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"It'll Never Work!"



In light of the claim that inflatable cars are set to become the vehicle of the future, the Null has found a long and distinguished list of inventions that were poo pooed by esteemed individuals, only for the product to become a raging success. Shame on you all.



Television and Radio

While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially I consider it an impossibility, a development of which we need waste little time dreaming.
- Lee DeForest, American radio pioneer, 1926.

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.

Radio has no future.
- Lord Kelvin, British mathematician and physicist.


Communication

This `telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a practical form of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.
- Western Union internal memo, 1878

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.
- Editorial in the Boston Post, 1865


Transport

...no possible combination of known substances, known forms of machinery, and known forms of force, can be united in a practical machine by which man shall fly long distances through the air...
- Simon Newcomb (1835-1909), astronomer,
head of the U.S. Naval Observatory

What can be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out of locomotives travelling twice as fast as stagecoaches?
- The Quarterly Review, England (March 1825)

Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.
 - Lord Kelvin (1824-1907)
 British mathematician and physicist


Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.
 - Dr. Dionysus Lardner (1793-1859)
Professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy


Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.
- Marshal Ferdinand Foch,
French military strategist and World War I commander.


It is an idle dream to imagine that automobiles will take the place of railways in the long distance movement of passengers.
- American Railroad Congress, 1913

Men might as well project a voyage to the Moon as attempt to employ steam navigation against the stormy North Atlantic Ocean.
- Dr. Dionysus Lardner (1793-1859)
Professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy


Computers

There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.
- Ken Olson, President of Digital Corporation, 1977

The Internet will catastrophically collapse in 1996.’
- Robert Metcalfe, internet inventor

Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.
- Popular Mechanics, 1949

We have reached the limits of what is possible with computers.
- John Von Neumann, 1949

I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.
- Thomas J. Watson Snr., IBM Chairman, 1943


Space Exploration

There is no hope for the fanciful idea of reaching the Moon because of insurmountable barriers to escaping the Earth's gravity.
- Dr. Forest Ray Moulton, University of
Chicago astronomer, 1932.

To place a man in a multi-stage rocket and project him into the controlling gravitational field of the moon where the passengers can make scientific observations, perhaps land alive, and then return to earth--all that constitutes a wild dream worthy of Jules Verne. I am bold enough to say that such a man-made voyage will never occur regardless of all future advances.
- Lee DeForest,
American radio pioneer, 1926.

Medicine and Health

‘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

Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is a ridiculous fiction.
- Pierre Pachet
Professor Physiology, Toulouse, 1872

 

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

There is growing evidence that smoking has pharmacological effects that are of real value to smokers.
- President of Philip Morris, Inc., 1962
 
Your cigarettes will never become popular.
- F. G. Alton, 1870
cigar maker, turning down Mr. John Player


Nuclear Power

...any one who expects a source of power from the transformation of these atoms is talking moonshine...
- Ernest Rutherford (1933)

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 A. Millikan (1863-1953)
speech to the Chemists' Club (New York)


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

All the waste in a year from a nuclear power plant can be stored under a desk.
- Ronald Reagan, 1980


General Science

‘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


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, 1861

demanding the funding of the Smithsonian Institution be cut off

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

Approximately 80% of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation. So let's not go overboard in setting and enforcing tough emissions standards for man-made sources.
- Ronald Reagan, 1980

I see no good reasons why the views given in this volume should shock the religious feelings of anyone.
- Darwin (writing in Origin of Species), 1859

The machine gun is a much overrated weapon; two per battalion is more than sufficient.
- General Douglas Haig, 1915

X-rays are a hoax.
- Lord Kelvin, ca. 1900


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Images - Main image: Enrico Corno; television: Gustavo Bueso Padgett; aerial: Rodolfo Belloli; train: Hazel Bregazzi; laptop: Jef Bettens; space: Agata Urbaniak; medic: Adam Ciesielski; fusion: Miroslav Kostic and microscope: Rodolfo Clix.



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27 Jun 2017
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