Incorrect predictions Quotes

  • 1 Sourced
    o 1.1 Transportation technology
    o 1.2 Computers
    o 1.3 Miscellaneous
  • 2 Attributed
    o 2.1 Technology
    + 2.1.1 Railroads
    + 2.1.2 Light bulb
    + 2.1.3 Telephone, telegraph
    + 2.1.4 Automobiles
    + 2.1.5 Airplanes
    + 2.1.6 Radio
    + 2.1.7 Film and film technology
    + 2.1.8 Rockets
    + 2.1.9 Television
    + 2.1.10 Atomic/nuclear power
    + 2.1.11 Computers
    + 2.1.12 Space travel
    + 2.1.13 Miscellaneous technology
    o 2.2 Science, medicine, and health
    o 2.3 Bad predictions
    + 2.3.1 Future historical, social, and pop-cultural events
    + 2.3.2 Celebrities, athletes, and great artists and their works
    + 2.3.3 Entrepreneurs and their revolutionary ideas
  • 3 Misattributed

    Transportation technology

  • What can be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out of locomotives traveling twice as fast as stagecoaches?
    o The Quarterly Review, March, 1825.

  • That the automobile has practically reached the limit of its development is suggested by the fact that during the past year no improvements of a radical nature have been introduced.
    o Scientific American, January 2, 1909.


  • Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and weigh only 1.5 tons.
    o Popular Mechanics, March 1949.

  • Moores ‘Law’. ‘The complexity for minimum component costs has increased at a rate of roughly a factor of two per year … ‘ Although this overstated can be said to be true depending on how you measure and interpret it, any articles that quote it or ask if it is still pertinent should be taken with salt.


  • We can close the books on infectious diseases.
    o Surgeon General of the United States William H. Stewart, 1969; speaking to the U.S. Congress – cited in The Killers Within: The Deadly Rise Of Drug-Resistant Bacteria by Mark J. Plotkin and Michael Shnayerson, 2003, ISBN 0316735663.

  • Democracy will be dead by 1950.
    o John Langdon-Davies, A Short History of The Future, 1936.

  • With over fifteen types of foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big share of the market for itself.
    o Business Week, August 2, 1968.



    Technology refers to tools, machines, and other tangible devices that are used by humans for certain processes.


  • Rail travel at high speed is not possible, because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.
    o Dr Dionysius Lardner (1793-1859), professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy, University College London.

    Light bulb

  • … good enough for our transatlantic friends … but unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific men.
    o British Parliamentary Committee, referring to Edison’s light bulb, 1878.

  • Such startling announcements as these should be deprecated as being unworthy of science and mischievious to its true progress.
    o William Siemens, on Edison’s light bulb, 1880.

  • Everyone acquainted with the subject will recognize it as a conspicuous failure.
    o Henry Morton, president of the Stevens Institute of Technology, on Edison’s light bulb, 1880.

    Telephone, telegraph

  • This “telephone” has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.
    o A memo at Western Union, 1878 (or 1876).

  • The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.
    o Sir William Preece, Chief Engineer, British Post Office, 1878.

  • It’s a great invention but who would want to use it anyway?
    o Rutherford B. Hayes, U.S. President, after a demonstration of Alexander Bell’s telephone, 1877.

  • Well-informed people know that it is impossible to transmit the human voice over wires as may be done with dots and dashes of Morse code, and that, were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value.
    o Unidentified Boston newspaper, 1865
    o Quoted in Jehl, Francis (1936). Menlo Park Reminiscences, 1st edition, unidentified page (of 430), Dearborn, Michigan: Edison Institute.
    o Re-quoted in (1994) “What Use Is a Jelly Baby?”, Even Odder Perceptions, p. 18, Routledge. ISBN 0415061067.

  • Transmission of documents via telephone wires is possible in principle, but the apparatus required is so expensive that it will never become a practical proposition.
    o Dennis Gabor, British physicist and author of Inventing the Future, 1962.


  • The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty—a fad.
    o The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903.

  • The ordinary ‘horseless carriage’ is at present a luxury for the wealthy; and although its price will probably fall in the future, it will never, of course, come into as common use as the bicycle.
    o Literary Digest, 1899.


  • Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical (sic) and insignificant, if not utterly impossible.
    o Simon Newcomb; The Wright Brothers flew at Kittyhawk 18 months later. Newcomb was not impressed.

  • Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.
    o Lord Kelvin, British mathematician and physicist, president of the British Royal Society, 1895.

  • It is apparent to me that the possibilities of the aeroplane, which two or three years ago were thought to hold the solution to the [flying machine] problem, have been exhausted, and that we must turn elsewhere.
    o Thomas Edison, American inventor, 1895.

  • Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.
    o Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre, 1904.

