The year 1964 was a watershed year by any measure. The Beatles arrived, the Civil Rights Act was passed, Nicolas Cage was born and in two separate parts of the world, two separate scientists proposed the existence of quarks, the teeny-tiny subatomic particles that combine to form matter. If you've been paying attention, you know one of these guys is about to get screwed. (Hint: It's George Zweig.)
Zweig had three things going against him in 1964. One, he was a young graduate student, unpublished and unproven. Two, he was working at a particle research center in Geneva. You'd think that would be an advantage, but it turns out his institute had a stringent model for publication, and his paper on quarks, which he called "aces," didn't meet its standards (even though he had come up with a much cooler name for the particle). And three, an older scientist from his grad school proposed the exact same theory at the exact same time and because of his stature was able to publish that exact same theory with the exact same publication that rejected Zweig's.
Just seeing if you're paying attention.
At first, both men were called crazy for their insane notions of invisible particles. They had no model of behavior for the buggers and no methods of ever actually looking at them. But eventually the science world came around, and by 1969, Zweig's rival was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work. As for Zweig ...
His Genius Was Rewarded By ...
Being blackballed by a major university and accusations of being a "charlatan."
According to Wikipedia, that table-standing midget in blue is a charlatan.
It wasn't until the 1970s that anyone could actually prove the existence of quarks, and by that time, the Nobel Prize committee felt it had already given the little particles enough attention, so it was reluctant to revisit the subject. Nevertheless, in 1977, Zweig and his rival were both nominated, but neither won. Zweig ended up changing his field of study to neurobiology, presumably believing that if he made a seminal contribution to every area of science, he'd eventually get credit for something.
Sadly, they don't give a Nobel Prize for smoldering looks.
Trying to convince you that Albert Einstein was rejected in any way during his lifetime let alone a moron is a hard sell, considering that he was one of the most famous men on the planet at the time. But buried deep in a lifetime of utter brilliance, Einstein was saddled with one big mistake. One that it turned out wasn't a mistake at all.
Einstein, seen here chilling out and sparking a doob with Niels Bohr
To understand, you have to know a little bit about Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. Not a whole lot, just the fact that it didn't allow for a static universe. Einstein believed the universe had to be static, or else the forces of gravity would cause the whole universe to contract onto itself, which it apparently wasn't doing. So, to make up for this weird conundrum, he invented something called the cosmological constant, an unknown, unchanging force that allowed him to have his cake (General Theory of Relativity) and eat it, too (stand by a static-universe model).
"Yeah, just throw an X in there, then integrate how little I give a shit."
But not too long after Einstein came up with the cosmological constant, Edwin Hubble burst his little unmoving universe bubble by finding evidence that the whole shebang was expanding. Einstein called the cosmological constant his "biggest blunder" and went to his grave thinking he was an idiot for having proposed it. And so did everyone else. For a while.
"Way to go, Einstein."
His Genius Was Rewarded By ...
Einstein didn't get heaped with scorn like some of the other geniuses on this list, so he got off with a little self-deprecation with a side of regret. And he also dropped the whole idea of the cosmological constant. But here's the thing -- it turns out he may have been right all along. Not about the universe being static, of course, but that this mysterious, unknown entity existed in the first place.
In the 1990s, scientists discovered that the universe was expanding faster than they had previously thought and that the rate of expansion was being fueled by a mysterious, unknown entity. There are several contenders up for consideration as the cause, but everyone's favorite? You guessed it: Einstein's cosmological constant. His math of the constant magically fit the bill. Also because you never go wrong when you bet on Einstein.
Future super-geniuses reading this article: Please make an effort to be photographed with your tongue out, flipping the bird, gesturing to your genitals or something similar. Cracked's 2089 PR department thanks you.