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It’s easy to think that we ...

Posted Oct 23 2008 9:51pm

It’s easy to think that we know everything about the world, and how things are. For example, sceptics often repeat that homeopathy makes no sense, and therefore can’t work.

Couple laughing But experts can be wrong:

“The radio craze…will die out in time.” Thomas Edison, 1922

“There is not the slightest indication that energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.” Albert Einstein, 1932

“The abdomen, the chest and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon.” Sir John Eric Ericson, Surgeon to Queen Victoria, 1873

“If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one.” Dr. W. C. Heuper, National Cancer Institute, 1954

“Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of axphyxia.” Professor Dionysus Lardner, 1830

“X-Rays will prove to be a hoax.” Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society, 1895

“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society, 1896

Girl with books “Radio has no future.” Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society 1898

“I can accept the theory of relativity as little as I can accept the existence of atoms and other such dogma.” Professor Ernst Mach (as in speed-of-sound measurement), 1913

“There is no likelihood 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 childish bug-a-boo. Nature has introduced a few fool-proof devices into the great majority of elements that constitute the bulk of the world, and they have no energy to give up in the process of disintegration.” Robert Millikan, Nobel prizewinner in physics, 1920

“The most important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplemented by new discoveries exceedingly remote.” Simon Newcomb, astronomer, 1903

“Flight by machines heavier than air is impractical and insignificant, if not utterly impossible.” Simon Newcomb, astronomer, 1902

“Such startling announcements as these should be deprecated as being unworthy of science and mischievious to to its true progress.” Sir William Siemens (on Edison’s announcement of a successful light bulb), 1880

“The abolishment of pain in surgery is a chimera. It is absurd to go on seeking it today.” Dr Alfred Velpeau, surgeon professor, Paris Faculty of Medicine, 1837

Mature woman in black jumper“With regard to the electric light, much has been said for and against it, but I think I may say without contradiction that when the Paris Exhibition closes, electric light will close with it, and no more will be heard of it.” Erasmus Wilson, Oxford University professor, 1878

“Space travel is utter bilge.” Dr. Richard van der Riet Woolley, Astronomer Royal, 1956

“Space travel is bunk” Sir Harold Spencer Jones, Astronomer Royal, 1957 (two weeks before the launch of Sputnik)

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