The Experts Speak


These are all from "The Experts Speak: The Definitive Compendium of Authoritative Misinformation", by Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky.

"If the motion of the earth were circular, it would be violent and contrary to nature, and could not be eternal, since nothing violent is eternal. It follows, therefore, that the earth is not moved with a circular motion."
--St. Thomas Aquinas, 1270

Animals, which move, have limbs and muscles; the earth has no limbs and muscles, hence it does not move.
--Scipio Chiaramonti, Prof. of Philosophy and Mathematics,
University of Pisa, 1633

All the ills from which America suffers can be traced back to the teaching of evolution. It would be better to destroy every other book ever written, and save just the first three verses of Genesis.
--William Jennings Bryan

Let no one say that because we have these parts, that the female body is shaped this way and the male that way, the one to receive, the other to give seed, sexual intercourse is allowed by God. For if this arrangement were allowed by God, to whom we seek to attain, He would not have pronounced the eunuch blessed.
--Julius Cassianus, 2nd century A.D.

Erection is chiefly caused by scuraum, eringoes, cresses, crymon, parsnips, artichokes, turnips, asparagus, candied ginger, acorns bruised to powder and drank in muscadel, scallion, sea shell fish, etc.
--Aristotle, "The Masterpiece"

Russian women are never more pleased than when receiving a drubbing at the hands of their husbands.
--J. Richardson Parke, Sc.B., Ph.G., M.D., 1906

[By 1982] sex will have become much less a theme for either poetry or analysis. Much of the romanticism and all of the hypochondria on the subject will be over.
--Irwin Edman, 1932

Sex without class consciousness cannot give satisfaction, even if it is repeated until infinity.
--Aldo Brandirali, Secretary of the Italian
Marxist-Leninist Party, 1973

Negro equality! Fudge! How long, in the Government of a God great enough to make and rule the universe, shall there continue knaves to vend, and fools to quip, so low a piece of demagogism as this.
--Abraham Lincoln, 1859

It is a biological fact that a Negro's skull ossifies by the time a Negro reaches maturity and they become unable to take in information.
--Theodore Bilbo, U.S. Senator from Mississippi, 1945

Two Wongs don't make a white.
--Arthur Caldwell, Australian Minister for Immigration, 1947

Nature intended women to be our slaves. They are our property. They belong to us, just as a tree that bears fruit belongs to a gardener. What a mad idea to demand equality for women! Women are nothing but machines for producing children.
--Napoleon Bonaparte

When a woman becomes a scholar there is usually something wrong with her sexual organs.
--Nietzsche

The abolishment of pain in surgery is a chimera. It is absurd to go on seeking it. "Knife" and "pain" are two words in surgery that must forever be associated in the consciousness of the patient.
--Dr. Alfred Velpeau, 1839

Damp baths are to be eschewed except by the rich, whose diet is more refined and includes hot and dry things like good wines, strong spices, hares, partridges, and pheasants. And this in summer only, for in winter I would advise them to abstain from ordinary baths entirely.
--Francis Raspard, 1551

One half of the children born die before their eighth year. This is nature's law; why try to contradict it?
--Rousseau

If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one.
--Dr. W. C. Heuper, National Cancer Institute, 1954

There is growing evidence that smoking has pharmacological effects that are of real value to smokers.
--President of Philip Morris, Inc., 1962

For the majority of people, smoking has a beneficial effect.
--Dr. Ian G. Macdonald, quoted in Newsweek, 1963

Note: Dr. Macdonald's grandson recently contacted me via email and told me that this was an off-the-record quote, meant as a joke. I have no information on the context so I can't verify this either way.

Experimental evidence is strongly in favor of my argument that the chemical purity of the air is of no importance.
--L. Erskine Hill, quoted in the New York Times, 1912

Smoke and noise--so easy to overcome--will be held in decent check by legislation.
--Morris L. Ernst, "Utopia 1976", 1955

Approximately 80% of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation. So let's not go overboard in setting and enforcing tough emissions standards for man-made sources.
--Ronald Reagan, 1980

I offer here and now to walk into Binghamton in any part of that building and swallow an entire glass of PCBs and run a mile afterward.
--Hugh Carey, Governor of New York, 1981

All the waste in a year from a nuclear power plant can be stored under a desk.
--Ronald Reagan, 1980

A nuclear war could alleviate some of the factors leading to today's ecological disturbances that are due to current high-population concentrations and heavy industrial production.
--Official in the U.S. Office of Civil Defense, 1982

Hysteria has now disappeared from Wall Street.
--The Times of London, Nov. 2, 1929

Gentlemen, you have come sixty days too late. The depression is over.
--Herbert Hoover, June 1930

