50 Historical Figures People Thought Were Nuts At The Time But Were Proven To Be Right Years Later
Throughout history, sometimes even the smallest actions have turned into pivotal moments. From innovations that led to changes to groundbreaking events that sparked movements and reshaped the entire world. But while some ideas were applauded and celebrated by society at the time, others were greeted with raised eyebrows and suspicious looks.
Many wonderful people were simply ahead of their time and got teased and ridiculed for it in every possible way. User AllofaSuddenStory decided to learn more about these historical figures and posted this question on Ask Reddit: "Who is someone that was mocked at the moment, but then proven right years later?"
Hundreds of history lovers shared their knowledge about people who thought of remarkable things yet didn’t get the recognition they deserved. Whether their suggestions were put together long before our time or in the recent past, we handpicked some of the most interesting responses to remind you not to jump to conclusions too quickly. Continue scrolling, upvote your favorite ones, and be sure to share your thoughts in the comments!
The doctor in China, Li Wenliang, who was arrested for trying to stop the spread of Covid from the start.
Stella Liebeck, the lady who got burned with McDonald's hot coffee. The media mocked her and accused her of a frivolous lawsuit but it was an ongoing problem that McDonald's served dangerously hot coffees that had injured many others.The coffee was hot enough to cause 3rd degree burns to her pelvic region and she was hospitalized for 8 days while she had to get skin grafts, and continued medical care for 2 years related to the burns. She originally just wanted her medical bills covered but McDonald's tried giving her an insultingly low amount, so then she was forced to open a lawsuit. The courts rightfully sided with her and forced McDonald's to regulate the temperature on their hot beverages.
To find out why historical figures were sometimes dismissed for their ideas, we reached out to historian Bethany Moore who runs the blog History And Moore. She told Bored Panda that those who found themselves mocked and ridiculed were simply misunderstood by others. "This would mostly happen to scientists who were trying to get their ideas out to a wider audience, that necessarily didn’t have the right education to understand or the inclination to even listen," she added.
As an example, Moore mentioned a man called Ignaz Semmelweis. "He was an obstetrician (a doctor who specializes in childbirth) in the 1840s in Vienna and he noticed that fewer women were dying when they were inspected by a doctor who had washed their hands between examining patients." However, since he did not grasp why this was the case, others were reluctant to listen to him.
"He eventually ended up being lured to an asylum," the historian continued. "Tragically, after Semmelweis was removed from the hospital, more women started dying because they were not being examined by doctors who washed their hands. Handwashing didn’t become commonplace in medicine for at least another 30 years after Semmelweis first made the connection."
First doctor to champion hand washing as a means to prevent spreading infection. Everyone made fun of him.
Henry Freeman, a lifeboatman in Whitby. He tried to get the other lifeboatmen to wear cork lifejackets, but no-one would but him.
During a great storm, the lifeboat was launched several times to help struggling vessels and sailors. On their sixth launch, disaster struck and the lifeboat capsized.
Only Henry survived thanks to his cork life jacket. They became compulsory for lifeboatmen shortly after that.
Banned from the BBC for ousting Jimmy Savile as being a horrendous pedophile.
Some 500 cases of abuse. Had his own set of keys to a psychiatric hospital where he would frequently abuse vulnerable children.
Moore suggested that the study of our past is not only about learning different dates and names. "Yes, those are an important part of the study of history, but there is so much more to the subject. The study of history teaches us the good and the bad of humanity; the developments by ancient civilizations that have led to our society being the way it is today; and gives us a better understanding of the world, to name but a few reasons."
"History, and the study of it, is one of the building blocks of a rounded education, teaching us to be more than just one person and to recognize the influence we have on the world."
First proposed that germs caused post-operative infections, and recommended that surgical instruments be sterilized between operations.
People thought he was nuts.
