On By Experts

‘Your cigar-ettes will never become popular.’
— F. G. Alton (cigar maker, turning down Mr. John Player), 1870
‘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
‘The foolish idea of shooting at the moon is an example of the absurd length to which vicious specialization will carry scientists working in thought-tight compartments.’
— A. W. Bickerton (physics professor), 1926
‘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
‘I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s fallin’ on his face and not Gary Cooper.’
— Gary Cooper, turning down lead in ‘Gone With The Wind’
‘What sir! You would make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under her decks? I pray you excuse me. I have no time to listen to such nonsense.’
— Napoleon Boneparte, 1803
‘Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote.’
— Grover Cleveland, 1905
‘We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.’
— Decca executive, rejecting the Beatles, 1962
‘While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially I consider it an impossibility.’
— Lee Deforest (inventor of vacuum tube/electronic valve), 1926
‘Man will never reach the moon, regardless of all the future scientific advances.’
— Lee DeForest (inventor of vacuum tube/electronic valve), 1957
‘Everything that can be invented has been invented.’
— Charles H. Duell (Commissioner, US Patent Office, in 1899)
‘The phonograph is not of any commercial value.’
— Thomas Alva Edison, 1880
‘There is no plea which will justify the use of high-tension and alternating currents, either in a scientific or a commercial sense.’
— Thomas Alva Edison, 1889
‘The radio craze…will die out in time.’
— Thomas Alva 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
‘War between Japan and the United States is not within the realm of reasonable possibility. …A Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour is a strategic impossibility.’
— Major George Fielding Eliot, 1938
‘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
‘Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.’
— Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale, 1929
‘Far too noisy, my dear Mozart. Far too many notes.’
— Emperor Ferdinand of Austria, 1786
‘Aeroplanes are interesting toys but are of no military value.’
— Maréchal Ferdinand Foch, 1911
‘The Edsel is here to stay.’
— Henry Ford II, 1957
‘The Titanic is well able to withstand almost any exterior damage and could keep afloat indefinitely after being struck.’
— P. Franklin, Vice President, International Mercantile Marine,
April 15th 1912
‘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.’
— Mahatma Gandhi, 1940
‘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
‘Nuclear powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality within ten years.’
— Alex Lewyt, vacuum cleaner manufacturer, 1957
‘Inventions reached their limit long ago and I see no hope for further development.’
— Julius Sextus Frontinus, prominent Roman engineer (c. 40-103 AD)
‘640K ought to be enough for anybody.’
— Bill Gates, 1981
‘The machine gun is a much overrated weapon; two per battalion is more than sufficient.’
— General Douglas Haig, 1915
‘I have not the smallest molecule of faith in aerial navigation other than ballooning.’
— Lord Kelvin, President of Royal Society, 1890
‘X-Rays will prove to be a hoax.’
— Lord Kelvin, President of Royal Society, 1895
‘Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.’
— Lord Kelvin, President of Royal Society, 1896
‘Radio has no future.’
— Lord Kelvin, President of Royal Society, 1898
‘This 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 D. Leahy, on the atomic bomb, 1945
‘This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but the sacred scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, not the earth.’
— Martin Luther, 1540
‘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
‘The Internet will catastrophically collapse in 1996.’
— Robert Metcalfe, internet inventor (date unknown)
‘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 prize winner 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 is exceedingly remote.’
— Forest Ray Moulton, Astronomer, 2935
‘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 is exceedingly remote.’
— Simon Newcomb, astronomer, 1903
‘It would appear that we have reached the limits of what is possible to achieve with computer technology, although one should be careful with such statements, as they tend to sound pretty silly in five years.’
— John von Neumann, computer inventor, 1949
‘Flight by machines heavier than air is impractical and insignificant, if not utterly impossible.’
— Simon Newcomb, astronomer, 1902
‘When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.’
— Richard Nixon, 1977
‘There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.’
— Ken Olson, President of Digital Corporation, 1977
‘What use could this company make of an electrical toy?’
— William Orton, Western Union President, turning down Alexander Graham Bell’s offer to sell his telephone company for $100,000
‘Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is a ridiculous fiction.’
— Pierre Pachet, Professor Physiology, Toulouse, 1872
‘Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.’
— Popular Mechanics, 1949
‘All the waste in a year from a nuclear power plant can be stored under a desk.’
— Ronald Reagan, 1980
‘The deliverance of the saints must take place some time before 1914.’
— Charles Taze Russell (founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses), 1910
‘The deliverance of the saints must take place some time after 1914.’
— Charles Taze Russell (founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses), 1923
‘The energy produced by the breaking down of the atom is a very poor kind of thing. Anyone who looks for a source of power in the transformation of the atom is talking moonshine.’
— Ernest Rutherford, 1936
‘I should say that no railway locomotive ought to exceet 40 miles per hour on the most favourable gradient, but on a curved line the speed ought not to exceed 24 or 25 miles per hour.’
— George Stephenson, 1841
‘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 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
‘Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?’
— Harry Warner (of Warner Bros), 1927
‘I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.’
— Thomas J. Watson Snr., IBM Chairman, 1943
‘We have reached the limits of what is possible with computers.’
— John Von Neumann, 1949
‘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 must confess that my imagination, in spite even of spurring, refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and floundering at sea.’
— H. G. Wells, 1901
‘Space travel is utter bilge.’
— Dr. Richard van der Riet Woolley, Astronomer Royal, 1956
‘I confess that in 1901 I said to my brother Orville that man would not fly for fifty years. Two years later we ourselves made flights. This demonstration of my impotence as a prophet gave me such a shock that ever since I have distrusted myself and avoided all predictions.’
— Wilbur Wright, 1908
‘The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to better than a C, the idea must be feasible.’
— Yale professor, marking paper by Fred Smith, Federal Express founder, on business principles later used in FedEx
‘Video won’t be able to hold onto 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, 20th Century Fox, 1946