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Getting it Wrong!

Barrie Blake-Coleman

When Alexander Graham Bell and his assistant Thomas A Watson demonstrated their new invention, the speaking telegraph (later to be called the Telephone) to Western Union executives in 1877 Western Union wrote: Mr Bell, After careful consideration of your invention, while it is a very interesting novelty, we have come to the conclusion that it  has no commercial possibilities - indeed, there seems little future for an electrical toy. Yours sincerely, Western Union.



Bell's 'electric toy' became the single most valuable patent in history.  Bell's Telephone Company was renamed American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) and became the largest corporation in the USA with stock rising from 10 cents to a peak of $1100 per share.

John Logie Baird - his early 'Televisor' was far from impressive.  An investor remarked that his money was being wasted and that Baird "should have kept to making jam" (Baird had a jam factory in Trinidad).



“Get rid of that lunatic who says he's got a machine for seeing by wireless" (Editor of the Daily Express on refusing to see John Logie Baird in 1928).

National Academy of Sciences 1941 "Gas Turbine engines will never equal the power to weight ratio of a Piston engine" Frank Whittle said "It's a good job I was too stupid to know this"

Georg Simon Ohm - His Law of electrical relationships between Voltage Resistance and Current was described as 'a fanciful construct' - 'a tissue of lies' and 'deductive rather than inductive'

Charles Goodyear - on seeing an early sample of Goodyear's 'vulcanised' (heat treated sulphur based) rubber, an observer remarked that it was the 'alchemy of a madman'.

Christopher Cockerell - After demonstrating his proof of concept for a ground effect vehicle (hovercraft) Cockerell received a letter from the Ministry of Supply saying "- surely a hair drier soldered to a coffee tin can't in all seriousness solve any of our transport problems!"

Lord Kelvin - 1st Baron of Largs (William Thomson) on being retained as a consultant to the Niagara Falls Hydroelectric Project in 1895 spoke strongly against the Westinghouse tender for AC generation preferring the GE Edison DC system - he believed that the Tesla AC system would never work.

Ron Hickman - when he approached Stanley Tools with his Workmate

(Black & Decker had already turned him down because their efforts were concentrated on a new lawn-mower)  Ron Hickman received this considered reply by letter:


"Our investigations into Europe have produced the most lukewarm response.  We believe that sales will be measured in dozens rather than hundreds"


Today, over thirty million Workmate's have been sold!

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