Famous People Who Are Praised for Things They Didn’t Do

The stories of how our greatest inventions were made have been documented in history and while everyone loves a good tale, sometimes historians don’t get certain details right or any right, in some cases. Whether it involves a dance fad, a medical discovery, an invention, or a popular book, some of the creators in this list sought inspiration elsewhere… and they didn’t necessarily mention that they weren’t the originators. Here’s a list of famous people who were given praise for things they didn’t do. 

1. Eve Did Not Eat an Apple in The Bible

The origin of Eve eating an apple in the book of Genesis, is still a mystery to many but some believe that the confusion came about when the book was translated. In Genesis 1:27 – 29, God told Eden’s tenants that they could eat any fruit that has seeds, and apples have seeds. The Latin translation of the bible used the word “mali” which means “evil” when describing the fruit tree. The word “mala”, which is similar to “mali” means apple and that’s where the problem seems to have been. 

2. Alexander Fleming and the Antibacterial Properties of Mold

According to history, Sir Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered the first antibiotic while studying the influenza virus in 1928. While growing Staphylococcus bacteria on an agar plate, unbeknownst to him, it was contaminated with mold which left a circle of no growth. Fleming named it penicillin after Penicillium and while his work was extremely important, he was not the first to research the antibacterial properties of mold. In 1869, Italian scientist Vincenzo Tiberio discovered that every time his local well was cleaned of the mold in its walls, people who drank it suffered intestinal problems until the mold regrew. Further research concluded that some molds including Penicillium had antibacterial properties. His findings were called coincidental and were ignored by the scientific community.

3. Thomas Edison and The Light Bulb

Thomas Edison was one of the greatest inventors of all time, holding approximately 1093 patents for everything from the phonograph, storage batteries, to the telephone and the light bulb. But did he really invent the lightbulb? In 1802, Humphry Davy used Alessandro Volta’s voltaic pile to create the first electric lamp, which had its flaws, but was functional nonetheless. In 1840 Warren de la Rue used a platinum coil to make a more efficient bulb which was improved upon by Joseph Swan some 20 years later. In 1879, Edison joined the party replacing Swan’s filament making it more efficient and cost-effective. Despite Edison taking credit for the invention, its creation was due the efforts of many inventors and scientists.

4. Shakespeare and the Idea for Hamlet

Hamlet, arguably one of William Shakespeare’s best works, was not the writer’s original idea. According to some historians, the tragedy took most of its inspiration from one of Saxo Grammaticus’ legends published in the 12th and 13th century. In the Danish historian’s story Amleth (an anagram for Hamlet), there was an uncle who after killing a king, takes his throne, marries his sibling’s widow and plots to put an end to his nephew. He used a woman to try to entice his nephew, then the help of a spy and then two escorts to bring the prince to England – all things that happened in Hamlet. The only difference is that Amleth survived but the similarities of Shakespeare’s Hamlet are too significant to be called coincidental. 

5. Joseph- Ignace Guillotin and the Guillotine

Joseph-Ignace Guillotin was a French doctor who oppose capital punishment and was credited with creating the guillotine despite having no involvement in the device’s creation. In 1789, he approached the French National Assembly asking them to adopt a more humane way of dealing with convicted criminals. Surgeon Antoine Lois created the first design for the new machine based on similar devices he saw in Scotland and Italy. The prototype was created by German inventor Tobias Schmidt and was then put into use. Despite his lack of involvement, the device was named after Guillotin.

 

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