Weird History
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People Initially Called Crazy Who Were Right All Along

February 18, 2021 19.2k votes 3.2k voters 101.3k views10 items

List RulesVote up the previously shunned people who deserve major kudos now.

Sometimes when people point out how wrong a prevailing theory is, others scoff or consider them crazy. But just because an idea has been around for many years doesn't make it true. Some ideas need reevaluating based on the latest knowledge. But when people turn long-held ideas into unwavering beliefs, anyone who questions them can be deemed daft or deluded.

The people on this list, whether scientists who saw the truth before others did, or public figures who brought to light issues others wanted to keep hidden, all had the clear conviction to take their statements public. Knowing they would be alone in their ideas, beliefs, and causes, they didn't stay silent. And in the end they were definitely the sane ones.

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  • Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Ignaz Semmelweis was a physician who worked at a Vienna obstetric clinic in the 1840s. At the time, mortality rates for women delivering in hospitals ranged from 25% to 30%. Semmelweis set out to solve the "childbirth fever" problem, and discovered that infection rates were much higher in patients treated by clinical students who came directly from the mortuary dissecting room.

    Semmelweis ordered everyone to wash their hands in a chlorinated lime solution before each examination, which lowered the mortality rate of those students' patients from 18.27% to 1.27%. Even though the students and doctors he supervised appreciated his discovery, his superiors did not. He was eventually dropped from his post and could not even secure a teaching job. He gave lectures and wrote about his findings, but the general consensus remained hostile.

    About 20 years after his passing, when the scientific community accepted findings about germ theory presented by Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch, and Joseph Lister, Semmelweis was finally recognized for his work.

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  • Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was dismissed from his company in October 2017 following sexual abuse allegations from women dating back to the late 1970s. Weinstein's alleged actions seemed to be an open secret in the entertainment industry for years, with occasional allusions thrown out as jokes.

    But singer, songwriter, and actress Courtney Love went further than joking and actually warned young women about the executive back in 2005. During a red carpet interview at Comedy Central's roast of Pamela Anderson, someone asked Love, “What advice do you have for young women in Hollywood?”

    Love replied, “I’ll get libeled if I say it... If Harvey Weinstein invites you to a private party in his Four Seasons [hotel room], don’t go.”

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  • Photo: Wilkinrm1 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0
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    Dr. Bennet Omalu Discovered CTE In Football Players But Had His Work Stifled By NFL-Affiliated Lawyers

    In 2002 Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist, performed an autopsy on former Pittsburgh Steelers player Mike Webster and discovered evidence of a neurologic condition associated with chronic head trauma called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. CTE had previously been associated with boxing, but Omalu suggested football players might be susceptible to a certain form of dementia from repeated blows to the head.

    After he published his report, members of the NFL's mild traumatic brain injury committee immediately called for its retraction. Omalu stood by his research and the findings were taken directly to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who dismissed them. The NFL did not acknowledge the link between concussions sustained in football and long-term neurological effects until December 2009.

    Omalu's struggle is portrayed in the Will Smith film Concussion.

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  • Photo: Saturday Night Live / NBC

    During a Saturday Night Live episode on October 3, 1992, musician Sinéad O’Connor ended an a cappella version of the Bob Marley song “War” by tearing up a photo of Pope John Paul II. O'Connor later said she wanted people to face difficult truths, such as the child abuse in her home country of Ireland. Angry callers flooded NBC's phone lines to express near universal disapproval, and the next week on SNL, host Joe Pesci spent his monologue condemning O'Connor.

    As a teenager, O'Connor spent 18 months in a Catholic-run Magdalene asylum, an Irish institution where clergy sometimes harmed children physically, sexually, and emotionally. The year after O’Connor’s SNL appearance, a mass grave was discovered at a similar place. And over a decade later, the world learned about child abuse inflicted by Catholic priests and the church's role in protecting offenders in the US and Ireland. 

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