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Which is it: Is man one of God's blunders or is God one of man's?
Friedrich Nietzsche


But what ... is it good for?
Anonymous engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.

Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy.
Anonymous drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.

Natura non facit saltum. (Nature does not make leaps.)
Anonymous ancient motto frequently cited by Carolus Linnaeus

The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?
Anonymous associates of David Sarnoff's in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.

The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible.
Anonymous Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)

The Earth is degenerating today. Bribery and corruption abound.
Children no longer obey their parents, every man wants to write a book,
and it is evident that the end of the world is fast approaching."
Assyrian tablet, c. 2800 BCE

To throw bombs from an airplane will do as much damage as throwing bags of flour. It will be my pleasure to stand on the bridge of any ship while it is attacked by airplanes."
Newton Baker, US minister of defense (1921)

First, . . . to want to affirm that in reality the sun is at the center of the world and only turns on itself without moving from east to west, and the earth . . . revolves with great speed around the sun . . .is a very dangerous thing, likely not only to irritate all scholastic philosophers and theologians, but also to harm the Holy Faith by rendering Holy Scripture false. Nor can one answer that this is not a matter of faith, since if it is not a matter of faith "as regards the topic," it is a matter of faith "as regards the speaker"; and so it would be heretical to say that Abraham did not have two children and Jacob twelve, as well as to say that Christ was not born of a virgin, because both are said by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of the prophets and the apostles.
Cardinal Bellarmine, in a Letter to Foscarinin, April 12, 1615

It is only righteous that Joshua Coppersmiths, who has tried to find investors to finance the development of a so-called telephone, is arrested for fraud!
Article in the Boston Post (1865)

I do not believe there is the slightest chance of war with Japan in our lifetime. The Japanese are our allies.... Japan is at the other end of the world. She cannot menace our vital security in any way.... War with Japan is not a possibility which any reasonable government need take into account.
Winston Churchill

Finland must not be allowed to disappear off the map.
Neville Chamberlain

There's an old saying about those who forget history. I don't remember it, but it's good.
Stephen Colbert

Every attempt to employ mathematical methods in the study of chemical questions must be considered profoundly irrational and contrary to the spirit of chemistry.... if mathematical analysis should ever hold a prominent place in chemistry -- an aberration which is happily almost impossible -- it would occasion a rapid and widespread degeneration of that science.
Auguste Comte

Everything that can be invented has been invented.
Attributed to Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.

We don't like their sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out.
Decca Records Rejecting the Beatles, in 1962

Radio is just a fashion contrivance that will soon die out. It is obvious that there never will be invented a proper receiver!
Thomas Edison

Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.
Irving Fisher, 1929

Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.
Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre.

The great question - which I have not been able to answer - is, "What does a woman want?"
Sigmund Freud

640Kb ought to be enough for anybody.
Bill Gates, 1981

I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year.
Prentice Hall, editor in charge of business books, 1957

So we went to Atari and said, `Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we'll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' And they said, `No.' So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, `Hey, we don't need you. You haven't got through college yet.'
Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computer Inc. on attempts to get Atari and H-P interested in his personal computer.

Lord Kelvin

Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.

I have not the smallest molecule of faith in aerial navigation other than ballooning or of the expectation of good results from any of the trials we hear of ... I would not care to be a member of the Aeronautical Society.

It is impossible by means of inanimate material agency to derive a mechanical effect from a portion of matter by cooling it below the temperature of the coldest surrounding bodies

I want to understand light as well as I can without introducing things that we understand less of.

We know that light is propagated like sound through pressure and motion.

[The phenomena of light] can be explained without going beyond the elastic-solid theory. We have now our answer: everything non-magnetic; nothing magnetic.

The radio has no future!

Writing to Niagara Falls Power Company: "Trust you will avoid the gigantic mistake of alternating current.

It seems as if we may also be forced to conclude that the supposed connection between magnetic storms and sunspots is unreal, and that the seeming agreement between the periods has been mere coincidence.

In a few years, all the great physical constants will have been approximately estimated, and ... the only occupation which will then be left to the men of science will be to carry these measurements to another place of decimals.
James Clerk Maxwell, 1871

The more 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 suplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote ... Our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals.
Albert A. Michelson, 1894

You're planning to make a ship sail against wind and tide by lighting a fire below deck?? I don't have time to listen to that kind of nonsense!"
Napoleon, about Robert Fultons plans to make a Steamboat.

Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical and insignificant, if not utterly impossible.
Simon Newcomb , 1902, eighteen months before Kitty Hawk

A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth's atmosphere.
New York Times, 1936

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 basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.
New York Times, in editorial about Robert Goddard's revolutionary rocket work, 1921

There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.
Ken Olson , President, Chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction.
Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872

The Holocaust was an obscene period in our nation's history. I mean in this century's history. But we all lived in this century. I didn't live in this century.
Senator Dan Quayle, Sept. 15, 1988

And while I am talking to you mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said before, but I shall say it again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.
President Roosevelt

The good Christian should beware the mathematican and all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that the mathematicans have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and to confine man in the bonds of hell.
Saint Augustine

Airplanes suffers from so many technical faults that it is only a matter of time before any reasonable man realizes that they are useless!"
Scientific American (1910)

Even God could not sink this ship.
Sailor of the Titanic

So many centuries after the Creation, it is unlikely that anyone could find hitherto unknown lands of any value.
Spanish Royal Commission, rejecting Christopher Columbus' proposal to sail west.

Space travel is bunk
Sir Harold Spencer Jones, Astronomer Royal of Britain, 1957, two weeks before the launch of Sputnik

It might be a good idea if the various countries of the world would occasionally swap history books, just to see what other people are doing with the same set of facts.
Bill Vaughan

Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?
H. M. Warner, founder of Warner Brothers film studios, 1927

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

This `telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.
Western Union internal memo, 1876

Last updated: February 28, 2011

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