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Authorities Speak

  • Anesthesia: The abolishment of pain in surgery is a chimera. It is absurd to go on seeking it today. Knife and pain are two words in surgery that must forever be associated in the consciousness of the patient. To this compulsory combination we shall have to adjust ourselves. - Dr. Alfred Velpeau, 1839
  • The Atomic Bomb: That is the biggest fool thing we have ever done. The bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives. - Admiral William D. Leahy to President Truman, 1945
  • Aviation: The demonstration that no possible combination of known substances, known forms of machinery, and known forms of force can be united in a practical machine by which man shall fly long distances through the air, seems to the writer as complete as it is possible for the demonstration of any physical fact to be. - Simon Newcomb, astronomer, 1903
  • Insanity: We are gradually approaching, with the decadence of youth, a near proximity to a nation of madmen. By comparing the lunacy statistics of 1809 with those of 1909, an insane world is looked forward to by me with a certainty in the not far distant future. - Dr. Forbes Winslow, 1910
  • Invention: The advancement of the arts from year to year taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when further improvement must end. - Henry L. Ellsworth, U.S. Commissioner of Patents, 1844
  • Population: The population of the earth decreases every day, and, if this continues, in another ten centuries the earth will be nothing but a desert. - Montesquieu, 1743
  • War and Violence: To kill a man will be considered as disgusting as we in this day consider it disgusting to eat one. - Andrew Carnegie, 1900
  • The West: I have never heard of anything, and I cannot conceive of anything more ridiculous, more absurd, and more affrontive to all sober judgment than the cry that we are profiting by the acquisition of New Mexico and California. I hold that they are not worth a dollar! - Daniel Webster, Senate speech, 1848
  • World Collapse: My figures coincide in fixing 1950 as the year when the world must go to smash. - Henry Adams, 1903

Leadership, Winter Quarter, 1984, p. 76