If we are to begin to try and understand life as it will be in 1960, we must begin by realizing that food, clothing and shelter will cost as little as air.
--John Langdon-Davies, 1936

Most of the attacks upon white women of the South are the direct result of a cocaine-crazed Negro brain.
--Dr. Christopher Koch, testifying before Congress, 1914

I don't need bodyguards.
--Jimmy Hoffa

When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.
--Richard Nixon, 1977

Deomcracy will be dead by 1950.
--John Langdon-Davies, 1936

Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote. The relative positions to be assumed by man and woman in the working out of our civilization were assigned long ago by a higher intelligence than ours.
--Grover Cleveland, 1905

Woman's participation in political life would involve the domestic calamity of a deserted home and the loss of the womanly qualities for which refined men adore women and marry them. Doctors tell us, too, that thousands of children would be harmed or killed before birth by the injurious effect of untimely political excitement on their mothers.
--Henry T. Finck, 1901

Watergate is water under the bridge.
--Richard Nixon, 1973

People are becoming too intelligent ever to have another war. Statesmen have not anything like the prestige they had years ago, and what is educating the ordinary people against war is that they are mixing so much. The motor-car, radio and such things are the great `mixers.' I believe the last war was too much an educator for there ever to be another on a large scale.
--Henry Ford, 1928

This, the greatest of all wards, is not just another war--it is the last war!
--H. G. Wells, 1914

Has there ever been danger of war between Germany and ourselves, members of the same Teutonic race? Never has it even been imagined.
--Andrew Carnegie, 1913

For the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.
--Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of Great Britain, 1938

This so-called war is nothing but about twenty-five people and propaganda.
--Arthur Vandenberg, U.S. Senator from Michigan, 1939

I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language.
--Editor of the San Francisco Examiner, to Rudyard Kipling, 1889

The talking motion picture will not supplant the regular silent motion picture. There is such a tremendous investment to pantomime pictures that it would be absurd to disturb it.
--Thomas Edison, 1913

You'd better learn secretarial work or else get married.
--Emmeline Snively, to Marilyn Monroe, 1944

An orgy of vulgar noise.
--Louis Spohr, on Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, 1808

Far too noisy, my dear Mozart. Far too many notes.
--Emperor Ferdinand of Austria, on "The Marriage of Figaro", 1786

You ain't goin' nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin' a truck.
--Jim Denny, Manager of "Grand Ole Opry", to Elvis Presley, 1954

Ruth made a great mistake when he gave up pitching. Working once a week, he might have lasted a long time and become a great star.
--Tris Speaker, Manager of the Cleveland Indians, 1921

Video won't be able to hold onto any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.
--Darryl F. Zanuck, Head of 20th Century-Fox Studios, 1946

Nuclear powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality within 10 years.
--Alex Lewyt, quoted in the New York Times, 1955

A nuclear power plant is infinitely safer than eating, because 300 people choke to death on food every year.
--Dixy Lee Ray, Governor of Washington, 1977

I would not call it an accident. I would call it a malfunction. It just so happens that the antinuclear movement, lacking a real accident, has latched onto this one, promoting it into something that it isn't.
--Dr. Edward Teller, on Three Mile Island

If God had wanted a Panama Canal, he would have put one here.
--King Philip II of Spain, c. 1552

God himself could not sink this ship.
--a deckhand on the Titanic, 1912

Men might as well project a voyage to the Moon as attempt to employ steam navigation against the stormy North Atlantic Ocean.
--Dr. Dionysus Lardner, 1838

Gliders... [will be] the freight trains of the air.... We can visualize a locomotive plane leaving LaGuardia Field towing a train of six gliders in the very near future. By having the load thus divided it would be practical to unhitch the glider that must come down in Philadelphia as the train flies over that place--similarly unhitching the loaded gliders for Washington, for Richmond, for Charleston, for Jacksonville, as each city is passed--and finally the air locomotive itself lands in Miami. During that process it has not had to make any intermediate landings, so that it has not had to slow down.
--Grover Loening, 1944

Over cities... the aerial sentry or policeman will be found. A thousand aeroplanes flying to the opera must be kept in line and each allowed to alight upon the roof of the auditorium in its proper turn.
--Waldemar Kaempfert, Managing Editor of Scientific American, 1913

The dangers of atomic war are overrated. It would be hard on little, concentrated countries like England. In the United States we have lots of space.
--Colonel Robert McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, 1950

My dynamite will sooner lead to peace
Than a thousand world conventions.
As soon as men will find that it one instant
Whole armies can be utterly destroyed
They surely will abide by golden peace.
--Alfred Nobel, 1833-1896

Never in history has mankind been given more reason to look forward to the future with hope. For the blast which blew nineteenth-century nationalism to pieces at Hiroshima may also have cleared the way for a new Renaissance--a new era of co-operation leading up to the twentieth-century Empire of the World.
--Lynn Montross, 1946

[Sputnik is] a hunk of iron almost anybody could launch.
--Rear Admiral Rawson Bennett, 1957

[Before man reaches the moon] your mail will be delivered within hours from New York to California, to England, to India or to Australia by guided missiles.... We stand on the threshold of rocket mail.
--Arthur E. Summerfield, U.S. Postmaster General, 1959

Australia will be abandoned to the Japanese by its white inhabitants, who will return to an England capable of supporting by agriculture almost double its present population.
--Lewis Mumford, "The World Fifty Years From Now", 1932

The French people are incapable of regicide.
--King Louis XVI of France, c. 1789

A shilly-shally thing of milk and water, which could not last.
--Alexander Hamilton, on the Constitution, 1787

The Army is the Indian's best friend.
--General Custer, 1870

I don't go so far as to think that the only good Indians are the dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every ten are, and I shouldn't inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.
--Theodore Roosevelt, "The Winning of the West"

A sample of the leisure time goodies set before the American public this week: Safaris in Vietnam...for the Tourist Who Really Wants to Get Away From It All.
--"Leisure in the 1960s", Newsweek, 1959

Knowing of your congregation's deep involvement in the major social and constitutional issues of our country is a great inspiration to me.
--Walter Mondale, to Rev. Jim Jones

I do not consider Hitler to be as bad as he is depicted. He is showing an ability that is amazing and he seems to be gaining his victories without much bloodshed.
--Mohandas K. Gandhi, 1940

Sincerity is the quality that comes through on television.
--The Washington Star, on Richard Nixon, 1955

We rule by love and not by the bayonet.
--Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Enlightenment for the
German National Socialist Party, 1936

That birds can be taught to talk better than other animals is explained by the fact that their mouths are Nordic in structure....
--Professor Hermann Gauch, 1933

I can accept the theory of relativity as little as I can accept the existence of atoms and other such dogmas.
--Ernst Mach, 1913

The so-called theories of Einstein are merely the ravings of a mind polluted with liberal, democratic nonsense which is utterly unacceptable to German men of science.
--Dr. Walter Gross, 1940

The theory of a relativistic universe is the hostile work of the agents of fascism. It is the revolting propaganda of a moribund, counter-revolutionary ideology.
--Astronomical Journal of the Soviet Union, 1940

I am tired of all this thing called science.... We have spent millions in that sort of thing for the last few years, and it is time it should be stopped.
--Simon Cameron, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, demanding that
the funding of the Smithsonian Institution be cut off, 1861

We need not hesitate to admit that the Sun is richly stored with inhabitants.
--Sir William Herschel

If your eyes are set wide apart you should be a vegetarian, because you inherit the digestive characteristics of bovine or equine ancestry.
--Dr. Linard Williams, Medical Officer to the Insurance
Institute of London, 1932

X-rays are a hoax.
--Lord Kelvin, ca. 1900

Bees are generated from decomposed veal.
--St. Isidore of Seville, 7th century A.D.

When [the beaver] is pursued, knowing this to be on account of the virtue of its testicles for medicinal uses, not being able to flee any farther it stops and in order to be at peace with its pursuers bites off its testicles with its sharp teeth and leaves them to its enemies.
--Leonardo da Vinci

The elephant's nature is such that if he tumbles down he cannot get up again. Hence it comes that he leans against a tree when he wants to go to sleep, for he has no joints in his knees. This is the reason why a hunter partly saws through a tree, so that the elephant, when he leans against it, may fall down at the same time as the tree.
--The Book of Beasts, 12th century A.D.

The lioness giveth birth to cubs which remain three days without life. Then cometh the lion, breatheth upon them, and bringeth them to life.
--William of Normandy, 13th century A.D.

The deliverance of the saints must take place some time before 1914.
--Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses,
"Studies in the Scripture", 1910 edition

The deliverance of the saints must take place some time after 1914.
--Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses,
"Studies in the Scripture", 1923 edition

I think the world is going to blow up in seven years. The public is entitled to a good time during those seven years.
--Henry Luce, publisher of Time, Life, and Fortune, explaining
why he would publish "Sports Illustrated"

If the Apostle Paul had been here Saturday...he would have enjoyed seeing the Wisconsin-Iowa football game.
--Rev. A. J. Soldan, 1926

If Christ came to Sydney today He would be on `the Hill' at cricket matches driving home the lessons of the game. One can imagine Christ reminding the crowd that Satan was the deadliest and most determined googley bowler of all time.
--Rev. T. MicVittie, 1937

Defeat of Germany means defeat of Japan, probably without firing a shot or losing a life.
--Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1942