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5 Great Men Who Built Their Careers on Plagiarism

#2.
Dr. Richard Owen

What'd He Do?

He was the man who invented dinosaurs. Or, at least, the word dinosaur. Owen was one of the first paleontologists in history, as well as a renowned anatomatician and biologist. He was also one of the men most responsible for the founding of the British Museum of Natural History. Also, he looked kind of like a pedophile.


And sort of like Steve Buscemi.

Dick was highly regarded in his day. He churned out three volumes of the Comparative Anatomy and Physiology of Vertebrates and was in charge of the creation of the first life-size model recreations of ancient dinosaurs, which goes down in history as the first big PR break for dinosaurs in popular culture. In a way, he was like the great grandfather of Jurassic Park.

What's the Problem?

As it turns out, important British scientists are actually almost exactly like pubescent, small-minded high schoolers. Like any self-respecting popular kid, Dr. Owen used his clout and fame within the scientific community to further his obsessive efforts to destroy another, better scientist named Gideon Mantell.


Seen here, pointing furiously at a rock.

Owen stole credit for the discovery of the Iguanadon, (as well as several others) from Mantell (one of the discoveries for which he was most famous) and then proceeded to ignore all of Mantell's research, which showed that the creature had been bipedal. By portraying the Iguanadon, and all of the other dinosaurs of the time, as the lumbering, imbecilic man-children of the ancient world, Owen set modern paleontology back centuries. Owen's slow and stupid dinos have only started to fade out of academic consciousness over the last 20 or so years.

Is That All?

Nope. For most men, stealing close to the entirety of a better scientist's accomplishments would have been enough douchebaggery. But Richard Owen was just too great a cockbite to succumb to such plebeian levels of asshattery. When poor Gideon died (an agonizing, lingering death), Owen somehow managed to worm his way into writing the obituary. He gave his deceased colleague no byline, and spent the whole body of the obit calling Gideon (basically) a failure of a man and a scientist.

Did He Pay?

Sort of. The Royal Society's Zoological Council fired him for plagiarism, and by the waning years of his life most of academia realized what a hack Richard really was. This realization didn't come soon enough to deny Owen a long life of comfort and wealth, or stop him from attaining a lofty place in the annals of history.

Apparently, being an unbelievable bastard works.

#1.
H.G. Wells

What'd He Do?

We couldn't believe it either. H.G. Wells, probably most famous for his radio drama War of the Worlds, is one of the most influential figures in popular science-fiction.

In addition to writing some of the greatest stories in modern history, Wells was also a modern historian. The Outline of History and A Short History of the World were his best known works of non-fiction, and garnered him a reputation as a thorough and inhumanly productive scholar. Outline, a 400,000 word masterpiece, was written in a mere six months. It was the novel that made Wells wealthy, and allowed him to dedicate the rest of his life to writing.

It was also a work of shameless, bald-faced plagiarism.


"Thank God the Internet doesn't exist yet, or I'd be fucked."

What's the Problem?

In 1918, an unknown, unwed Canadian scholar named Florence Deeks presented her meticulously researched manuscript to the McMillan and Company publishing group. Her book, The Web of the World's Romance, spent more than a year in their hands. It was never picked up.

By an interesting coincidence, McMillan and Company was the same publisher that handled Wells's books. We only bring this up because, in 1920, they published H.G.'s Outline of History, a work with some striking similarities to Web. That's a polite way of saying H.G. Wells stole his bestselling book from a poor old spinster.

Wells had followed the outline of Deeks' book almost exactly, and he'd stolen several phrases and stylistic choices from her as well. Most damning of all, several mistakes from Deeks' book also showed up in Wells' masterwork. It's a miracle Wells remembered to write his own name on the book.

Is That All?

It's not enough for Wells to just profit of off the stolen property; the original author needed to be crushed.

Which she was. Deeks sued of course, but, this being 1920 and Wells being a man with a glorious mustache, her suit failed and H.G. was exonerated.


He has a penis. Acquitted!

Did He Pay?

Of course not. No one even believed he was guilty for decades. Wells continued to write bestselling novels and change the face of both radio and literature forever. Deeks died poor, unloved and bitter.

Then, years after both of their deaths, A.B. McKillop of Carleton University published a study on the allegations against Wells. "The Spinster and the Prophet: H.G. Wells, Florence Deeks, and the Case of the Plagiarized Text" made a compelling case against Wells. By which we mean it proved he was a plagiarizing fuck.

War On Plagiarism.org sums the whole situation up well: "H.G. Wells' plagiarism stands as one of the 20th Century's most blatant instances of personal economic gain as a result of unacknowledged derivation and usurpation of another author's text."

In our own words, we'd just like to say that the plagiarism committed by H.G. Wells stands as one of last century's blatantest instances of personal money gain as a result of unacknowledged derivation and usurpation of another author's text, and we think it's shameful.

For movies that are depressing for a whole other reason check out Rick's look at 5 Awesome Movies Ruined By Last-Minute Changes. Or find out about some action stars whose careers had a less than happy ending in 5 Movie Martial Artists That Lost a Deathmatch to Dignity.

To see more totally original works of literature and boobs from Cracked, check out our Top Picks.

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