Barbara McClintock, she postulated the existence of transposons (certain types of genes) in DNA BEFORE anybody even knew what the actual structure of DNA is like, she was widely mocked by the scientific community at the time. Transposons were later confirmed to exist and she was awarded the Nobel.
Dr Bennet Omalu who found that American football players had chronic traumatic encephalopathy/ brain concussions which were slowly affecting their neurological and psychological functions. He was strongly opposed at first but then proved right. His biographic movie is named ' Concussion'.
After all, this fascinating subject is an endless source of adventure. Just think about the grand battles, significant events, and world-shaking inventions. And it’s especially interesting to learn about intriguing historical figures who were simply regular folk without an obvious connection to greatness, Moore said.
"Ordinary, everyday people like William Shakespeare who helped the English language develop into the rich tapestry it is today. People like Ada Lovelace, who is considered the first computer programmer for her work with Charles Babbage. People like Rosa Parks, who stood up to a system rigged against her. Ordinary people have become well known for a variety of reasons, and it is not unfeasible to think that any of us could have the same influences in years to come."
Greg Lemond. In 2001 he said Lance Armstrong was probably doping. He was threatened he took a huge image hit and his business opportunities suffered.
He never let up on lance despite the media campaigns, threats, damage to his reputation and business, and the recrimination of his peers in the cycling community. Until surprise surprise in 2012 it came out that lance Armstrong was doping. Who could have foreseen that? If only someone had told us.
Oh wait. Greg Lemond did. A decade ago.
Jimmy Carter. He recognized the need for The US to become energy independent and put measures into place that would have gotten us there by now. Of course, the first thing Ronnie RayGun did was undo every f*cking one of them. Many of our problems over the last 45 years have stemmed from The Middle East and either directly or indirectly involved oil. I’m obviously simplifying things here, but in the big picture, he was spot on. Even his critics at the time have recently admitted that he was on the correct path. It’s also pretty apparent that Carter was a good man, as evidenced by how he has carried himself over half a lifetime post-presidency.
John Snow in 1854 tried to tell everyone about cholera, and how it was being caused by the water supply, no one believed him until he took illegal action and saved many lives
One of the many things that makes history truly engaging is the people, the historian argued. "Studying [them] makes history far more tangible and enriching than just reeling off a collection of dates and events that happened."
"I think in the world we live in today, history continues to show how important it is as a subject and must continue to encourage those around us to study the subject. The philosopher George Santayana said in 1905 'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.' And that is certainly happening at the moment, with large and powerful countries choosing to forget the true version of the past and use their own version to justify their actions," Moore noted.
"Yes, history is the study of that which is in the past, and some would argue that the past should be left there. But I disagree. I think history and the study of it will continue to have an importance on us as people, and it is not something we should ever abandon," she concluded.
Richard Stallman. Warned us back in the 80s that if we allow corporations to rule the internet that nobody will have privacy or freedom on the web, among many other things.
Barbara Lee was the only congresswoman to vote against going to war in Afghanistan after September 11. Not going to say she was right, but at the time I remember even as a kid thinking she was crazy, and heard alot of the derisive talk much more common today, directed at her. (Not a patriot, traitor, blahblah) 20 Years later, the world seems alot less black and white, and her decision seems ferociously rational against a tide of fear and rage.
Alexander Fleming, the man who discovered Penicillin, spent almost 10 years trying to convince the medical bodies of his time that it was worth investing time and resources to experiment with it, but was basically told to pound sand despite the respect he had prior to the discovery.
Lot of good it did me, I was lucky enough to be born allergic. Happy for the rest of you at least.
George Bush, in 2005 he read a book about the Spanish Flu and insisted that the United States should be prepared for a pandemic. He said "If we wait for a pandemic to appear it will be too late to prepare. And one day many lives could be needlessly lost because we failed to act today."
Johnny Depp when he tried to tell people about how Amber was abusing him.
I mean, ffs, even South Park apologized to him. And it wasnt even sarcastic.
