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View Full Version : Famous missed opportunities in history, or, hindsight is 20/20


Mr. Blue Sky
04-23-2005, 09:33 PM
I have this daily calendar on my desk at work which deals with great stupid moments in history. Of course, there's no way to know what would have happened otherwise.

Here's a few of mine:

The guy at Decca who turned down the Beatles.
Whoever thought: talking movies, color TV, pay TV, home computers, etc. wouldn't sell.

What are yours?

Airman Doors, USAF
04-23-2005, 09:38 PM
The Germans who voted a Nazi plurality in 1933.

The guy who took Sam Bowie over Hakeem and Michael in 1984 in the draft.

treis
04-23-2005, 09:43 PM
Hakeem was the 1st pick Bowie was the 2nd and MJ was the 3rd.

Airman Doors, USAF
04-23-2005, 09:44 PM
You get the point. Even then it was a stupid pick, Michael being the 2-time College Player of the Year at North Carolina, where it ain't at all easy to stand out that much, especially under Dean Smith.

Sternvogel
04-24-2005, 01:26 AM
John D. Rockefeller began his business career in Cleveland, Ohio. Had the city and state not subjected him to endless legal and financial battles, Rockefeller might never have moved his headquarters to New York, and Cleveland might have been the beneficiary of the largesse that resulted in such "Big Apple" developments as Rockefeller Center. As this page states, (http://www.financialhistory.org/MAGAZINE/photo-history.htm), "Rockefeller even declared that New York City was the better for Cleveland's unfair treatment of him."

Cleveland also had -- and blew -- chances for prominence in the automotive, aviation, and space industries, and even in baseball. As this article (http://www.clevescene.com/issues/2004-11-24/news/feature_print.html) details, Henry Ford, Glenn Martin (Martin-Marietta founding father), and George Steinbrenner all joined Rockefeller in finding fortune elsewhere.

OtakuLoki
04-24-2005, 12:33 PM
I would have liked to see the Phillipines*, Cuba, and Puerto Rico all incorporated as States in the union after the end of the Spanish American War. I don't see how it could have happened, racism being what it was at the time, but I still think it would have been interesting.

*Okay, probably three different states for the Phillipines, but still...

Duckster
04-24-2005, 12:49 PM
The 1969 New York Mets. :)

DanBlather
04-24-2005, 01:09 PM
You get the point. Even then it was a stupid pick, Michael being the 2-time College Player of the Year at North Carolina, where it ain't at all easy to stand out that much, especially under Dean Smith.The TrailBlazer's were the team that passe over MJ. Bowie was actually a very good player, and the Blazers may well have had a mini-dynasty if he hadn't broken his leg - twice!! The Blazer's had Drexler, who was no where near as good as MJ, but still good. The Blazer's needed a center.

mhendo
04-24-2005, 03:05 PM
I would have liked to see the Phillipines*, Cuba, and Puerto Rico all incorporated as States in the union after the end of the Spanish American War. I don't see how it could have happened, racism being what it was at the time, but I still think it would have been interesting.

*Okay, probably three different states for the Phillipines, but still...Interesting.

Given that a key reason given by the US for "liberating" these places in the first place was to save them from Spanish imperialism, maybe the best course of action America could have taken after the war was to give all of them proper independence, rather than doing everything possible to suppress local calls for self-determination and killing large numbers of the local population (in the case of the Phillipines).

Mississippienne
04-24-2005, 03:20 PM
William Adelin, only legitimate son of King Henry I of England, drowned in the disastrous wreck of the White Ship. When the ship was breaking up, he actually made it to a lifeboat, but insisted on going back to try to rescue his sister, the Countess of Perche. The lifeboat was capsized, and everyone died.

William Adelin's death led to a bloody 20-year civil war known as the Anarchy, the coming of the Plantagenet kings of England, and the Angevin empire. If he hadn't gotten on the White Ship, or hadn't gone back for his sister, he would've been King William III, the fourth Norman king of England.

ouryL
04-24-2005, 04:08 PM
I have this daily calendar on my desk at work which deals with great stupid moments in history. Of course, there's no way to know what would have happened otherwise.

