Superpowers are not always confined to the cinema screen. Whilst people have yet to possess the ability of independent flight or invincibility, some have claimed to master the art of foresight. Most predictions from history have been nothing more than a hopeful punt, but some have uncannily hit the nail on the head. Let’s take a look at seven predictions that have turned out to be correct.
1. Alexis de Tocqueville
Prediction Date: 1840
Prediction: The Cold War
French aristocrat and political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville toured the US in the early part of the 19th century. After his travels, he wrote the acclaimed book De La Démocratie en Amérique (Democracy in America). His astute observations of the country led to several predictions about its future. One of which was the rivalry between America and Russia, stating that the two countries would ‘hold the destinies of half the world in its hands one day’.
It was an unusual opinion for the day as both Russia and America saw Great Britain as the enemy at that time. Both countries were also on opposite sides of the world, each with plenty of land to expand within. However, de Tocqueville saw the problems that could arise from different ideologies and believed the two were on an inventible collision course.
Over a century later, the world would indeed hold its collective breath as the two superpowers locked horns during the Cold War, proving de Tocqueville was spot on.
2. Mark Twain
Prediction Date: 1909
Prediction: His own death
Better known by his pen name Mark Twain, Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in November 1835, a short while after Halley’s Comet had made an appearance in the sky.
In 1909, the Huckleberry Finn author was quoted as saying by his biographer Albert Bigelow Paine, ‘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. The Almighty has said, no doubt: "Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together”.’
Sure enough, on 21 April 1910, just one day after the famous comet reappeared, Twain passed away from a heart attack.
3. Nikola Tesla
Prediction Date: Early 1900s
Prediction: Wi-Fi, mobiles phones and the internet
Serbian-American Nikola Tesla was not only a remarkable scientist and inventor during his lifetime but also a skilled futurist, who made several correct predictions about the advancement of technology beyond his time.
In a 1909 interview with the New York Times, the acclaimed physicist predicted the invention of Wi-Fi and mobile phones decades before they were created. ‘It will soon be possible to transmit wireless messages all over the world so simply that any individual can own and operate his own apparatus.’
Another interview in 1929 seemingly predicted the creation of the internet more than 50 years before it came to fruition. ‘When wireless technology is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance.’
4. Ferdinand Foch
Prediction Date: 1919
Ferdinand Foch was a French general who served as the Supreme Allied Commander during WWI. Many historians regard his contribution to the war effort as integral in ensuring victory.
A skilled military thinker, Foch was a key negotiator at Versailles after the German surrender. He believed that only a complete occupation of the Rhineland would protect France from future German aggression. His demands were ignored. Displeased with the outcome of the Treaty of Versailles, Foch proclaimed during its signing, ‘This is not a peace. It is an armistice for twenty years’.
Nearly exactly twenty years later to the day, German aggression kickstarted WWII, proving Foch's prophecy to be correct.
5. John Elfreth Watkins
Prediction Date: 1900
Prediction: Photographic technology
A relatively unknown American engineer by the name of John Elfreth Watkins, wrote an article called ‘What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years’. He penned it in December 1900 with many of his ideas being incredibly far-sighted.
One such prediction was the invention of new photographic technology. 'Photographs will be telegraphed from any distance,’ he wrote. ‘If there be a battle in China a hundred years hence, snapshots of its most striking events will be published in the newspapers an hour later.... photographs will reproduce all of nature's colours.’
Watkins was demonstrating incredible foresight, as not only was colour photography still very experimental in 1900, but the idea that a camera could transmit images across the world was beyond what anyone was saying at the time.
6. Robert Boyle
Prediction Date: Mid-17th century
Prediction: Organ transplants
Heralded as one of the founders of modern chemistry, Robert Boyle created a wish list during the 1660s as he helped found the Royal Society, now Britain's national academy of sciences.
The list was documented in his personal journal and was quite remarkable given the fact he was writing in a time before the word science was even coined and magic was still very much believed in. One of his standout predictions was that of organ transplants. He wrote, 'The cure of diseases at a distance or at least by transplantation'.
The first organ transplant was in 1954, some 300 years after Boyle’s prediction.
7. Jules Verne
Prediction Date: 1865
Prediction: Moon landing
Whilst English author H. G. Wells might have the greatest claim to the moniker ‘the father of science fiction’, French novelist Jules Verne can’t be that far off.
Famous for his books Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas (1870) and Around the World in Eighty Days (1872), he also penned one called From the Earth to the Moon in 1865. Writing over a century before man actually landed on the moon, Verne’s story details this accomplishment with astonishing accuracy. Not only does he predict the achievement but he included some calculations that would later prove incredibly close to the real figures.
He also included several other details that are remarkably accurate. In his book, the rocket launch is placed in Florida which is now the site of the Kennedy Space Center, where the famous Apollo missions were launched from.
Verne also placed the crew number at three and called his spacecraft Columbiad. The real Apollo 11 command module was named Columbia and its crew size was three. Finally, the astronauts return safely to Earth in Verne’s novel by parachuting into the sea before awaiting rescue. The crew of Apollo 11 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean aided by parachutes and similarly awaited rescue.