Sherry Rowland. Discovered the effect of CFCs on ozone depletetion and received an immense level of blow back from industry. Not only that, but invited talks and collabs were rescinded within the scientific community. Poor guy was ostracized. 20 years later after his (and Molina’s) discovery, he’s finally recognized with a Nobel prize.
My classmate in nursing school. He made a big fuss about a “coronavirus” just noticed in China. He asked about if clinicals or classes would be changed because of it. We thought he was absolutely paranoid and insane. We laughed.
Monica Lewinsky. That poor woman was dragged through the mud and seeing everyone reassess what was done to her has been bittersweet.
ETA: Bittersweet bc more people seem to understand she was a victim (sweet), but she was really young, and decades of her life were spent being a public punching bag (bitter)
Barry Marshall. Proved that stomach ulcers were a bacterial infection (and not stress) by ingesting (edit) with Helicobacter pylori and then curing himself with an antibiotic.
Corey feldmen was ridiculed for talking about the abuse he suffered in Hollywood and it wasn’t even a shock, it was obvious that kinda sh*t was going down.
John Rae. Very skilled arctic explorer who unlike most of the rest of Europeans at the time wasn’t above learning from the Inuit. He was largely successful because of his willingness to learn from them and use their clothing and diet and techniques.
Anyway, about ten years after the Franklin Expedition was lost John Rae was out looking for clues what happened because the British Admiralty had a standing reward of £10,000 for anyone who had credible information about the expeditions fate. He found some physical remnants of the expedition and had met with Inuit who’d seen some of the last surviving members of the expedition. They related to him how they’d been taken by disease, lack of food, and how some of them finally succumbed to cannibalism.
Rae took this information back to England, where society was absolutely outraged how he dared to spin such drivel. Surely no sophisticated gentlemen of the hero’s character that would be in Sir John Franklin’s expedition would act so savagely!
John Rae never got the award. Years later someone else did who told of a story that was correct also to some degree, but less than Rae had been.
In modern times bone fragments have been found with telltale cut marks, thereby proving John Rae and the Inuit right.
I would say Monika Lewinsky. I watched her TED talk and thought about it in the world we have today and honestly, can't believe how bullied she was and how much of a joke her name still is
She was in her early 20s and Clinton was in his early 50s.
I can see myself in my 20s easily falling into the trap of thinking "wow I must be so incredible, the president notices me" when in reality, that's just creepy AF
Alfred Wegener hypothesed plate tectonics in the 1920’s, but this wasn’t an accepted notion until the 50’s.
He was a meteorologist, and copped a lot of flak from the geological community at the time.
Bernie Sanders. That dude complains a lot and he may not be right every time but it sure seems like most of the time.
Ralph Nader wasn't taken seriously about automobile safety. Now we have seatbelts and laws mandating them.
Marshall Ferdinand Folk when speaking of the Treaty of Versailles. "This is not peace. It is an armistice for twenty years."
Duff Roblin, the Premier of Manitoba. After the 1950 flood, Roblin's government initiated the Red River Floodway project. The floodway diverts part of the river around the city. At the time he was mocked and a lot of people thought it was a waste of money, because "a flood like that will never happen again."
It's been estimated that it's saved $40 billion CAD in flood damages since it was completed in 1968. I was there for the '97 flood. The floodway saved my home and my in-laws' home.
The whole nipplegate thing made her out to be something she wasn't whilst Timberlake faced no backlash
The English physician, William Harvey
(A.D.1578–1657), discovered the
circulation of blood. The current
opinion in those days was that blood
oscillates in the vessels of the body.
For his views, Harvey was ridiculed
and was called “circulator”. He lost
most of his patients. However, before
he died, Harvey’s idea about
circulation was generally accepted as
a biological fact.
When I was in elementary school, we learned about the different areas of taste on the tongue: salty, bitter, sweet, and sour. In front of the class, I asked then "why do I taste the sweet all over my tongue when I eat candy?" She dismissed my question and the other kids said I was dumb. Who's dumb now?
