At varying times I’ve come across reports of scientific breakthroughs which never saw the light of day. In nearly every case, the reason for this was down to being discredited or suppressed by competitors or governments for whom there was a potential loss of revenue at stake.  

Now I know this topic doesn’t strictly come under the heading of paranormal phenomena but I wanted to include it because every invention started off as someone’s bright idea – flashes of inspiration that could (sometimes did!) change the world!  There are numerous examples of “inventions” being viewed as unworkable by naysayers, many of those are now part of our daily lives!  

Here’s some examples of inventions that were spoken of in less than favourable terms:-

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

Electric lighting “When the paris Exhibition (of 1878) closes, electric light will close with it and no more will be heard of it” Oxford professor Erasmus Wilson.

Telephony “The Americans have need of the telephone but we do not. We have plenty of Messenger boys.” Sir William Preece, Chief Engineer, British Post Office 1878.

Submarines “I must confess that my imagination refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and floundering at sea” HG Wells, British Novelist in 1901.

Warships “How, sir, would you make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighing a bonfire under her deck? I pray you, excuse me, I have  not the time to listen to such nonsense.” Napoleon Bonapart, when told of Robert Fulton’s steamboat, 1800s.

Flying the world “There will never be a bigger plant built.” A Boeing engineer, after the first flight of the 247, a twin engine plane that holds ten people.

Online music “The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to no one in particular?” Associates of David Sarnoff responding to the latter’s call for investment in the radio in 1921.

TV “Television won’t last because people will soon get tired of staraing at a plywood box every night.” Darryl Zanuck, movie producer, 20th Century Fox, 1946.

Computers # 1 “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in a talk given to a 1977 World Future Society meeting in Boston!

Computers #2 “ Think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943!

Those quotes were from people, at the forefront of their game, but not necessarily having the breadth of vision to appreciate that “from little acorns do giant oak trees grow”.

With a good number of inventions, unfortunately, the world has (and continues to be!) not always a fair and honest one.

In this current day and age, we are aware that the pharmaceutical industries make their money out of selling us medications to treat our symptoms, rather than use their research money for cures, since they’d lose the profits that their tablets, ointments, syrups and vaccines bring to them.  

The same has been said of the tobacco industry although, in fairness, there was a time that smoking was actually touted as being “good for your health”!  In 1954, W C Heuper from the National Cancer Institute, is quoted as having said “If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one.” 

Tobacco use has now come to an impasse – the cigarette boxes are emblazoned with graphical warning labels that are intended to warn  of the detrimental effects on the health of long-term smokers! However, addicted smokers just  don’t seem to be put off by wording telling them “Smoking kills!  Smoking clogs the arteries and causes heart attacks and strokes.” 

Fortunately the tide has turned and people are recognising the dangers such that a new pastime to replacing the tobacco cigarette, that of the e-cig now being advertised as ‘vaping’ that’s intended to give the smoker the satisfaction derived from a cigarette whilst assuring them that the vapour they are inhaling is of a harmless kind compared to nicotine. 

Over the course of history, there have been medical and scientific developments that changed the world and our lives but, conversely and as I’ve previously mentioned, those that, by fair means or foul, never came to fruition.  Often they were just a victim of the times. Prior to the 2nd World War, technological progress was in its’ infancy and much of the technology we take for granted today was developed because the Second World War took place and shaped the world we have today.  What makes fascinating reading is the website http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/inventions-and-discoveries-of-the-twentieth-century/inventions-1900-to-1990/ which highlights the progresses and changes that affected our lifestyles.  I certainly didn’t know that the electrocardiogram was invented in 1903! 

Nikola Tesla

Wikipedia’s words about Tesla begin:

(Serbian Cyrillic: Никола Тесла; 10 July 1856 – 7 January 1943) was a Serbian American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist, and futurist best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system. 

