21 Hilarious Things Scientists Used to Believe

‘Radiation is good for you’
21 Hilarious Things Scientists Used to Believe

Correct us if we’re wrong, Mr. Tyson, but science isn’t so much a field of study as it is a method for understanding the world. That method goes approximately like this: Observe thing. Test thing. Uphold or deny thing. 

That means that what we know about the world is constantly changing. Something that we thought was a fundamental truth could very well be disproven tomorrow, and if that happened, we’d probably feel pretty silly about it. Future generations would rightly make fun of us. “They used to think the sky was blue,” they’d say, with their hyper-evolved retinas. “What a bunch of idiots.”

So it only stands to reason that people in the past had some pretty hilarious scientific beliefs. It’s the system working as intended: Generations laughing at each other backwards and forwards into infinity. Thus, when user vikfand asked r/AskReddit, “What are some crazy things scientists used to believe?,” they invited us to participate in this timeless ritual. 

And lo, did we LOL.

entotheenth 10y ago Radiation is good for you, you should drink radioactive water for your health.
FalstaffsMind 10y ago Phrenology... That human behavior and even criminal tendencies could be predicted from skull shape and bumps on the head.
 10y ago Scientists used to believe that frogs spontaneously generated from mud, and that maggots spontaneously generated from old meat!
majorblazer420 10y ago When the atomic bomb was first tested, some scientist feared it would burn all the oxygen in the world.
dreamsinthefog 10y ago Leonardo da Vinci believed that if a boy was riding a horse and bounced on the saddle at just the right angle his penis would invert itself to become a sheath inside his body, thus turning him into a girl.
cpqarray 10y ago Isaac Newton was a huge believer in alchemy, the now discredited science of trying transmute base metals in to more noble metals. Не apparently spent a lot of time on the subject.
 10y ago That babies couldn't feel pain. Up until the 1980's they were flaying new borns open to do heart surgery with no sedation.
isablaubear 10y ago Not that long ago - maybe a 100 years, people actually thought that flour would help with burns, because burns always look wet. So they woul put flour on the wounds to absorb the water. Imagine the infections.
trbowers 10y ago Mercury could be used as a disinfectant, a cure for syphilis, and a pill for immortality. Mercury(I) chloride (also known as calomel or mercurous chloride) has been used in traditional medicine as a diuretic, topical disinfectant, and laxative. Mercury(II) chloride (also known as mercuric chloride or corrosive sublimate) was once used to treat syphilis (along with other mercury compounds), although it is so toxic that sometimes the symptoms of its toxicity were confused with those of the syphilis it was believed to treat.
ThislsMyLulzyAccount 10y ago The Bee Field. Physicists used to not understand how the bumblebee was able to achieve lift with such tiny wings and such a huge body, so they postulated that the bees may be producing a bee field from a special gland in them which altered how fluid dynamics worked in a localized region around them. Turns out that bumblebees are just crazy jacked.
drsjsmith 10y ago Widespread acceptance of the theory of plate tectonics (or continental drift) didn't occur until at least the 1950s. As a result, to explain the obvious connections among forms of life from different continents, scientists used to believe in absurdly large prehistoric intercontinental land bridges spanning thousands of miles of deep ocean.
Uberguuy 10y ago A German man invented a new kind of optics based on the idea that the entire universe was concave, with the earth forming a sphere around the rest of the universe. Не invented all kinds of equations and whatnot based on this assumption and he acheived quite a lot of respect and fanfair. This resulted in the German Imperial Navy attempting to shell France by sailing to the North Sea and firing straight up. Results were inconclusive.
Poila13 10y ago I'm probably late to the party. But organic chemists used to wash their hands with benzene (highly carcinigenic, and not the may cause cancer in the state of California kind like actually will give you cancer). Anyway since it's one of the best organic solvents researchers were like hey we could use this to get all the other nasty shit off our hands since we don't wear gloves a good number of them ended up getting skin cancer.
Quirky_Word 10y ago Okay, still looking for a source, but this was a story I heard years ago and felt like it belonged here. When the x-ray was first invented and used on live patients, doctors noticed that internal organs appeared to sag when compared to the images they were given as a control. So major surgery was performed to open patients up and 'tie' their organs back into place. This of course was often a fatal procedure. Later they figured out that the control images were all of cadavers (laying on their back) while the live patients were x-rayed
mrcchapman 10y ago . Edited 10y ago Galen ('the father of modern medicine') taught some batshit misogyny. Не believed women's wombs were naturally cold. So men must fill wombs with sperm to warm them. Also, women cannot get pregnant unless they orgasm. This is why there were very few convicted rapes in the middle ages; if there's no baby, there's no evidence. If there is a baby, the woman wanted it and it's not a rape. This nonsense was actually the basis for English law.
Andromeda321 10y ago Astronomer here! One of my favorites was that for awhile people saw Mercury's orbit was not moving perfectly as classical mechanics predicted, and they suggested that this was due to a planet between Mercury and the sun, named Vulcan. This actually was a pretty reasonable idea at the time- Uranus's discovery astounded everyone as no one thought there were other planets, but from its orbit they saw there was still another big planet beyond... and it was calculated so perfectly via mathematics that Neptune was discovered exactly where it was predicted a night or two after the
Locke3 10y ago This one is my favorite, because it just sounds like is should be correct. The ancient Greecians believed that there were the four elements: earth, water, air, and fire. They had a natural order to them, and elements wanted to be with the rest of itself. So, if you held a rock in the air and let go, it would drop, bringing itself closer to the collection of Earth. Water's place was slightly on top of earth, so rain fell from the air, or rose from the earth (wells, etc). Air was higher than both of those,
Beerquarium 10y ago That fire was the result of an elemental material called phlogiston. Basically that fire belongs on the scientific list of elements, I should mention this was before the periodic table was a thing. Similarly they used to believe cold was a substance. Like if you left a pot of water out overnight it absorbed cold particles and turned to ice. There's so many but I'll leave these two for now.
 10y ago Edited 10y ago Homunculus, basically they thought that sperm was a tiny man.
B00nah700 10y ago Before the invention of the railways, scientists believed that people would suffocate if they travelled faster than 30mph as they would not be able to breath due to the surrounding air rushing past them
Motanum 10y ago A gentleman's hands are always clean. So doctors would treat patients one and another without washing their hands. Mortality was high.


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