Here's a few of mine:

The guy at Decca who turned down the Beatles.
Whoever thought: talking movies, color TV, pay TV, home computers, etc. wouldn't sell.

What are yours?

He really didn't turn down the Beatles. He just didn't think them anything special, giving Brian Epstein time to shop them to EMI(?).

Mr. Blue Sky
04-24-2005, 04:19 PM
He really didn't turn down the Beatles. He just didn't think them anything special, giving Brian Epstein time to shop them to EMI(?).

He said that guitar bands were on the way out and that he didn't like their sound. If that's not a turn down...

In the US, the Beatles were on Capitol and on Parlophone in the UK.

zamboniracer
04-24-2005, 04:35 PM
The TrailBlazer's were the team that passe over MJ. Bowie was actually a very good player, and the Blazers may well have had a mini-dynasty if he hadn't broken his leg - twice!! The Blazer's had Drexler, who was no where near as good as MJ, but still good. The Blazer's needed a center.


No, no, no. The team that blew that draft was Houston. The Rockets should've traded Ralph Sampson to the Blazers for the 2nd pick and then selected Jordan. With Hakeem and Jordan they would've ruled the NBA for 10 years. Winning two titles with Olajowon is nothing to sneeze at, of course, but with the 2 of them the sky would've been the limit.

Interesting point about my hometown of Cleveland, Sternvogel. Now I'm really depressed.

Cardinal
04-24-2005, 05:18 PM
When Britain and France didn't tell Hitler that they'd fight him out of Czechoslovakia. From what I've read, even Hitler didn't think at the time that Germany could defeat France if they really stood up to him.

Guinastasia
04-24-2005, 05:36 PM
Didn't someone recently post that Nixon had the opportunity to sign something that would have started the development of the internet that much sooner?

MLS
04-24-2005, 09:06 PM
And of course there's the infamous deal that sent Babe Ruth to the Yankees.

OtakuLoki
04-24-2005, 09:10 PM
Interesting.

Given that a key reason given by the US for "liberating" these places in the first place was to save them from Spanish imperialism, maybe the best course of action America could have taken after the war was to give all of them proper independence, rather than doing everything possible to suppress local calls for self-determination and killing large numbers of the local population (in the case of the Phillipines).
mhendo, I agree, that too, would have been better. I just offered what I think would have been an ideal. IIRC, there would have been a great deal of support for such an idea from the various peoples, if they'd been treated as equals.

RealityChuck
04-24-2005, 10:09 PM
When Britain and France didn't tell Hitler that they'd fight him out of Czechoslovakia. From what I've read, even Hitler didn't think at the time that Germany could defeat France if they really stood up to him.Even more of a mistake: letting Hitler remiliartarize the Rhineland. Hitler knew he couldn't have stood up to any real challenge if anyone wanted to call him on it.

By the time of Munich, Great Britain was at a disadvantage if they had forced the issue over Czechoslovakia, and the Munich treaty was, in part, a way to buy them time to catch up.

Sternvogel
04-25-2005, 01:38 AM
Didn't someone recently post that Nixon had the opportunity to sign something that would have started the development of the internet that much sooner?

Yes, the post referred to "Six Outrageous Plans That Didn't Happen", a section of The Book of Lists #2. Here is a blog entry (http://www.vagablogging.net/archives/003481.shtml) which discusses the scheme cooked up by Nixon and H.R. Haldeman.

Mycroft Holmes
04-25-2005, 05:31 AM
The guy who took Sam Bowie over Hakeem and Michael in 1984 in the draft.

On a similiar note: do something to prevent Len Bias from trying cocaine on June 19th, 1986. I think Len might have turned out to be better than MJ. He certainly outplayed him in some of their ACC games, and he had a better vertical leap, softer and bigger hands, and a better jump shot than MJ.

