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10 Historical Predictions That Were Surprisingly Accurate

Predictions That Came out True

Predicting the future in most cases is guesswork whether it is done scientifically or statistically by analyzing available information, or it is an intuitive sense of what could happen. There are also things that one might unintentionally say that would eventually end up being true. Retrospectively, many such predictions can seem uncanny and impossible. Yet they do happen, and here are 10 such direct and indirect predictions that came out true.

1. In 1909, Mark Twain predicted his own death. He was born shortly after the appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1835 and said that he would “go out with it,” which he did. 

Mark Twain and Halley's Comet
Image Source: Mathew Brady, NASA/W. Liller

Mark Twain was born on November 30, 1835, exactly two weeks after Halley’s Comet reached its perihelion. During his later life, he went through a period of depression due to deaths of his daughter, wife, son, and a close friend. In 1906, he began writing his autobiography in the North American Review in which he wrote, “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet.” As he predicted, he died of a heart attack on April 21, 1909, the day after the comet returned. (source)

2. In 1863, Jules Verne wrote Paris in the Twentieth Century, which predicted a world of glass skyscrapers, high-speed trains, gas-powered automobiles, calculators, cities with elevators, and a worldwide communications network.

Jules Verne's Paris in the Twentieth Century
Image Source: Félix Nadar, wikipedia

When Verne wrote the book, his publisher, Pierre-Jules Hetzel, refused to release it as he felt it was too unbelievable. For 126 years, the manuscript was supposedly locked up in an empty safe and rediscovered by Verne’s great-grandson in 1989. Often referred to as his “lost novel,” the book explores the life of a young man who struggles to survive in 1960s Paris. It presents a dystopian view of technological advances and a philistine future civilization which only values business and technology.

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The book’s description of 1960s technology is astonishingly accurate. There are detailed descriptions of cars powered by internal combustion engines, gas stations, paved asphalt roads, elevated and underground passenger trains, magnetic high-speed trains, electric lights, fax machines, elevators, computers, a network similar to the Internet, wind power, automated security, the electric chair, and many more. It also predicts suburbs, mass-produced education, department stores, and even a version of feminism with women working.(1, 2)

3. In 1838, Edgar Allen Poe wrote a novel about a shipwreck where three survivors ate the fourth survivor, a cabin boy named Richard Parker. In 1884, there was a real shipwreck, in which three survivors ate the fourth survivor, who was also a cabin boy named Richard Parker.

Edgar Allan Poe's Prediction
Image Source: Unknown, wikipedia

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket was Edgar Allen Poe’s only complete novel and tells the story of a young man who stows away on a whaling ship called Grampus. On May 5, 1974, author and journalist Arthur Koestler published a letter from one of his readers, Nigel Parker, relating an astounding similarity between Poe’s novel and an actual event that happened decades ago. In 1884, the yacht Mignonette sank, and four men were cast adrift. After going weeks without food, they decided to sacrifice the youngest, a cabin boy named Richard Parker who fell into a coma and use him as food just like in Poe’s novel.

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The survivors, Tom Dudley and Edwin Stephens, were tried for murder in the famous case R v Dudley and Stephens, which became a precedent in the world of common law that necessity is not a defense for murder. Dudley and Stephens were sentenced to death with a recommendation for clemency. The sentence was later reduced to six months in prison. Though Poe himself called the book “very silly,” it became very influential for authors like Herman Melville and Jules Verne.(source)

4. In 1952, Wernher von Braun wrote a book called The Mars Project which imagined that civilization on Mars would be led by a person called “Elon.”

Wernher von Braun's The Mars Project
Image Source: NASA, Umschau Verlag

Wernher von Braun was a German rocket physicist, astronautics engineer, and space architect who wrote a The Mars Project (Das Marsprojekt in German) as a technical specification for a manned expedition to Mars. In the book, during a 1980s project to colonize Mars, the characters discover that the planet was already inhabited by an advanced civilization. The Martian government was ruled by a group of ten men with an elected leader having the title “Elon.” In the present day, investor, engineer, and inventor, Elon Musk is the CEO of the company SpaceX which seeks to make human colonization of Mars possible.(source)

5. In 1909, Tesla predicted the Internet but with all our devices using wireless electricity to boot.

Nikola Tesla and Tesla Broadcast Tower
Image Source: wikipedia, wikipedia

Towards the end of 19th century, Nikola Tesla proposed a telecommunications and electrical power delivery system that could allow “the transmission of electric energy without wires” on a global scale. By the end of 1900, he secured enough money to start building a wireless station at Wardenclyffe, New York which he believed could transmit messages across the Atlantic to England and to the ships at sea. But the project had to be abandoned in 1906 as he didn’t receive funds to scale up the project and include wireless power transmission. However, in 1909 he stated that,

“It will soon be possible, for instance, for a business man in New York to dictate instructions and have them appear instantly in type in London or elsewhere. He will be able to call up from his desk and talk with any telephone subscriber in the world. It will only be necessary to carry an inexpensive instrument not bigger than a watch, which will enable its bearer to hear anywhere on sea or land for distances of thousands of miles. One may listen or transmit speech or song to the uttermost parts of the world.”(source)

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