Tesla had an eidetic memory (photographic) this is the ability to recall images, sounds or objects in memory after only a few instants of exposure, with high precision. He was known to memorise books and images and stockpile visions for inventions in his head. He also had a powerful imagination and the ability to visualise in three dimensions, which he used to control the terrifying vivid nightmares he suffered from as a child. He was also known for having excessive hygiene habits, the result of a near-fatal bout of cholera as a teenager. 

Tesla was renowned for his achievements and showmanship, which gained him a reputation as an archetypal “mad scientist”.  His patents earned him a reasonable amount of money which he used to fund his own projects, with varying degrees of success.  After  his death in 1943 his work fell into obscurity. However, in 1960 the General Conference on Weights and Measures named the SI unit of magnetic flux density the tesla in his honor. Since the 1990s there has been a resurgence in interest in Tesla  and his works.” 

For some fascinating insights into this much-maligned inventor have a look at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/5-things-you-didnt-know-about-nikola-tesla/

What I found interesting was that he developed the idea for smartphone technology back in 1901!

Tesla may have had a brilliant mind, but he was not as good at reducing his ideas to practice.  In the race to develop transatlantic radio, Tesla described to his funder and business partner, J.P. Morgan, a new means of instant communication that involved gathering stock quotes and telegram messages, funneling them to his laboratory, where he would encode them and assign them each a new frequency. That frequency would be broadcast to a device that would fit in your hand, he explained. In other words, Tesla had envisioned the smart phone and wireless internet. According to W. Bernard Carlson, who interviewed Tesla:

“He was the first to be thinking about the information revolution in the sense of delivering information for each individual user,”

He also conceived of, but never developed, technology for radar, X-rays, a particle beam “death ray” and radio astronomy.  In spite of these there were some successes:

10 inventions of Nikola Tesla that changed the world:-

  1. Alternating Current
  2. Fluorescent light and the Tesla Coil
  3. X-Rays
  4. Radio
  5. Remote control
  6. Electric motor
  7. Robotics
  8. Laser
  9. Wireless communication
  10. Limitless free energy

Of course, in some instances, others picked up on what he had been working on and incorporated his work into their own research hence why they got the credit and not Tesla. 

It appears that Tesla had filed hundreds of patents on scientific research and possibly had many more ideas and inventions that never got as far as the patent office!

The full explanations relating to the above (and from which this information was gleaned) can be read at http://truththeory.com/2012/01/12/the-10-inventions-of-nikola-tesla-that-changed-the-world-2/

The following article is an interview with Tesla that went unpublished for 100 years wherein he talks about the suppression of his work by established science of the time, and his belief that a whole “pseudoscience” was created by them to cover this up http://yournewswire.com/the-hidden-nicola-tesla-interview-unpublished-for-100-years/

Tesla Motors, Inc. is an American automotive and energy storage company, founded in 2003, that designs, manufactures, and sells electric cars, electric vehicle powertrain components and battery products.

Tesla was obviously way ahead of his time with his research and I feel that the lack of recognition towards his work is largely down to the mindset of the day, which was still very Victorian and blinkered.  

Looking at all the inventions that Tesla is known for, and knowing that he had hundreds of others that were in a concept stage is his brain,  it’s a great shame that his work went ignored and unrecognised.   Added to this, the fact that Tesla’s inventions have only in recent years been acknowledged says a lot about how important, (might I even say how life-changing they could have been?) and far reaching his work was.  One can only speculate how different things would have been had he been born just 50 years later!

Georges Lakhovsky

Lakhovsky was a Russian engineer, scientist, author and inventor. His invention the Multiple Wave Oscillator was a controversial medical treatment for cancer.

While in France in 1929 he wrote a book entitled “The Secret of Life: Electricity, Radiation and Your Body” in which he both claimed and attempted to demonstrate that good or bad health was determined by the relative health of these cellular oscillations and that bacteria, cancers and other pathogens corrupted them, causing interference with these oscillations.