Tuckerfan
04-25-2005, 09:10 AM
Sir Francis Drake futzing around instead of taking the capital of Spain.

Truman not agreeing to help Ho Chi Minh win Vietnam's independence from France.

JFK not having the bubble top installed on his limo when he went to Dallas.

The US not taking out Osama when it had the chance before 9/11.

The US government ignoring the warning signs that AQ was planning an attack in September of 2001.

The Japanese not making a second (or was it a third?) bombing run at Pearl Harbor, because they were worried about the US carriers showing up.

The cops not arresting Jeffery Dahmer the first time they were called to his place.

Agrippina
04-25-2005, 09:17 AM
The SS Californian, only 15 miles away, turning off it's wireless while the Titanic sent out distress calls.

AmericanMaid
04-25-2005, 09:17 AM
The Versailles Treaty. It wasn't a peace treaty, it was a revenge treaty that set the board for WWII. Wilson had the right idea. Too bad America didn't support him.

empty filing cabinet
04-25-2005, 07:49 PM
1. Hannibal, choosing the indirect strategy of breaking the Roman empire through sustained pressure, rather than directly knocking over Rome on his initial roll through Italy.


2. Israel could have rescued the Muslim Bosnians from genocide when the effete Europeans flaked out.

kunilou
04-25-2005, 08:37 PM
Every country in Europe falling like dominos when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assasinated.

cornflakes
04-26-2005, 12:35 AM
The Versailles Treaty. It wasn't a peace treaty, it was a revenge treaty that set the board for WWII. Wilson had the right idea. Too bad America didn't support him.Beat me to it. A less desperate Germany would not have turned to the Nazis.

How about the failure of the West to act on the rift between the Soviet Union and China, and instead play out the Cold War with the attitude that "all Communists are the same"?

GrizzRich
04-26-2005, 12:45 AM
Sony not allowing Beta to be open-marketed.

RealityChuck
04-26-2005, 07:53 AM
The minor German official deciding to allow Lenin to cross German territory to get to Russia after the first Russian Revolution. No Lenin, no communism (the communists within Russia at the time were disorganized and confused).

OtakuLoki
04-26-2005, 08:08 AM
The Japanese not making a second (or was it a third?) bombing run at Pearl Harbor, because they were worried about the US carriers showing up.

Can you explain just what this would have done? The US fleet at Pearl was devastated. You can't even use decimated, since not even 10% of the fleet was combat capable. ALL the BB's were sunk. Even the Nevada, which was still combat capable. Smaller combatants were less devastated, but still in disarray.

Tuckerfan
04-26-2005, 08:19 AM
Can you explain just what this would have done? The US fleet at Pearl was devastated. You can't even use decimated, since not even 10% of the fleet was combat capable. ALL the BB's were sunk. Even the Nevada, which was still combat capable. Smaller combatants were less devastated, but still in disarray.But the surviving vessels were quickly repaired and put back in service, so the US didn't have to rebuild it's Pacific fleet from scratch. Had the entire fleet docked at Pearl been wiped out, it would have taken the US longer to engage the Japanese in the Pacific theater, thus allowing them to strenghten and expand their grip in the Pacific. As it was, the US took a terrible beating from the Japanese until the Battle of Midway, when we were finally able to gain the upper hand on them.


Another missed opportunity was the Germans not assuming that the Enigma machine codes would be broken at some point, and continuing to use them throughout the war.

The US and Britain also missed out on jet engine development, starting only after the German programs were well underway. Had the US and Britain understood the potential of the jet engine, they could have fielded jet planes during the war, and drove the Germans from the skies much sooner.

Hitler not allowing the army to finish retreating Allied forces at Dunkirk.