  • There will never be a bigger plane built.
    o A Boeing engineer, after the first flight of the 247, a twin engine plane that holds ten people.


  • Radio has no future.
    o Lord Kelvin, Scottish mathematician and physicist, former president of the Royal Society, 1897.

  • 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 company …
    o a U.S. District Attorney, prosecuting American inventor Lee DeForest for selling stock fraudulently through the mail for his Radio Telephone Company in 1913.

  • The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to no one in particular?
    o Associates of David Sarnoff responding to the latter’s call for investment in the radio in 1921.

    Film and film technology

  • The cinema is little more than a fad. It’s canned drama. What audiences really want to see is flesh and blood on the stage.
    o Charlie Chaplin, actor, producer, director, and studio founder, 1916.

  • Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?
    o H. M. Warner, co-founder of Warner Bros., 1927.
    o Full quote: “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk? The music — that’s the big plus about this.” [1]


  • That Professor Goddard with his ‘chair’ in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react—to say that would be absurd. Of course, he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.
    o 1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard’s breakthrough work on rockets. The remark was retracted in the July 17, 1969 issue, in a humorous editorial. This was just prior to the historic moon landing of Neil Armstrong, so of course Goddard’s theory of rockets had been proven correct after all.

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

  • … too far-fetched to be considered.
    o Editor of Scientific American, in a letter to Robert Goddard about Goddard’s idea of a rocket-accelerated airplane bomb, 1940 (German V2 missiles came down on London 3 years later).

  • We stand on the threshold of rocket mail.
    o U.S. postmaster general Arthur Summerfield, in 1959.


  • While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially it is an impossibility, a development of which we need waste little time dreaming.
    o Lee DeForest, American radio pioneer and inventor of the vacuum tube, 1926.

  • Television won’t last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.
    o Darryl Zanuck, movie producer, 20th Century Fox, 1946.

  • Television won’t last. It’s a flash in the pan.
    o Mary Somerville, pioneer of radio educational broadcasts, 1948.

    Atomic/nuclear power

  • There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom.
    o Robert Millikan, American physicist and Nobel Prize winner, 1923.

  • There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.
    o Albert Einstein, 1932.

  • The energy produced by the breaking down of the atom is a very poor kind of thing. Anyone who expects a source of power from the transformation of these atoms is talking moonshine.
    o Ernest Rutherford, shortly after splitting the atom for the first time.

  • Atomic energy might be as good as our present-day explosives, but it is unlikely to produce anything very much more dangerous.
    o Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, then soon-to-be British Prime Minister, 1939.

  • That is the biggest fool thing we have ever done [research on]… The bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives.
    o Admiral William Leahy, U.S. Admiral working in the U.S. Atomic Bomb Project, advising President Truman on atomic weaponry, 1944.

  • The basic questions of design, material and shielding, in combining a nuclear reactor with a home boiler and cooling unit, no longer are problems… The system would heat and cool a home, provide unlimited household hot water, and melt the snow from sidewalks and driveways. All that could be done for six years on a single charge of fissionable material costing about $300.
    o Robert Ferry, executive of the U.S. Institute of Boiler and Radiator Manufacturers, 1955.

  • Nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality in 10 years.
    o Alex Lewyt, president of vacuum cleaner company Lewyt Corp., in the New York Times in 1955.


  • 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.
    o The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957.

  • [By 1985], machines [computers] will be capable of doing any work Man can do.
    o Herbert A. Simon, of Carnegie Mellon University, one of the founders of the field of artificial intelligence – speaking in 1965.

  • But what… is it good for?
    o IBM executive Robert Lloyd, speaking in 1968 about the microprocessor, the heart of today’s computers.

  • There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.
    o Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corportation (DEC), maker of big business minicomputers, arguing against the PC in 1977.

    Space travel

  • To place a man in a multi-stage rocket and project him into the controlling gravitational field of the moon where the passengers can make scientific observations, perhaps land alive, and then return to earth – all that constitutes a wild dream worthy of Jules Verne. I am bold enough to say that such a man-made voyage will never occur regardless of all future advances.
    o Lee DeForest, American radio pioneer and inventor of the vacuum tube, in 1926

  • Space travel is utter bilge.
    o Richard Van Der Riet Woolley, upon assuming the post of Astronomer Royal (UK) in 1956.

  • Space travel is bunk.
    o Sir Harold Spencer Jones, Astronomer Royal (UK), 1957 (two weeks later Sputnik orbited the Earth).

  • There is practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television, or radio service inside the United States.
    o T. Craven, FCC Commissioner (USA), in 1961 (the first commercial communications satellite went into service in 1965).

    Miscellaneous technology

  • What, sir, would you make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck? I pray you, excuse me, I have not the time to listen to such nonsense.
    o Napoleon Bonaparte, when told of Robert Fulton’s steamboat, 1800s.

