Everybody knows that people in the past were insane. They wore funny hats, used words like “wherefore,” and don’t get us started on the pants. But some of the historic anecdotes we love repeating again and again simply aren’t true. As convenient as it may be to think of our ancestors as murder-happy torture enthusiasts, they were crazy, but they weren’t that crazy.
According to myth, a young George Washington confessed to cutting down a cherry tree by proclaiming, “I cannot tell a lie.” The story is testament to how much respect Americans have for their cherished first president and honesty in general. Unfortunately, in the annals of history it seems there are a dishonest scoundrels for every honorable hero like Washington. If more people knew the facts, a few of the great history-makers would be recognised (anyone heard of Ub Iwerks?), some famous people would stop taking so much credit, and we would stop blaming apples for everything! Let’s start with the following misconceptions…
1.Walt Disney drew Mickey Mouse
One of the world’s most famous fictitious characters, Mickey Mouse, is credited to Walt Disney. However, Mickey was the vision of Disney’s number one animator, Ub Iwerks. Disney — never a great artist — would always have trouble drawing the character who made him famous. Fortunately for him, Iwerks was known as the fastest animator in the business. He single-handedly animated Mickey’s first short film, Plane Crazy (1928), in only two weeks. (That’s 700 drawings a day.) But give some credit to Disney – when sound films began later that year, he played Mickey’s voice.
2. Walt Disney Was Frozen After His Death
The origins of this rumor remain unknown, but Disney was an extremely private person and it seems that this gave the opportunity for the public imagination to run wild. Disney was a technological innovator in his own field, so he might have seemed like an appropriate candidate.There are actually two versions of the myth going around—one says that Disney froze his entire body while the other says that only his head was put into cryogenic stasis. Both are false. This is backed up by a wealth of evidence that Disney was cremated, including his death certificate.
3. Newton was hit by an apple
Apples continued to get bad press with the famous story that scientist Isaac Newton was under a tree, minding his own business, when an apple fell on his head. Just as well it provided him the inspiration for the laws of gravity, or the poor apple would never be forgiven! But while the falling apple is a good story, it probably never happened. The story was first published in an essay by Voltaire, long after Newton’s death. Before that, Newton’s niece, Catherine Conduitt, was the only person who ever told the story. It was almost certainly an invention.
4. Van Gogh sliced off his ear
Van Gogh is known as the archetypal starving artist, only selling one painting in his lifetime, and – in a quarrel with Gauguin – slicing off his ear, not long before committing suicide. He only spent eight years of his life painting, which helps to explain why he didn’t starve to death. Also, he didn’t slice off his entire ear, just a portion of his left lobe. Painful — yes, but not nearly as bad as you might have thought.
5. Einstein Flunked Math
Inspiring underachievers with the story of this German kid who was just like you! Despite his sincerest efforts he could never manage to do well in his math exams, and struggled desperately with physics while working as a lowly patent clerk. Well, as it turns out, Einstein was a mathematical prodigy, and before he was 12, he was already better at arithmetic and calculus than you are now. Not only did he pass math with flying colors, it’s entirely possible that he was actually teaching the class by the end of semester.
6. Great Wall of China is visible from the moon
You can see a lot of things while you are standing on the moon, but the Great Wall of China is not one of them. On its publication in 1938, the Second Book of Miracles, Richard Halliburton said that the Great Wall of China, the only facility built by human hands, that is visible from the moon. However, the Great Wall is a maximum of 30 meters wide and almost the same color as its surroundings, so it is barely visible with eye from Earth’s orbit under ideal circumstances, and especially not visible from the moon, which is about 239,000 kilometers.
When you are famous, people expect a little extravagance and peculiarity from you. The weird, outrageous, or simply unusual stories about famous people usually prove to be the most enduring. They are the stories the public wants to believe—even if they aren’t true. As a result of this, many myths regarding notable figures from the past are still prevalent today. Over the course of many years, we come to believe certain things to be historical facts when in fact, they are not.