OtakuLoki
04-26-2005, 08:24 AM
The thing that I disagree about is that since the key to Midway wasn't the small combatants, but the carriers, there was no way that any number of attack runs at Pearl would have taken those out. Whether the US would have put the birdfarms to sea to save Midway without sufficient forces to cover them is a legetimate question, though I suspect that enough escorts could have been scrounged from the mainland bases to make the decision to stand at Midway basically unchanged.

Tuckerfan
04-26-2005, 08:33 AM
The thing that I disagree about is that since the key to Midway wasn't the small combatants, but the carriers, there was no way that any number of attack runs at Pearl would have taken those out. Whether the US would have put the birdfarms to sea to save Midway without sufficient forces to cover them is a legetimate question, though I suspect that enough escorts could have been scrounged from the mainland bases to make the decision to stand at Midway basically unchanged.
Right, Midway was the first (if not only) Naval battle where the combatant ships never saw one another, and the way I've always seen it discussed that if the entire fleet at Pearl (sans carriers, of course, since those were out to sea at the time of the attack) was lost, the US would have been screwed for a considerable period of time before they could go after the Japanese. I'm not familiar with what escort ships wold have been available at the mainland fleet to pull from, but given the edginess of America, immediately following the attack, I'd imagine that commanders would be reluctant to pull them so far away from the American mainland, in case the Japanese decided to attack there next (which was thought to be likely).

The Pacific Theater also got only 15% of the US military production until Germany fell. FDR and the others feeling that Germany was a more serious threat than the Japanese were. So if the US had shifted more materiel to the Pacific theater to shore up the losses at Pearl, it would have hampered their efforts at going after Germany. This would have lengthened the war, possibly considerably, if Germany had had time to increase the number of advanced weapons at her disposal.

That's not to say that the Allies couldn't have gone on to defeat the Axis powers, but it would have taken a lot longer and cost many more lives.

OtakuLoki
04-26-2005, 08:45 AM
Now we're really going far off into 'what-if's.' ;)

But, the press for a Japanese attack at Midway was in response to the Doolittle Raid, since the Japanese high command believed that the bombers had to have been launched from there. (Launching land-based bombers from carriers? Nahhhh) And I don't know whether the raid would have happened or not without sufficient escorts. An interesting quandary. Personally, I'm going to base my gut reaction on Yamamoto's thinking: He was pretty damned accurate, after all: "I'll be able to run wild in the Pacific for six months," is how what he'd said is usually translated, and since that was based on a comparison of industrial potential at least as much as military potential... <shrug>

On the OP's topic, what might have happened had the Washington Treaty limiting BB's and heavy combatants also included carriers? After all, one reason the Japanese had such a relatively large carrier fleet was because they decided to keep their started battle cruiser hulls as carriers, the one heavy combatant fleet element that wasn't limited by the treaty.

OtakuLoki
04-26-2005, 08:49 AM
BTW, a neat and informative site about the Pacific War: Nihon Kaigun (http://www.combinedfleet.com/kaigun.htm).

TwoTrouts
04-26-2005, 09:13 AM
Missed opportunities: Both Tom Selleck and Nick Nolte turned down the role of Indiana Jones.

wonderwench
04-26-2005, 09:18 AM
- The guy who sold DOS to Bill Gates is probably still kicking himself.

- IBM not insisting on exclusivity rights for the distribution of DOS in the Microsoft licensing deal.

- Apple not licensing its OS in the mid-80s.

- Xerox Parc and the entire PC industry; just about every major innovation came out of the Parc, and Xerox punted on the commercial development.

......

- Christianity had the chance to develop healthy archetypes for male and female spirituality in the form of a man-wife relationship. Instead, the Church adopted a celibate son and a virgin mother.

Tuckerfan
04-26-2005, 09:19 AM
Missed opportunities: Both Tom Selleck and Nick Nolte turned down the role of Indiana Jones.
And James Caan turned down the lead role in Kramer vs. Kramer, but the problem with mentioning an actor turning down a role in a film is that many times a film wouldn't have worked with a different actor in the role.