  • The phonograph has no commercial value at all.
    o Thomas Edison, American inventor, 1880s.

  • X-rays will prove to be a hoax.
    o Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society, 1883.

  • Fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever.
    o Thomas Edison, American inventor, 1889 (Edison often ridiculed the arguments of competitor George Westinghouse for AC power).

  • I must confess that my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and floundering at sea.
    o H.G. Wells, British novelist, in 1901.

  • Caterpillar landships are idiotic and useless. Those officers and men are wasting their time and are not pulling their proper weight in the war.
    o Fourth Lord of the British Admiralty, 1915.

  • The idea that cavalry will be replaced by these iron coaches is absurd. It is little short of treasonous.
    o Comment of Aide-de-camp to Field Marshal Haig, at tank demonstration, 1916.

  • Very interesting Whittle, my boy, but it will never work.
    o Cambridge Aeronautics Professor, when shown Frank Whittle’s plan for the jet engine.

  • The world potential market for copying machines is 5000 at most.
    o IBM, to the eventual founders of Xerox, saying the photocopier had no market large enough to justify production, 1959.

  • 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’.
    o Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3M “Post-It” Notepads.

    Science, medicine, and health

    Science in this case refers to any of the diverse scientific fields of study, medicine refers to the scientific study of the body and how it functions, and health refers to the study of how to keep the body functioning well.

  • I would sooner believe that two Yankee professors lied, than that stones fell from the sky.
    o Thomas Jefferson, U.S. President, on hearing reports of meteorites, 1790s(?).

  • The abolishment of pain in surgery is a chimera. It is absurd to go on seeking it…knife and pain are two words in surgery that must forever be associated in the consciousness of the patient.
    o Dr. Alfred Velpeau, French surgeon, 1839.

  • Louis Pasteur’s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction.
    o Pierre Pachet, British surgeon and 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
    o John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, appointed Surgeon Extraordinary to Queen Victoria, 1873.

  • We are probably nearing the limit of all we can know about astronomy.
    o Simon Newcomb, Canadian-born American astronomer, 1888.

  • 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 supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote…. Our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals.
    o Albert. A. Michelson, German-born American physicist, 1894.

  • There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now; All that remains is more and more precise measurement.
    o Lord Kelvin, speaking to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1900.

  • If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one.
    o W.C. Heuper, National Cancer Institute, 1954.

    Bad predictions

    Bad predictions in this case refers to predictions about future events, enterprises, careers, etc. that proved to be wrong later.

    Future historical, social, and pop-cultural events

  • Four or five frigates will do the business without any military force.
    o British prime minister Lord North, on dealing with the rebellious American colonies, 1774.

  • Ours has been the first [expedition], and doubtless to be the last, to visit this profitless locality.
    o Lt. Joseph Ives, after visiting the Grand Canyon in 1861.

  • They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist-
    o Last words of Gen. John Sedgwick, spoken as he looked out over the parapet at enemy lines during the Battle of Spotsylvania in 1864.

  • No, it will make war impossible.
    o Hudson Maxim, inventor of the machine gun, in response to the question “Will this gun not make war more terrible?” from Havelock Ellis, an English scientist, 1893.

  • 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.
    o Simon Cameron, U.S. Senator, on the Smithsonian Institution, 1901.

  • Man will not fly for 50 years.
    o Wilbur Wright, American aviation pioneer, to brother Orville, after a disappointing flying experiment, 1901 (their first successful flight was in 1903).

  • The invention of aircraft will make war impossible in the future.
    o George Gissing, 1903.

  • Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote.
    o Grover Cleveland, U.S. President, 1905.

  • The coming of the wireless era will make war impossible, because it will make war ridiculous.
    o Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the radio, Technical World Magazine, October, 1912, page 145.

  • You will be home before the leaves have fallen from the trees.
    o Kaiser Wilhelm, to the German troops, August 1914.

  • Our country has deliberately undertaken a great social and economic experiment, noble in motive and far reaching in purpose.
    o Herbert Hoover, on Prohibition, 1928.

  • Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.
    o Irving Fisher, economics professor at Yale University, 1929.

  • This is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time.
    o Neville Chamberlain, British Prime Minister, September 30th, 1938.

  • The Americans are good about making fancy cars and refrigerators, but that doesn’t mean they are any good at making aircraft. They are bluffing. They are excellent at bluffing.
    o Hermann Goering, Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, 1942.

  • It will be gone by June.
    o Variety, passing judgement on rock ‘n roll in 1955.

  • A short-lived satirical pulp.
    o Time magazine, writing off Mad magazine in 1956.

  • We will bury you.
    o Nikita Kruschev, Soviet Premier, predicting Soviet communism will win over U.S. capitalism, 1958.

