Throughout history man has been making predictions of the future. With the advent of technology and globalization, the predictions moved away from religious topics to scientific, technological and social. Unfortunately for the speakers, many of these failed predictions have been recorded for all future generations to laugh at.

So here I have compiled some of the most famous failed predictions of all time. I hope you will like it.

“It will be years not in my time before a woman will become Prime Minister.”
Margaret Thatcher, October 26th, 1969.

She became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom only 10 years after saying that, holding her chair from 1979 to 1990. But she wasn’t all that wrong since she is the only woman to have held this post. Maybe she should have added the word “again.”

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
–Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.

It may sound ridiculous now, but the prediction was actually true for about ten years after it was made. Almost every forecaster would settle for a ten year limit on the testing of their forecasts. Of course, by the 1980s and the advent of the PC, such a statement looked plain daft.

“That virus [HIV] is a pussycat.”
Dr. Peter Duesberg, U.C. Berkeley, 1988,

By 2006, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS and the World Health Organization estimated that AIDS has killed more than 25 million people since it was first recognized on December 1, 1981.

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

Only one hundred fifty years passed by since the first attempt to dig out oil from the ground met such contempt, and now the whole world is trying to look for unimaginable places to satiate the thirst for money that is propelled and sustained on this black gold.

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

10 years later, in 1946, the first American-built rocket to leave the earth’s atmosphere was launched from White Sands, attaining 50 miles of altitude.

“The singer [Mick Jagger] will have to go; the BBC won’t like him.”
First Rolling Stones manager Eric Easton to his partner after watching them perform

We can only wonder what Sir Michael Philip “Mick” Jagger, Golden Globe, Grammy Award-winning English singer-songwriter, rock musician and occasional actor, has to say about it now.

“Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.”
Dr Dionysys Larder (1793-1859)

It may sound impossible to Dr Larder, professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy at the University College London back in the 1800, but in 1939 the first high speed train went from Milan to Florence at 165 km/h (102.5 mph). Thankfully no one died. Nowadays these trains go at 200 km/h (125 mph) and faster.

“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.”
Lord Kelvin, 1895.

This was said by Lord Kelvin (British mathematician and physicist, president of the British Royal Society) only eight years before brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright took their home-built flyer to the sandy dunes of Kitty Hawk, cranked up the engine, and took off into the history books.

“There will never be a bigger plane built.”
A Boeing engineer, after the first flight of the 247

What would this engineer say if he saw the current largest passenger plane on earth, the Airbus A380? The Airbus A380 has 50% more floor space than arch rival Boeing’s 747 Jumbo, with room for duty-free shops, restaurants and even a sauna, and can provide site for up to 853 people.

“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.

In 1964 the United States Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health began suggesting the relationship between smoking and cancer, which confirmed its suggestions 20 years later in the 1980s. Nowadays, it’s well known that long-term exposure to tobacco smoke is the most common causes of lung cancer.

“640K ought to be enough for anybody.”


In 1981, Gates reportedly said that nobody would ever need more than 640 kilobytes of memory on their personal computer. Contrary to what Gates thought, most PCs today come with at least 16GB of memory.

Author Ahsan Mukhtar

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10 Responses to 10 Most Famous Failed Predictions of all Time

  1. Clixter says:

    Hmmm.. Great post man!!
    The last prediction was really weird!! LOL

  2. ali360 says:

    Really awesome!!! nice post

  3. Shani says:

    Not sure if “nowadays computers come with at least 16 gb of ram” is correct but 4 gb is more like it. In any case it IS a fail

  4. Anthony says:

    Sorry to inform you, but Peter Duesberg's review of HIV as the cause of AIDS in the top peer reviewed journals Cancer research and Proceedings of the National Acdemy in 1987 and 1989 have never been refuted in those same journals nor has such refutation been attempted there. His critique stands and anyone familiar with the extensive scientific literature on this issue knows that it is the mainstream idea that is the incorrect prediction – there has been no spread of HIV in the US, the drugs with which it has been treated on this basis have produced no decline in mortality except by being reduced in strength and dosage, and the status quo has been defended only by nasty politics. In other words, the journal literature in science so far shows that Duesberg is 100% right. But almost 100% of the world believes otherwise! But great post – always enlightening to know how often predictions are foolish!

  5. Anthony says:

    Sorry, that should be “inform” not infirm. But great post – always enlightening to know how often predictions are foolish!

  6. Anthony says:

    Sorry to infirm you, but Peter Duesberg's review of HIV as the cause of AIDS in the top peer reviewed journals Cancer research and Proceedings of the National Acdemy in 1987 and 1989 have never been refuted in those same journals nor has such refutation been attempted there. His critique stands and anyone familiar with the extensive scientific literature on this issue knows that it is the mainstream idea that is the incorrect prediction – there has been no spread of HIV in the US, the drugs with which it has been treated on this basis have produced no decline in mortality except by being reduced in strength and dosage, and the status quo has been defended only by nasty politics. In other words, the journal literature in science so far shows that Duesberg is 100% right. But almost 100% of the world believes otherwise!

  7. Anthony says:

    Sorry, that should be “inform” not infirm. But great post – always enlightening to know how often predictions are foolish!

  8. Guest says:

    Cool. Last one is actually funny. I'd die if I only had that much memory on my laptop!!!

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