crops" for the coming winter aren't successful.

I read this in the 60's.

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    Did the story include an element where the Stone Age people, despite being at a lower level of technical development, were the narrator's superiors in intelligence, artistic ability, etc.? And where they had merely been humoring his silly and eccentric ideas out of kindness?
    – tbrookside
    Jun 16, 2019 at 15:20
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    As I recall, there was an explosion in a building that he worked at which somehow transported him back in time to the early humans/stone age. Once there he used his modern day knowledge to help with a broken limb or a bad tooth, and the recipient of his help attacked him and broke his glasses. He wasn't able to conduct a conversation with the early humans due to their lack of the English language. He was worried that winter was coming and that there was no food, not for his lack of trying to cultivate a "garden". It's been many years since I read this short story, and would like to revisit it.
    – Larry
    Jun 17, 2019 at 2:32

1 Answer 1


It's a bit of a longshot since not everything fits (and honestly, I've only been able to get scant information online) but possibly "The Doctor" by Theodore L. Thomas? It was published in Orbit 2, an anthology of SF in 1967 (edited by Damon Knight and one of the more notable of the timeframe).

The description I can find for it reads:

A doctor named Gant volunteers to be the first time traveler and ends up stranded in a time of cave people. "There had been a time long ago when he had thought that these people would be grateful to him for his work, that he would become known by some such name as The Healer."

And another:

Ten years ago Gant was a doctor who volunteered to be the first for time travel. Now he is stuck five hundred thousand years in the past living among cave dwellers.

Obviously, he's a volunteer rather than just tossed there as you recall, but that seems like the kind of detail that could easily be confused between stories in decades of time. I also don't have any direct evidence of him breaking his glasses. However, he is stranded among stone age people, language difficulties seem natural, and based on the title (and paragraph fragment) it's not a huge leap to assume he might have attempted to use his modern-day medical knowledge to heal one of the natives, and perhaps did not get rewarded as he might have hoped.

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    Reread it in my copy of Orbit 2. No mention of glasses, or an explosion, or attempts to grow food crops, though he did try unsuccessfully to grow penicillium molds. He does try to help people with their illnesses and injuries, but they are suspicious and uncooperative.
    – user14111
    Jun 17, 2019 at 22:27
  • Do you happen to remember the title or author?
    – Larry
    Jun 18, 2019 at 23:04

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