  • In all likelihood world inflation is over.
    o International Monetary Fund Ceo, 1959.

  • Reagan doesn’t have that presidential look.
    o United Artists Executive, rejecting Ronald Reagan as lead in 1964 film The Best Man.

  • And for the tourist who really wants to get away from it all, safaris in Vietnam
    o Newsweek, predicting popular holidays for the late 1960s.

  • Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop—because women like to get out of the house, like to handle merchandise, like to be able to change their minds.
    o Time, 1966, in one sentence writing off e-commerce long before anyone had ever heard of it.

  • If anything remains more or less unchanged, it will be the role of women.
    o David Riesman, conservative American social scientist, 1967.

  • It will be years – not in my time – before a woman will become Prime Minister.
    o Margaret Thatcher, future Prime Minister, October 26th, 1969.

  • Read my lips: NO NEW TAXES.
    o George H. W. Bush, 1988.

  • This antitrust thing will blow over.
    o Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft.

  • It doesn’t matter what he does, he will never amount to anything.
    o Albert Einstein’s teacher to his father, 1895

  • The war… will last… six days, six weeks… I doubt six months.
    o Donald Rumsfeld on the Iraq War

    Celebrities, athletes, and great artists and their works

  • I would say that this does not belong to the art which I am in the habit of considering music.
    o A Oulibicheff, reviewing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Not a prediction.

  • If Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony is not by some means abridged, it will soon fall into disuse.
    o Philip Hale, Boston Music Critic, 1837.

  • I’m sorry, Mr Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.
    o The San Francisco Examiner, rejecting a submission by Rudyard Kipling in 1889. Not a prediction.

  • Taking the best left-handed pitcher in baseball and converting him into a right fielder is one of the dumbest things I ever heard.
    o Tris Speaker, baseball expert, talking about Babe Ruth, 1919. Not a prediction.

  • By the year 1982 the graduated income tax will have practically abolished major differences in wealth.
    o Irwin Edman, professor of philosophy Columbia University, 1932.

  • Sure-fire rubbish.
    o Lawrence Gilman, reviewing Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin in the New York Herald Tribune, 1935. Not a prediction.

  • Just so-so in center field.
    o New York Daily News, after the premiere of Willie Mays, 1951. Not a prediction.

  • I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling on his face, and not Gary Cooper.
    o Gary Cooper, on declining the lead role in Gone with the Wind.

  • You better get secretarial work or get married.
    o Emmeline Snively, director of the Blue Book Modelling Modelling Agency, advising would-be model Marilyn Monroe in 1944.

  • We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.
    o Decca Records, when they rejected The Beatles, 1962.

  • The Beatles are not merely awful—I would consider it sacrilegious to say anything less than that they are godawful. They are so unbelievably horrible, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art, that they qualify as crowned heads of anti-music, even as the imposter popes went down in history as ‘anti-popes’.
    o William F. Buckley, 1964.

  • The singer (Mick Jagger) will have to go; the BBC won’t like him.
    o First Rolling Stones manager Eric Easton to his partner after watching them perform.

  • The case is a loser.
    o Johnnie Cochran, on soon-to-be client O.J.’s chances of winning, 1994.

    Entrepreneurs and their revolutionary ideas

  • …so many centuries after the Creation it is unlikely that anyone could find hitherto unknown lands of any value.
    o Committee advising King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain regarding a proposal by Christopher Columbus, 1486.

  • Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy.
    o Associates of Edwin L. Drake refusing his suggestion to drill for oil in 1859.

  • No one will pay good money to get from Berlin to Potsdam in one hour when he can ride his horse there in one day for free.
    o King William I of Prussia, on hearing of the invention of trains, 1864.

  • The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C’, the idea must be feasible.
    o A Yale University management professor in response to a college assignment by Fred Smith proposing a reliable overnight delivery service, in 1966. Smith would later go on to found Federal Express Corp.

  • 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.
    o Response to Debbi Fields’ idea of starting Mrs. Fields’ Cookies.

  • 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.’
    o Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computer Inc., on his and Steve Wozniak’s early attempts to distribute their personal computer.


  • Everything that can be invented has been invented.
    o Charles H. Duell, Comissioner of the US Patent Office, 1899.
    o Although most commonly attributed to him, (it has also been attributed to anonymous US Patent Office employees of varying dates, as well as British ones), there is no evidence that Duell ever held this opinion, let alone stated it. [2]

  • I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.
    o Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, on seeing the first mainframe computer in 1943.
    o There is no evidence that Watson ever said this. See his Wikipedia article for more information.

  • 640 K ought to be enough for anybody.
    o Variation: No one will need more than 640 kilobytes of memory for a personal computer.
    o Attributed to Bill Gates, 1981
    o Gates has denied saying either variation, and no verifiable source is known.

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