SiXSwordS
04-26-2005, 09:24 AM
Hitler not allowing the army to finish retreating Allied forces at Dunkirk.
I'm guessing this could be an entire topic by itself.

If the Union Army had pursued Robert E. Lee and the army of Northern Virginia after Gettysburg, the war might have ended much, much sooner. (1864 saw some of the bloodiest fighting of the war including important Confederate victories such as cold harbor (http://americancivilwar.com/statepic/va/va062.html).)

wonderwench
04-26-2005, 09:27 AM
- The GOP getting down and dirty in 1992 and exposing Clinton for the slimey, lying creep that he really is.

don't ask
04-26-2005, 09:44 AM
On December 14, 1963 the Beatles Fan Club held a convention to make up for the unavailability of the sign on goodies. About 3,000 people turned up and although the 4 Beatles were happy to sign anything put in front of them most people turned up with nothing and merely shook hands with the Fab Four. An autographed copy of Please Please Me or With the Beatles sells for up to $80,000.

Afterwards the moptops played for the 3,000 fans.

Neurotik
04-26-2005, 09:51 AM
Right, Midway was the first (if not only) Naval battle where the combatant ships never saw one another
Actually, that was Coral Sea, about a month earlier.
Missed opportunities: Both Tom Selleck and Nick Nolte turned down the role of Indiana Jones.
Well, Tom Selleck didn't really turn it down. IIRC, he wanted to do it, but he had already signed on to do Magnum, PI and the producers wouldn't grant him permission to do Indiana Jones.

JohnT
04-26-2005, 10:35 AM
My Dad.

Had an opportunity to buy the first McDonalds franchise in Milwaukee Wisconsin, back in the mid/late 50's.

Turned it down, thought "the concept wouldn't fly."

Oops!

JohnT
04-26-2005, 10:38 AM
- The guy who sold DOS to Bill Gates is probably still kicking himself.



Tim Patterson retired in 1998 with tens of millions in MS stock, all granted to him as a part of his agreement to sell DOS and later employment agreements with MS.

If he's kicking himself, it's for another reason, not the sell of DOS to MS (whom, Patterson will freely admit, was able to do far more with the program then he ever could.)

Shodan
04-26-2005, 10:48 AM
I had a chance to buy Burger King stock when I was twelve.

Regards,
Shodan

Shodan
04-26-2005, 10:51 AM
And on a more serious note -

I read somewhere that Hitler insisted on switching from military targets to blitzing London in the Battle of Britain, and that if he had concentrated on targetting the RAF, he may have laid the groundwork for a successful invasion of Great Britain. I am constantly stunned by the level of expertise on WWII I read hereabouts - any truth in this?

Regards,
Shodan

RealityChuck
04-26-2005, 10:52 AM
Before choosing DOS as its PC operating system, IBM was interested in using CP/M. But before negotiating, they asked Digital Research (the owner of CP/M) to sign a nondisclosure agreement. Digital Research declined. IBM then went to Microsoft and DOS.

ralph124c
04-26-2005, 11:35 AM
The escape of Louis XVI of France: had Louis managed to leave France, the whole french revolution might never have happened.

JohnT
04-26-2005, 12:21 PM
Before choosing DOS as its PC operating system, IBM was interested in using CP/M. But before negotiating, they asked Digital Research (the owner of CP/M) to sign a nondisclosure agreement. Digital Research declined. IBM then went to Microsoft and DOS.

Actually, it was a bit more complicated than that. Gary Kildall went out for a flying excursion the day he was supposed to meet with IBM. He left his wife, Doris (I think), in charge for the day and she was the one who refused to sign IBM's non-disclosure agreement, at least w/o consulting with her husband first.

JohnT
04-26-2005, 12:25 PM
I had a chance to buy Burger King stock when I was twelve.

Regards,
Shodan

Depending upon when you were 12, this might be a good thing or a bad thing. ;)

Agonist
04-26-2005, 02:12 PM
About two generations after Constantine converted to Christianity and basically made it the state religion, Emperor Julian seized the throne. He declared himself to be pagan, and tossed the Christians back out of the government (but wasn't into any particular religious persecution).

