1 Famous Authoritative Pronouncements
- ...so many centuries after the Creation it is unlikely that
anyone could find hitherto unknown lands of any value.
advising King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain regarding a
proposal by Christopher Columbus.
- The multitude of books is a great evil. There is no limit
to this fever for writing; every one must be an author; some out of
vanity, to acquire celebrity and raise up a name, others for the sake
of mere gain.
- What, sir, would you make a ship sail against the wind and
currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck? I pray you, excuse me,
I have not the time to listen to such nonsense.
when told of Robert Fulton’s steamboat.
- What can be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out
of locomotives traveling twice as fast as stagecoaches?
- Rail travel at high speeds is not possible because
passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.
Lardner, Professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy at University
College, London, and author of The Steam Engine Explained and
- I watched his countenance closely, to see if he was not
deranged ... and I was assured by other senators after he left the
room that they had no confidence in it.
U.S. Senator Smith of
Indiana, after witnessing a demonstration of Samuel Morse’s
- No one will pay good money to get from Berlin to Potsdam in
one hour when he can ride his horse there in one day for free.
William I of Prussia, on hearing of the invention of trains
- Dear Mr. President: The canal system of this country is being
threatened by a new form of transportation known as "railroads" ... As
you may well know, Mr. President, "railroad" carriages are pulled at
the enormous speed of 15 miles per hour by "engines" which, in
addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort
their way through the countryside, setting fire to crops, scaring the
livestock and frightening women and children. The Almighty certainly
never intended that people should travel at such breakneck
Martin Van Buren, Governor of New York
- Well-informed people know it is impossible to transmit the
voice over wires and that were it possible to do so, the thing would
be of no practical value.
- It’s a great invention but who would want to use it anyway?
Rutherford B. Hayes, U.S. President, after a demonstration of
Alexander Bell’s telephone
- Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous
Pierre Pachet, professor of physiology at Toulouse
- The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut
from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon.
Sir John Eric
Ericksen, Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria
- This "telephone" has too many shortcomings to be seriously
considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no
value to us.
Western Union Co. internal memo
- The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We
have plenty of messenger boys.
Sir William Preece, Chief Engineer,
British Post Office
- ... good enough for our transatlantic friends ... but
unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific men.
Parliamentary Committee, referring to Edison’s light bulb
- Such startling announcements as these should be deprecated
as being unworthy of science and mischievous to its true progress.
Sir William Siemens, on Edison’s light bulb
- Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a
Henry Morton, president of the Stevens
Institute of Technology, on Edison’s light bulb
- Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.
Kelvin, President of the Royal Society
- Radio has no future.
Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal
- Everything that can be invented has been invented.
H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents
- The ordinary "horseless carriage" is at present a luxury for
the wealthy; and although its price will probably fall in the future,
it will never, of course, come into as common use as the bicycle.
- Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical and
insignificant, if not utterly impossible.
Canadian-born American astronomer
- Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military
Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole
Superieure de Guerre
- Taking the best left-handed pitcher in baseball and
converting him into a right fielder is one of the dumbest things I
Tris Speaker, baseball expert, talking about Babe
- The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial
value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in
David Sarnoff’s associates, evaluating his idea.
- Jan. 13, 1920
- Professor Goddard does not know the relation
between action and reaction and the need to have something better than
a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge
ladled out in high schools.
New York Times editorial
- July 17, 1969
- Further investigation and experimentation have
confirmed the findings of Isaac Newton in the 17th century and it is
now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum as
well as in an atmosphere. The Times regrets the error.
- The radio craze will die out in time.
- While theoretically television may be feasible,
commercially and financially I consider it an impossibility, a
development of which we need waste little time dreaming.
Lee de Forest
- "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?
- There is no likelihood that man can ever tap the power of
the atom. The glib supposition of utilizing atomic energy when our
coal has run out is a completely unscientific Utopian dream, a
- Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high
Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University
- There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy
will ever be obtainable. It would mean the atom would have to be
shattered at will.
- The energy produced by the atom is a very poor kind of
thing. Anyone who expects a source of power from the transformation of
these atoms is talking moonshine.
- A rocket will never be able to leave the earth’s atmosphere.
The New York Times
- Atomic energy might be as good as our present-day
explosives, but it is unlikely to produce anything very much more
- ... too far-fetched to be considered.
Editor of Scientific
American, in a letter to Robert Goddard about Goddard’s idea of a
rocket-accelerated airplane bomb.
- The Americans are good about making fancy cars and
refrigerators, but that doesn’t mean they are any good at making
aircraft. They are bluffing. They are excellent at bluffing.
Hermann Goering, Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe
- I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.
Thomas J. Watson, Chairman of IBM
- This is the biggest fool thing we’ve ever done – the bomb
will never go off – and I speak as an expert on explosives.
William Leahy, speaking to President Truman about the atom bomb
- Television won’t last because people will soon get tired of
staring at a plywood box every night.
- Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5
- Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy
too cheap to meter ....
Lewis L. Strauss, then chairman of the US
Atomic Energy Commission
- Space travel is utter bilge.
Dr. Richard van der Reit
Wooley, space advisor to the British government
- Space travel is bunk.
Sir Harold Spencer Jones, Astronomer
- I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and
talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing
is a fad that won’t last out the year.
The editor in charge of
business books for Prentice Hall
- We will bury you.
- We don’t like their sound. We don’t think they will do
anything in their market. Guitar groups are on their way out.
Recording Co., declining to sign the Beatles
- Transmission of documents via telephone wires is possible in
principle, but the apparatus required is so expensive that it will
never become a practical proposition.
- "The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order
to earn better than a ’C,’ the idea must be feasible.
University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper
proposing reliable overnight delivery service
- With over fifteen types of foreign cars already on sale
here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big share
of the market for itself.
- But what . . . is it good for?
Engineer at the Advanced
Computing Systems Division of IBM, commenting on the idea of
- ...there is no reason anyone would want a computer in their
Ken Olson, President, Chairman, and Founder of Digital
- If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have done the
experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you couldn’t
Spencer Silver, commenting on the work that led to the
adhesives for 3M "Post-It" notepads
- 640K ought to be enough for anybody.
- August 26, 2002
- Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam
Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he
is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and
Vice President Dick Cheney (speech in Nashville, Tenn)
- September 29, 2002
- He [Saddam Hussein] is intent on
constructing weapons of mass destruction. Every defector, every
intelligence agent, every – you know, all sources tell us that he
wants these weapons, particularly a nuclear weapon.
- November 15, 2002
- The idea that it’s going to be a long, long,
long battle of some kind I think is belied by the fact of what
happened in 1990. Five days or five weeks or five months, but it
certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.
Defense Donald Rumsfeld
- November 22, 2004
- Republican hegemony in America is now expected
to last for years, maybe decades.
Fred Barnes, writing in The
- February 5, 2003
- We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to
keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make
Secretary of State Colin Powell
- February 7, 2003
- It is unknowable how long that conflict will
last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
- March 30, 2003
- .... weapons of mass destruction were
dispersed. We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit
and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.
Defense Donald Rumsfeld
These are just for fun. I have no idea whether the quotes are
accurate or not. Loosely speaking, they support the idea that appeal
to authority is unscientific, as discussed in reference 1.
3 For Further Reading