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A Modern History of Kneejerk Skepticism   

An undocumented and possibly apocryphal timeline of classic debunkery, assembled from anonymous internet sources.



"Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy!"

     -- Drillers whom Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859


"Well-informed people know it is impossible to transmit the voice over wires and that were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value."

     -- Boston Post, 1865


"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.


"This telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."

     -- An internal Western Union memo, 1876


"Radio has no future." "X-rays are clearly a hoax". "The aeroplane is scientifically impossible." 

     -- Royal Society president Lord Kelvin, 1897-9


"Everything that can be invented has already been invented."

     -- Charles H. Duell, director of the U.S. Patent Office, 1899


"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."

     -- Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre, circa 1910


"There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom."

     -- Nobel Prize-winning physicist Robert Milliken, 1923


"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.


"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"

     -- H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927


"Can't act. Can't sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little." 

     -- A film company's verdict on Fred Astaire's screen test, 1928 


"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."

     -- Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929.


"Television won't matter in your lifetime or mine." 

     -- Radio Times editor Rex Lambert, 1936


"A rocket will never be able to leave the earth's atmosphere."

     -- The New York Times, 1936


"Forget it. No Civil War picture ever made a nickel." 

     -- MGM executive, advising against investing in Gone With The Wind, 1938


"That rainbow song's no good. Take it out." 

     -- MGM memo after first showing of The Wizard Of Oz, 1939


"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

     -- IBM chairman Thomas Watson, 1943


"You'd better learn secretarial skills or else get married." 

     -- Modeling agency, rejecting Marilyn Monroe in 1944


"The atom bomb will never go off - and I speak as an expert in explosives." 

     -- U.S. Admiral William Leahy in 1945


"Television won't last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night."

     -- Producer Darryl Zanuck, 20th Century Fox, 1946


"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."

     -- Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949


"If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one."

     -- W.C. Heuper, National Cancer Institute, 1954


"You ain't going nowhere, son. You ought to go back to driving a truck."

     --The Grand Ole Opry's Jim Denny to Elvis Presley, 1954


"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


"By 2000, politics will simply fade away. We will not see any political parties."

     -- Visionary and inventor R. Buckminster Fuller, 1966


"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, 1970


"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, 1975


"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."

     -- Ken Olson, founder, chairman & president of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977


"640K ought to be enough for anybody."

     -- Bill Gates, 1981


"To believe that Apple can somehow succeed where all others have failed is to ignore some fundamental realities of tablet computing." 

     -- Randall C. Kennedy, Infoworld, Dec. 22, 2009


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