If he hadn't gotten himself killed in a military campaign against Persia, Europe might still be pagan, or at least mixed pagan/Christian.

Shodan
04-26-2005, 03:46 PM
Depending upon when you were 12, this might be a good thing or a bad thing. ;)
I went back and checked about when we bought our first house.

I would have been a millionaire. :smack:

Regards,
Shodan

JRDelirious
04-26-2005, 04:18 PM
IIRC, the big mistake of the Japanese line commanders at Pearl Harbor was not going after destruction of the drydocks and the fuel depots, thus enabling the Navy to (a) continue supporting the carrier/sub-based rump fleet and (b) rebuild many of the damaged combatants, from a base in Mid-Pacific rather than California.

OtakuLoki
04-26-2005, 04:24 PM
Actually the BEST way that the IJN had to close Pearl to the US Navy for a very long period of time would have been to sink the USS Nevada in the lone channel into or out of the harbor when she made her run for open water. Not only would that have denied the use of the port facilities you're talking about, but it would have made even bringing in salvage equipment impossible until the hulk of the Nevada was moved.

(Sorry to sound like a broken record, I'm incredibly impressed with the actions of the crew of the Nevada that morning. Getting underway during the attack was tough enough with approximately 1/3 of the crew onboard. Preventing her from sinking in the channel was heroic. Even after she was beached/sank, she still continued to be a prime target for the Japanese, because she sank with her weather deck above water. Even after she sank the crew kept fighting, controlling fires, and shooting at Japanese aircraft.)

notfrommensa
04-26-2005, 07:22 PM
Me....A Small inheritance (17K) came my way in the mid-80's. Someone suggested I put the windfall into a small computer company. Microsoft.

I often wonder where I would be if I had done that, but then again I probably would have sold it when it doubled as I normally do now when any stock I own does well.

ccwaterback
04-27-2005, 02:19 AM
- Apple not licensing its OS in the mid-80s.


Jobs allowing Gates anywhere near his inventions.

ccwaterback
04-27-2005, 02:28 AM
Here's a list of blunders I have saved for a long time, some are disputed.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"640K ought to be enough for anybody." -- Bill Gates, 1981

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." --Popular
Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

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

"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." --The editor in charge of business
books for Prentice Hall, 1957

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

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." --Ken
Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp.,
1977

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.

"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would
pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?" --David Sarnoff's
associates 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." --A Yale University
management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing
reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal
Express Corp.)

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?" --H.M. Warner, Warner
Brothers, 1927.

"I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not
Gary Cooper." --Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading
role in "Gone With The Wind."

"A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports
say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you
make." --Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting Mrs. Fields'
Cookies.

"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."
--Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." --Lord Kelvin,
president, Royal Society, 1895.

"If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the experiment. The
literature was full of examples that said you can't do this."
--Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M
"Post-It" Notepads.

"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.'" --Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve
Jobs on attempts to get Atari and H-P interested in his and Steve
Wozniak's personal computer.

"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." --1921 New York Times editorial about Robert
Goddard's revolutionary rocket work.

"You want to have consistent and uniform muscle development across all
of your muscles? It can't be done. It's just a fact of life. You just
have to accept inconsistent muscle development as an unalterable
condition of weight training." --Response to Arthur Jones, who solved
the "unsolvable" problem by inventing Nautilus.

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

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

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

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

"The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the
intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon". --Sir John Eric Ericksen,
British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria
1873.

"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."
--Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929.

Gymnopithys
04-27-2005, 03:08 AM
Russia selling Alaska to the US for a song.

OtakuLoki
04-27-2005, 05:36 AM
"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." --1921 New York Times editorial about Robert
Goddard's revolutionary rocket work.

The NY Times did apologise to Goddard, in print.