Unfortunately, in 1942 at the age of 72, Lakhovsky was hit by a car and died three days later of his injuries. Little appears to be known of what became of his laboratory, his research papers and instruments. It appears that alternative medical equipment manufacturers attempted to sell revised versions of Lakhovsky’s multiple wave oscillators – obviously without success – and his work has largely been forgotten.

Royal Rife

This American inventor claimed that, by using a specially designed optical microscope he could observe microbes too small to see with the existing technology. He also claimed invention of a “beam ray” that could weaken or destroy pathogens by energetically exciting resonances in their constituent chemicals (seems to go along the lines of Lakhovsky’s multiple wave oscillator!).  

He died penniless and embittered by the failure of his devices to gain scientific acceptance.

In the 1980s author Barry Lynes wrote a book “The Cancer Cure That Worked” which claimed that Rife’s “beam ray” could cure cancer but that all mention of his discoveries had been suppressed in the 1930s by a “wide ranging conspiracy headed by the American Medical Association”.   

This was refuted by the American Cancer Society who stated that Lynes’ claims were implausible and that his book was “written in a style typical of conspiratorial theorists, cites names, dates, events and places, giving the appearance of authenticity to a mixture of historical documents and speculations selectively spun into a web far too complex to permit verification by anything short of an army of investigators with unlimited resources.”

It would appear that there have been several instances of “Rife devices” being used in health fraud in the US and reports of several deaths resulting from the use of Rife machines in the place of standard medical treatment. This, unfortunately, has led to Rife’s work being consigned to history as “quackery” and considered unethical treatment, without his original work having been given any scientific consideration.  It’s to the world’s misfortunte that we will never know whether Royal Rife actually did find a cancer cure.

The following are from a “top ten list of amazing lost or suppressed inventions

Greek Fire
Orgone – Wilhelm Reich
Perpetual Motion – Viktor Schauberger
Ozone Therapy
Anti-Gravity Device – Thomas Townsend Brown
Cold Fusion Device – Eugene Mallove
Water Fuel Cell – Stanley Meyer
Earthquake Machine – Nikola Tesla
Flexible Glass
Chronovision – Father Marcello Pellegrino Ernetti

You can read the full article here: http://listverse.com/2009/07/31/top-10-amazing-lost-or-suppressed-inventions/

Just by way of contrast from what has gone before, I’ve recently discovered the following interesting information about the brilliant, and beautiful, Hedy Lammar.

The technology that underpins WiFi was invented by Hollywood actress Hedy Lammar. Star of Samson and Delilah, she was previously married to an Austrian arms dealer. A recurring subject of conversation with his fascist customers was how to stop the enemy from jamming the signal of radio-guided torpedoes. Jewish-born Hedy, with a secret love of science, quietly set her mind to coming up with the solution.  She fled to America, where she shared her ideas with the US Navy.  Blocking radar with aluminum foil was also Hedy’s idea. You can also thank Hedy for what led to Bluetooth as well as WiFi.

As is the case with many of the famous women inventors, Lamarr received very little recognition of her innovative talent at the time but, years later, she has been showered with praise.  In 1997, she and George Anthiel were honored with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Pioneer Award. Later in the same year, Lamarr became the first female recipient of the BULBIE™ Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award, a prestigious lifetime accomplishment prize for inventors that is dubbed “The Oscar™ of Inventing.”

Proving she was much more than just another pretty face, Lamarr shattered stereotypes and earned a place among the 20th century’s most important women inventors. She truly was a visionary whose technological acumen was far ahead of its time!

Technology and the 20th/21st Centuries

Our children can never comprehend the wealth of technology that is such an integral part of our everyday lives.  They have been brought up accustomed to televisions and DVDs, instant access to music and entertainment, and knowledge accessed from the internet via their PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone.  Yet, just 100 years ago, the world was a very different place!

In 1915 the world was dominated by World War 1 which had broken out the previous year.

