The 10 Historical Figures Who Didn’t Do What You Think They Did
Source: Imagno/Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesYour elementary school history teacher was a liar. Sure, she looked all sweet and assuming and maybe she even had a major role in some of your pre-pubescent fantasies, but while you were listening to her praise the accomplishments of Christopher Columbus, she was laughing behind your back the whole time. Want proof?
10. Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin
A lot of famous names in history are wrongly attributed to their supposed creations simply because their names match: Col. James Bowie and the "Bowie" knife, Thomas Crapper and the flush toilet, Ron Jeremy and cockfighting.
Credit for the invention of the infamous French "guillotine" has long gone to Dr. Joseph Guillotin when, in fact, he had no hand in creating or developing the machine. Sure the machine bears his name, but he merely suggested the French government use it as a more humane form of execution in the 1790s. In fact, he was staunchly against corporal punishment and sought to banish its use but saw the quick and painless guillotine as a worthy compromise, if you consider having your head removed by a life-size "Slap Chop" a compromise.
9. Sir Walter Raleigh
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Early explorers are often the victim of historical legends and fabrications because there weren't many solid records to solidify their outrageous claims to fame. Just think if Christopher Columbus had a blog as he sailed across the ocean. He'd probably do two entries the first day and then not post a thing for three months because he'd keep watching the Keyboard Cat play off the death of the dinosaurs and forget why he got on his computer in the first place.
Sir Walter Raleigh has often been credited with introducing the British and European world to the wonder of potatoes after discovering them in the New World, or more specifically, Virginia. There are just two minor problems: Raleigh never visited Virginia and potatoes weren't being grown in North America. It's the historic equivalent of your fat douchebag roommate who keeps bragging about the Playboy Playmate he slept with multiple times while his girlfriend watched for proof, only less plausible.
8. The Wright Brothers
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History may technically be about the passage and influence of time, but it often completely ignores it. The same goes for you and anything your girlfriend says when she's not naked.
History's first "flyboys" might have constructed a working plane out of nothing more than a bundle of sticks and a dream, but they were far from the first to get off the ground. There are numerous claims of pilots who beat Kitty Hawk's heroes to the punch, but Gustave Whitehead seems to have them beat by at least two and a half years. Either way, I'm cursing all of their names for inventing something that can make my luggage, wallet, and sanity disappear in three different time zones.
7. Betsy Ross
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One of the most famous women of the American Revolutionary movement has long been credited with creating its first flag for future generations to gaze at proudly, salute at ball games, and use as useless talking points in political debates. The truth is that there is no actual proof that Ross designed or created a single stitch of the now familiar "Stars and Stripes." It's more likely that a distant descendant drummed up the story to make a historical society speech sound less like an audible Quaalude to those in attendance. It's the post-Civil War equivalent of The E! Channel.
6. Alexander Graham Bell
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This supposed inventor of the telephone actually didn't have any hand in creating the design for one of the most influential communication tools of our time. Sure he had a hand in signing the patent for it, most likely because he stole it as it was being patented. A front page story from the Washington Post in 1886 claims that Elisha Gray filed the original patent for the device, but another patent examiner testified that he had been bribed by an attorney to award the patent to Bell. Of course, Bell's family denies the malfeasance and still claims their distant ancestor created the phone...until they realized it eventually led to roaming charges and the "Crazy Frog" ringtone.