For the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.
-- Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of Great Britain, 1938
There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.
- Kenneth Olsen, president and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.
You'd better learn secretarial work or else get married.
-- Emmeline Snively, to Marilyn Monroe, 1944
There is growing evidence that smoking has pharmacological effects that are of real value to smokers.
-- President of Philip Morris, Inc., 1962
What use could this company make of an electrical toy?
- Western Union president William Orton, responding to an offer from Alexander Graham Bell to sell his telephone company to Western Union for $100,000.
That is the biggest fool thing we have ever done. The bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives.
- Admiral William Leahy. [Advice to President Truman, when asked his opinion of the atomic bomb project.]
Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.
- Lord Kelvin (1824-1907), ca. 1895, British mathematician and physicist
Computers in the future may...perhaps only weigh 1.5 tons.
- Popular Mechanics, 1949.
"If the motion of the earth were circular, it would be violent and contrary to nature, and could not be eternal, since nothing violent is eternal. It follows, therefore, that the earth is not moved with a circular motion."
-- St. Thomas Aquinas, 1270
Automobiles will start to decline almost as soon as the last shot is fired in World War II. The name of Igor Sikorsky will be as well known as Henry Ford's, for his helicopter will all but replace the horseless carriage as the new means of popular transportation. Instead of a car in every garage, there will be a helicopter.... These 'copters' will be so safe and will cost so little to produce that small models will be made for teenage youngsters. These tiny 'copters, when school lets out, will fill the sky as the bicycles of our youth filled the prewar roads.
- Harry Bruno, aviation publicist, 1943.
You ain't goin' nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin' a truck.
-- Jim Denny, Manager of "Grand Ole Opry", to Elvis Presley, 1954
If the Apostle Paul had been here Saturday...he would have enjoyed seeing the Wisconsin-Iowa football game.
-- Rev. A. J. Soldan, 1926
Defeat of Germany means defeat of Japan, probably without firing a shot or losing a life.
-- Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1942
There is little doubt that the most significant event affecting energy is the advent of nuclear power...a few decades hence, energy may be free—just like the unmetered air....
- John von Neumann, scientist and member of the Atomic Energy Commission, 1955.
Knowing of your congregation's deep involvement in the major social and constitutional issues of our country is a great inspiration to me.
-- Walter Mondale, to Rev. Jim Jones
The abolishment of pain in surgery is a chimera. It is absurd to go on seeking it... Knife and pain are two words in surgery that must forever be associated in the consciousness of the patient.
- Dr. Alfred Velpeau (1839), French surgeon
I do not consider Hitler to be as bad as he is depicted. He is showing an ability that is amazing and he seems to be gaining his victories without much bloodshed.
-- Mohandas K. Gandhi, 1940
[Television] won't be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.
- Darryl F. Zanuck, head of 20th Century-Fox, 1946.
A nuclear power plant is infinitely safer than eating, because 300 people choke to death on food every year.
-- Dixy Lee Ray, Governor of Washington, 1977
Gliders... [will be] the freight trains of the air.... We can visualize a locomotive plane leaving LaGuardia Field towing a train of six gliders in the very near future. By having the load thus divided it would be practical to unhitch the glider that must come down in Philadelphia as the train flies over that place--similarly unhitching the loaded gliders for Washington, for Richmond, for Charleston, for Jacksonville, as each city is passed--and finally the air locomotive itself lands in Miami. During that process it has not had to make any intermediate landings, so that it has not had to slow down.
-- Grover Loening, 1944
We rule by love and not by the bayonet.
-- Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Enlightenment for the German National Socialist Party, 1936
The deliverance of the saints must take place some time before 1914.
-- Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses,
"Studies in the Scripture", 1910 edition
The deliverance of the saints must take place some time after 1914.
-- Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses,
"Studies in the Scripture", 1923 edition
Just as in the microcosm there are seven `windows' in the head (two nostrils, two eyes, two ears, and a mouth), so in the macrocosm God has placed two beneficent stars (Jupiter, Venus), two maleficent stars (Mars, Saturn), two luminaries (sun and moon), and one indifferent star (Mercury). The seven days of the week follow from these. Finally, since ancient times the alchemists had made each of the seven metals correspond to one of the planets; gold to the sun, silver to the moon, copper to Venus, quicksilver to Mercury, iron to Mars, tin to Jupiter, lead to Saturn.
From these and many other similar phenomena of nature such as the seven metals, etc., which it were tedious to enumerate, we gather that the number of planets is necessarily seven... Besides, the Jews and other ancient nations as well as modern Europeans, have adopted the division of the week into seven days, and have named them from the seven planets; now if we increase the number of planets, this whole system falls to the ground... Moreover, the satellites are invisible to the naked eye and therefore can have no influence on the earth, and therefore would be useless, and therefore do not exist.