  • The first coast-to-coast long-distance telephone call was made on 25th January 1915.
  • Pluto was photographed in March and April 1915 by an unknown astronomer.
  • On 10th December 1915, the one millionth Ford automobile rolled off the assembly line at Detroit’s River Rouge plant.
  • Engineer and chemist Georges Claude invented the first neon lamp in 1910. On 19th January 1915, he patented the neon lighting tube.
  • The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the predecessor of NASA, was established on 3rd March 1915.

Weaponry technologies:-

  • The tank: 1914 saw the introduction of mechanised tractors on the battlefield. The first proper tank was designed in 1915 by William Foster & Co of Lincoln, and was first used in the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
  • Poison gas: The German Army used a non-lethal form of poison gas in 1914, but by 1915 had developed the far more harmful chlorine gas, which was used at Ypres in April 1915. An earlier gas attack against the Russian Army in January 1915, during the battle of Bolimov, failed when the poison froze.
  • Grenades:  Both sides introduced new and improved forms of hand grenade in 1915. The German Army deployed the Model 24, which became the army’s standard hand grenade from 1915 until the end of World War II. Meanwhile, the British Army introduced the new Mills bomb as its standard hand grenade.
  • Flamethrowers:  The first flamethrower was deployed by the German Army in February 1915, near Verdun in north-eastern France.

Technology is now at a point where  it pervades every aspect of our lives from weather forecasts; the news beamed by satellite; the banking systems of the world and computerised stock systems for shopping both in person and online.  We are so fully dependent upon this technology that there are even back-up systems (theoretically fail-safe) in place in the event of a break in power supply. On the horizon are fully automated homes and cars that are computer controlled and steer themselves.

October 21st 2015

We’ve just lived through Back to the Future Day!  Yes, really!

In the film Back to the Future 2 which we saw in the cinemas in 1989,  October 21st 2015 was the day Michael J Fox’s Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd’s Doc Brown travelled to!

The future is now!

Here we are, 26 years later, and it’s impressive to note how many tech trends this film predicted, even if it also contained its’ fair share of misfires.

What they got right

If you listen to the sound effects used for its cars they pass you’ll  hear the near-silent hum that’s become associated with Toyota’s Prius and other electric-powered four-wheelers.

Biff’s payment of his taxi ride with a thumb-print isn’t totally dissimilar to how we now use our contactless debit cards pay for items.

The tech world’s current fascination with wearable tech was foreshadowed by Marty’s talking jacket.

BTTF’s drones, only  make fleeting appearances, but we have drones, although they’re now coming under strict regulation regarding their use.

The film industry hasn’t given up on the idea of 3D technologies – its latest pitch is a laser-projection system said to deliver “brighter, crisper and clearer” images. Rather neatly, the innovation premiered in London earlier this month with Robert Zemeckis’ latest film The Walk – he is, of course, also the director of the BTTF trilogy.

Meanwhile, voice-controlled televisions are already a reality thanks to smart TVs from Samsung and Sony as well as set-top boxes from Amazon and Apple.

…and the ones that they didn’t

Flying cars

Throwing your rubbish into a car’s Mr Fusion energy converter to provide it with power remains fanciful although there are moves towards powering vehicles with waste. Bristol and Bath recently started running buses powered by treated thrown-away food and sewage, and there are efforts elsewhere to convert agricultural waste into a petrol supplement.

The film’s biggest miss, however, is arguably its lack of a smartphone.  Marty Jr is even seen using an AT&T payphone at one point – all the more ironic since the company was first to offer the iPhone.

BTTF’s filmmakers were a little short-sighted when contemplating a data-connected world. They did feature a Skype-like video chat program at one point, showing off not only the caller but also private details about them. Unfortunately, the writers failed to think outside the box (sorry about THAT pun!) and showed communication occuring via a TV rather than using a handheld display.  To be fair, George Orwell’s 1984 did predict every home with a TV-like screen which provided two-way communication and maybe this iconic story was entrenched in the minds of the film’s writers when “predicting” the technology of the future.

Given the technological advances of the last 100 years, our children and grandchildren have a very exciting future to look forward to!

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