Further investigation and experimentation have confirmed the findings of Isaac Newton in the 17th century, and it is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum as well as in an atmosphere. The Times regrets the error.


Of course, this was some time after the good doctor's death. While Apollo 11 was en route to the moon. :rolleyes:

CalMeacham
04-27-2005, 07:54 AM
"Everything that can be invented has been invented." --Charles
H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.



This, it turns out, is a falsehood. Duell never said it, nor did anyone else running the Patent Office. There was a lengthy article researching this published twice in The Skeptical Inquirer. But the damned story (which originally didn't give the name of the speaker) made it into Christopher Cerf's The Experts Speak (which asigned it to Duell) and from there was widely disseminated. Sometimes ignorance is particularly hard to eradicate.

I'd like to look into this one further:


"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." --Lord Kelvin,
president, Royal Society, 1895.


John Stringfellow had demonstrated his steam engine-powered heavier-than-air (although unmanned) flyuing macine decades before 1895, and heavier-than-air helicopter-type devices go back even further. It's hard to believe that Kelvin didn't know about at least some of these.

bonzer
04-27-2005, 09:59 AM
John Stringfellow had demonstrated his steam engine-powered heavier-than-air (although unmanned) flyuing macine decades before 1895, and heavier-than-air helicopter-type devices go back even further. It's hard to believe that Kelvin didn't know about at least some of these.

I suspect you'll be lucky to locate a source for the quote, since it's indeed also one of those that are repeated endlessly without anyone doing so ever wondering where it's from.
By contrast, the other similarish Kelvin quote that is often paired with it can be traced. It's usually quoted as something like "I have not the smallest molecule of faith in aerial navigation other than ballooning". The full context is a letter of 1896 to Major Baden Baden-Powell (http://www.pinetreeweb.com/bp-brother-baden.htm) (the younger brother of Robert) of the Royal Aeronautical Society:

I am afraid I am not in the flight for “aerial navigation”. I was greatly interested in your work with kites; but I have not the smallest molecule of faith in aerial navigation other than ballooning or of expectation of good results from any of the trials we hear of. So you will understand that I would not care to be a member of the aëronautical Society.

The actual letter can be seen here (http://zapatopi.net/kelvin/papers/letters.html). Even that quote can be screwed up by those repeating it uncritically: this page (http://www.futurestudies.co.uk/predictions/predictionsnew.shtml) manages to attribute it to Lord Rayleigh.

It seems clear to me from Baden-Powell letter that Kelvin merely thought that the subject was unpromising at that time. He was wrong in this judgement, of course, but his stance doesn't strike me as silly.
Now he may just have been being polite in giving Baden-Powell the brush-off, but I suspect that if he did ever say that "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible", then some context is missing that may make the statement look less blunt.

JohnBckWLD
04-27-2005, 01:27 PM
I would have liked to see the Phillipines...incorporated as States in the union after the end of the Spanish American War.On the downside, that would have resulted in a worldwide women's shoe some 67 years later.

JThunder
04-27-2005, 01:46 PM
If only the Science Council had listened to Jor-El...

ralph124c
04-27-2005, 03:33 PM
(from General Sir Douglas Haig, Supreme commander of the British Army in France, WWI): "machine guns are a much-overrated weapon, and one or two per battalion is more than sufficient"!
General Haig went on to lead the Britsh army in 4 years of slaughter on the Western front. He retired with full honors and a100,000 pound bonus!!-no dount the undertakers and coffin makers of GB were grateful as well. :smack:

jsc1953
04-27-2005, 03:45 PM
Before choosing DOS as its PC operating system, IBM was interested in using CP/M. But before negotiating, they asked Digital Research (the owner of CP/M) to sign a nondisclosure agreement. Digital Research declined. IBM then went to Microsoft and DOS.

And sleepy little Pacific Grove, CA would be the hub of the software world, while Washington state would just be that rainy place where Boeing used to be.

ccwaterback
04-28-2005, 02:31 AM
Starting a war over WMD that never existed.