The Port Arthur News
Research can be especially fun if you happen to be working on a humorous subject. Famous last words are funny. I'm speaking of quotations that were later proven wrong by, more or less, current events or history. Some of them have caused me to laugh out loud while reading them. History often plays strange and funny jokes on people who speak too quickly or don't know what they're talking about.
Some of my favorites are listed below. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
Quoted Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM in 1943, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
Popular Mechanics magazine in 1949, “Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.”
An engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM in 1968. He was talking about the microchip. “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
Bill Gates, 1981, “640k ought to be enough for anybody.”
A Western Union internal memo, 1876... “This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”
Marshal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, France...” Aeroplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.”
Physicist Lord Kelvin, President Royal Society, 1895, “Heavier than air flying machines are impossible.”
Wilbur Wright to his brother, Orville, after a disappointing flying experiment, 1901, “Man won't fly for a thousand years.”
The New York Times, 1921, about Robert Goddard's revolutionary rocket work, “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 knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.”
David Sarnoff's co-workers in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920's, “The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?”
Admiral Leathy advising President Truman during the atom bomb project, 1945, “The bomb will never explode. I am saying this as an expert on the subject.”
People whom Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his oil drilling project in 1859, “Drill for oil? You mean drill in the ground and try to find oil? You're crazy!”
Pierre Pachet, Physiologist at France's Toulouse University, 1872, “Louis Pastuer's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction.”
Sir Eric Erickson, British Surgeon praised by Queen Victoria, 1873, “The abdomen, chest, and brain will forever be shut down from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon.”
I. Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929, just before the Great Depression, “Stocks have reached what looks like a permanent high.”
A Yale University Management Professor in response to Fred Smith's (Smith founded Federal Express) paper proposing reliable, overnight, delivery service, “The concept is interesting and well formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C', the idea must be feasible.”
Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, US Patent Office, 1899, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
Then there are those thoughts and utterances by famous, intelligent people about history...Believe it or not...
Henry Ford, “History is more or less bunk.”
Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil's Dictionary, “History (n.): An account mostly false, of events mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools.”
H.L. Mencken, “Historian; an unsuccessful novelist.
Thomas Carlyle, “Happy the people whose annals are blank in history books.”
Jane Austen, “I often find it odd that history should be so dull, for a great deal of it must be invention.
Most of the above came from “Plunges Into History”, by an outfit that calls itself, “The Bathroom Readers' Hysterical Institute.”
One of my personal favorites was left out. “History is always written by the winners.”
Neal Morgan of Nederland is a retired educator. Contact Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org.