'The Official Truth' and
'Great Quotes from Great Skeptics')
In all fairness to those who by training are not prepared to evaluate the
fundamental difficulties of going from one planet to another, or even from
the earth to the moon, it must be stated that there is not the slightest
possibility of such journeys.
-F.R. Moulton, American astronomer (1935)
Man won't fly for a thousand years.
- Wilbur Wright,
to brother Orville after a disappointing flying experiment (1901)
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 Bonaparte to Robert Fulton, upon hearing
of the latter's plans for a steam-powered engine.
I have not the smallest molecule of faith in aerial navigation other than
-Lord Kelvin, engineer and physicist (c. 1890)
The Panama Canal is actually a thing of the past, and Nature in her works
will soon obliterate all traces of French energy and money expended on the
Scientific American (1981)
A committee, organized to study Columbus' plan to sail west to discover a
shorter route to the Indies, reporting to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella
of Spain in 1486 that the trip was impossible because
- A voyage to Asia would require three years
- The Western Ocean is infinite and perhaps unnavigable.
- If he reached the Antipodes [the land on the other side of the globe from Europe]
he could not get back.
- There are no Antipodes because the greater part of the globe is covered with
water, and because Saint Augustine says so ...
- Of five zones, only three are habitable.
- So many centuries after the Creation it was unlikely
that anyone could find hitherto unknown lands of any value.
Aerial flight is one of that class of problems with which man will never
be able to cope.
- Simon Newcomb, American astronomer (1903)
If God had intended that man should fly, he would have given him wings.
-Widely attributed to George W. Melville, chief
engineer of the U.S. Navy (c. 1900)
Atomic energy might be as good as our present-day explosives, but it is
unlikely to produce anything very much more dangerous.
-Winston Churchill (1939)
That is the biggest fool thing we have ever done ... The bomb will never
go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives.
- U.S. Admiral William D. Leahy to President Truman,
on atomic weaponry (1945)
I am tired of all this sort of thing called science here ... We have spent
millions in that sort of thing for the last few years, and it is time it
should be stopped.
- U.S. Senator Simon Cameron, on the Smithsonian Institute (1901)
I watched his countenance closely, to see if he was not deranged ... and I
was assured by other senators after he left the room that they had no
confidence in it.
- U.S. Senator Smith of Indiana, after witnessing
a demonstration of Samuel Morses's telegraph (1842)}
X-rays are a hoax.
-Lord Kelvin, engineer and physicist (c. 1900)
... too far-fetched to be considered.
- The editor of Scientific American, in a letter to
Robert Goddard about Goddard's idea of a rocket-accelerated
airplane bomb (1940)
They never will try to steal the phonograph. It is not of any commercial
- Thomas Edison (c. 1915)
Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a conspicuous
-Henry Morton, President of the Stevens Institute of
Technology, on Edison's incandescent lamp (c.1880)
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, Anticipations (1901)
People give ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the
earth revolves, not the heavens of the firmament, the sun and the
moon ... This fool wishes to reverse the entire scheme of astronomy; but
sacred Scripture tells us that Jashua commanded the sun to stand still, not
- Martin Luther, about 1540, in Table Talk.
The view that the sun stands motionless at the center of the universe is
foolish, philosophically false, utterly heretical, because contrary to Holy
Scripture. The view that the earth is not the center of the universe and
even has a daily rotation is philosophically false, and at least an
-Holy Office, Roman Catholic Church, edict of March 5, 1616.
The multitude of books is a great evil. There is no limit to this fever
for writing; every one must be an author; some out of vanity, to acquire
celebrity and raise up a name, others for the sake of mere gain.
-Martin Luther (1483-1546), Table Talk.
(what would he think of the world wide web ?)
Lee DeForest has said in many newspapers and over his signature that it
would be possible to transmit the human voice across the Atlantic before
many years. Based on these absurd and deliberately misleading statements,
the misguided public ... has been persuaded to purchase stock in his
- a U.S. District Attorney, prosecuting American
inventor Lee DeForest for selling stock
fraudulently through the mail for his Radio
Telephone Company (1913)
The amount of misguided ingenuity which has been expended on these two
problems of submarine and aerial navigation during the nineteenth century
will offer one of the most curious and interesting studies to the future
historian of technologic progress.
- George Sutherland, American lawyer, 20th Century Inventions (1900)
A web of naked fancies.
- A critic's reaction to the publication of physicist
George Simon Ohm's theory of electricity (Ohm's law) in 1827
Scientific Biographies and Quotations.