Jack Layton -Early on in the Afghanistan war when the Taliban had been largely beaten and splintered into several small groups, many of them leaderless and wanting a way out, Jack suggested negotiating with these groups to end the war. The Conservative government of Canada labeled him Taliban Jack, and he was widely ridiculed. Had they negotiated back in 2005/2006 there would have been a lot less lives lost, and an opportunity to create a lasting change in Afghanistan.
We all know the Leave Brittney Alone video. We all quoted it at the same and made fun of Chris.
But they turned out to be completely correct. Britney was being pushed too hard by the media, and the aggressive fans and invasive paparazzi were (in part) to blame for her break down. We know now that she was controlled by her family for years, and we really shouldnt have mocked someone trying to draw attention to it. I think part of the mockery came because the breakdown is "funny", but also because society did - and still does - think that celebrities deserve whatever happens to them, so the paparazzi and the fans aren't responsible for how their actions hurt celebrities.
Lady Gaga. She was bullied and there were Facebook groups dedicated to ridiculing her and telling her she'd never be famous. Guess they were wrong.
Karen Carpenter, the singer. Everyone back when they were popular (myself included) mocked and sneered at how uncool The Carpenters were. But time told us she had one of the best singing voices ever. It’s a timeless voice of incredible beauty.
The “Alvarez hypothesis” two guys who 30 years before anyone had indisputable proof of it hypothesesed the dinosaurs died because of an asteroid. Well they were f*cking right on with that one.
Discovered polonium and radium and was laughed at for suggesting that radiation could be used to view the human body in ways we couldn't see.
It's because of her that we have x-rays. It's also because of her that we learned that unchecked radiation could also cause cancer.
Helped discover h. Pylori bacteria and the link between it and ulcers. He and his research partner Robin Warren were knocked by the medical community for their beliefs in those link.
Marshall drank a cocktail containing h.pylori, willingly gave himself bacterial induced gastritis, then used antibiotics to cure himself just to prove he was right.
Richard jewel he’s why we should all know to not listen to talking heads on tv.
Gregor Mendel. In the 1860s, he came up with the Principles of Segregation and Independent Assortment, saying that genetic factors are expressed via segregating alleles and different genes.
For about a good 40-ish years, everyone thought he was crazy and didn't receive much credibility from his peers. However, in the early 1900s, people began to build off of his knowledge and work. Now, he's known as the father of genetics.
Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis . In 1847 he discovered that doctors washing their hands before delivery led to fewer deaths in women. He hypothesized germ theory, but was ridiculed and mocked by the academic establishment. He ended up having a nervous breakdown and later died in a mental institution. Probably from injuries sustained from beatings he received from the guards. (RIP)
Jose Canseco, when he claimed in his book that steroid use was rampant in Major League Baseball.
Prince Charles. Banged on about the environment/organic foods and everyone took the piss mercilessly. To me, he was right about architecture too, but that’s subjective
J Harlen Bretz. He spent his life's work proving that the channeled scablands were formed by an absolutely biblical level flood. No one took him seriously because by that point geologists weren't really too keen on the biblical events type geology and were more in favor of gradual change hypothesis for how things came to be.
As soon as satellite photography became a thing his hypothesis was pretty quickly accepted because it's really obvious from above that its massive flood tracts. Funny enough even the famous explorers Lewis and Clark realized it was caused by floods and even wrote about it because they recognized the rippling hills and flood deposits like you'd see in a river just hundreds of times bigger.
If your interested google Missoula floods.
Chelsey ”Sully” Sullenberger - the pilot of US Airways flight 1549 that landed his plane in the Hudson river.
Damn, he was mangled before finally being aquitted of the charges and told he did a great job and the made all the right decisions.
Arsene Wenger. In 2002 he said his team could go a whole season unbeaten. He was roundly mocked, as it had occurred once in the 100+ year history of English football.
Two years later, they did it.