- Francesco Sizzi, astronomer at Florence. [Arguing against Galileo's 1610 announcement of his discovery of four moons of Jupiter.]
Radio has no future.
- Lord Kelvin (1824-1907), British mathematician and physicist, ca. 1897.
[Before man reaches the moon] your mail will be delivered within hours from New York to California, to England, to India or to Australia by guided missiles.... We stand on the threshold of rocket mail.
-- Arthur E. Summerfield, U.S. Postmaster General, 1959
Australia will be abandoned to the Japanese by its white inhabitants, who will return to an England capable of supporting by agriculture almost double its present population.
-- Lewis Mumford, "The World Fifty Years From Now", 1932
The French people are incapable of regicide.
-- King Louis XVI of France, c. 1789
The so-called theories of Einstein are merely the ravings of a mind polluted with liberal, democratic nonsense which is utterly unacceptable to German men of science.
-- Dr. Walter Gross, 1940
There is a young madman proposing to light the streets of London—with what do you suppose—with smoke!
- Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) [On a proposal to light cities with gaslight.]
I am tired of all this thing called science.... We have spent millions in that sort of thing for the last few years, and it is time it should be stopped.
-- Simon Cameron, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, demanding that the funding of the Smithsonian Institution be cut off, 1861
The Kölonische Zeitung [Köln, Germany, 28 March 1819] listed six grave reasons against street lighting, including these:
Theological: It is an intervention in God's order, which makes nights dark...
Medical: It will be easier for people to be in the streets at night, afflicting them with colds...
Philosophical-moral: Morality deteriorates through street lighting. Artificial lighting drives out fear of the dark, which keeps the weak from sinning...
[W]hen the Paris Exhibition closes electric light will close with it and no more be heard of.
- Erasmus Wilson (1878) Professor at Oxford University
They will never try to steal the phonograph because it has no `commercial value.'
- Thomas Edison (1847-1931). (He later revised that opinion.)
What can be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out of locomotives traveling twice as fast as stagecoaches?
- The Quarterly Review, England (March 1825)
...transport by railroad car would result in the emasculation of our troops and would deprive them of the option of the great marches which have played such an important role in the triumph of our armies.
- Dominique Francois Arago (1786-1853)
Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.
- Marshal Ferdinand Foch, French military strategist, 1911. He was later a World War I commander.
All the ills from which America suffers can be traced back to the teaching of evolution. It would be better to destroy every other book ever written, and save just the first three verses of Genesis.
-- William Jennings Bryan
Sex without class consciousness cannot give satisfaction, even if it is repeated until infinity.
-- Aldo Brandirali, Secretary of the Italian Marxist-Leninist Party, 1973
Nature intended women to be our slaves. They are our property. They belong to us, just as a tree that bears fruit belongs to a gardener. What a mad idea to demand equality for women! Women are nothing but machines for producing children.
-- Napoleon Bonaparte
Has there ever been danger of war between Germany and ourselves, members of the same Teutonic race? Never has it even been imagined.
-- Andrew Carnegie, 1913
Experimental evidence is strongly in favor of my argument that the chemical purity of the air is of no importance.
-- L. Erskine Hill, quoted in the New York Times, 1912
All the waste in a year from a nuclear power plant can be stored under a desk.
-- Ronald Reagan, 1980
A nuclear war could alleviate some of the factors leading to today's ecological disturbances that are due to current high-population concentrations and heavy industrial production.
-- Official in the U.S. Office of Civil Defense, 1982
If we are to begin to try and understand life as it will be in 1960, we must begin by realizing that food, clothing and shelter will cost as little as air.
-- John Langdon-Davies, 1936
When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.
-- Richard Nixon, 1977
Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote. The relative positions to be assumed by man and woman in the working out of our civilization were assigned long ago by a higher intelligence than ours.
-- Grover Cleveland, 1905
I think the world is going to blow up in seven years. The public is entitled to a good time during those seven years.
-- Henry Luce, publisher of Time, Life, and Fortune, explaining why he would publish "Sports Illustrated"
Just a fad, a passing fancy.
—Phil Wrigley, Chicago Cubs owner,
commenting on the advent of night baseball, C. 1935
An orgy of vulgar noise.
-- Louis Spohr, on Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, 1808
Far too noisy, my dear Mozart. Far too many notes.
-- Emperor Ferdinand of Austria, on "The Marriage of Figaro", 1786
Can't act. Can't sing. Balding. Can dance a little.
—M-G-M executive, reacting to Fred Astaire's screen test, 1928
God himself could not sink this ship.
-- a deckhand on the Titanic, 1912
The dangers of atomic war are overrated. It would be hard on little, concentrated countries like England. In the United States we have lots of space.
-- Colonel Robert McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, 1950
The Army is the Indian's best friend.
-- General Custer, 1870
The Experts Speak
The Definitive Compendium of Authoritative Misinformation", by Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky.