10 Things History Got Wrong, Part Siete

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A Brief History

On August 20, 2008, the results of the internet voting of which top locations should be included in Monopoly Here and Now: The World Edition were announced.   Of those selected, the Polish city of Gdynia was especially notable.  The original Monopoly game is famously believed to have been created by Charles Darrow, but this was simply not the case.  Here we list 10 people believed to have done something they did not do.  What other miscarriages of history would you add to the list?  (Note: These are mostly mistaken historical beliefs of laypeople, not historians.)

Digging Deeper

10.  Al Gore Claimed He had Invented the Internet. 

Often ridiculed for making this claim, this former Vice President actually did no such thing.  During the 2000 campaign for the U.S. Presidency, he made a reference to his Senate leadership position in which he had advocated the passing of laws that allowed the creation of the Internet.  So, in reality, Gore does deserve some credit for the creation of the Internet.  (See snopes.com for exact phrasing.)

9. Lizzie Borden Killed Her Parents.

Well, maybe, but the overwhelming evidence at the 1892 trial led to her acquittal of the terrible crime of murdering her parents with an axe.

8. Otto Hahn Discovered Nuclear Fission.

Although Hahn did indeed work on the concept of nuclear fission, it was Lise Meitner, a Jew who corresponded with Hahn from Scandinavia while the Nazis were in power, whose name should also have been on the the scientific paper that first described the phenomenon.  Instead, Hahn was awarded the Nobel Prize for his “discovery,” and Meitner was largely forgotten.  That is until 1994 when an element on the Periodic Table was named for her.

7. Signal Flares were Invented by Benjamin Coston.

A pretty amazing feat considering he had been dead for 10 years before the patent was awarded to him, with his widow, Martha, listed as “administratrix” on the patent.  It seems that back in 1858 only men could be granted patents, so his wife had to resort to this means.  The Coston Flare would go on to be extensively used by the U.S. Navy for ship-to-ship signaling in the days before radio.

6. Galileo Discovered that the Earth orbits the Sun and Invented the Telescope.

Notable because of the famous opposition to the idea from the Catholic Church and the ostracizing of Galileo by that same Church, many people came to believe that he was the one who had discovered the Heliocentric Solar System.  Actually, it was Hans Lippershey of the Netherlands who had invented the telescope in 1608 and Mikolaj Kopernik (Nicklaus Copernicus), of Polish Prussia, who had formulated the model of the solar system with the Sun orbited by the planets, about a hundred years before Galileo got in trouble for saying that.

5. Alexander Fleming Discovered Penicillin.

Surprisingly, by the time of its “discovery,” penicillin had already been used as an antibiotic in North Africa for thousands of years!  As far as modern researchers go, Ernest Duchesne had used penicillin to cure guinea pigs of typhoid in 1897.  The old tale of Fleming having saved a young Winston Churchill’s life with his discovery is an urban legend, or myth if you will.  Although Fleming who technically “discovered” penicillin during his research, it would be other men who ended up developing it for medical use.

4. Alexander Graham Bell Invented the Telephone.

Several other folks were working on this project in various places at the time, and the first to achieve success was probably an Italian, Antonio Meucci,but he had been unable to afford the fee to renew his patent in 1874, leaving the door open for others to grab credit, which Bell famously did.  Suspiciously, Bell worked at the same Western Union location that Meucci had sent his papers to.

3. Thomas Edison Invented Nearly Everything.

Edison was actually a brilliant organizer who ran an idea lab where numerous brilliant employees worked inventing or perfecting various things.  Although generally regarded as the inventor of the light bulb, it was actually an invention sold to him by Heinrich Goebel’s widow.  When Joseph Swann invented a workable light bulb, Edison hired him and took credit for his work, as he did for the work of all his employees.  Oh, and Topsy, the elephant he electrocuted?  Even there he cheated by giving the poor beast an enormous dose of cyanide to make sure it died.

2. Charles Darrow Invented the Monopoly Board Game.

In 2004, television channel PBS discovered that the game had actually been invented by a woman, Elizabeth Magie, who called it The Landlord’s Game.  She had been paid $500 for the rights to the game by Parker Brothers.

1. DNA was Discovered by Watson and Crick.

Although these 2 men are generally acknowledged as the discoverers of DNA and were awarded the Nobel Prize for their research, it was actually a woman named Rosalind Franklin who had perfected the technique of using X-ray diffraction to photograph a DNA molecule.  Without her permission, one of her male colleagues gave such a photograph to Watson and Crick, and the rest is “history.”

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About Author

Beth Michaels

Beth Michaels attended a private college in Northeast Ohio from which she earned a Bachelor’s degree in German with a minor in French. From there she moved to Germany where she attended the University of Heidelberg for two years. Additional schooling earned her certifications as a foreign language correspondent and state-certified translator. In her professional career, Beth worked for a leading German manufacturer of ophthalmological medical instruments and devices as a quality representative, regulatory affairs manager and internal auditor.