June 18, 2015 marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.

File:Napoleon-Bonaparte-4085.jpgLittle did Napoleon Bonaparte realise that he would end up exiled on one of the most remote islands in the world — even today. (Photo credit: villains.wikia.com)

The Duke of Wellington, who commanded a coalition army of British, German and Dutch forces, emerged victorious.  (Photo credit: thisdaythen.blogspot.com)

The Battle of Waterloo was important not only because Napoleon lost but also (emphases mine):

It definitively ended the series of wars that had convulsed Europe—and involved many other regions of the world—since the French Revolution of the early 1790s. It also ended the First French Empire and the political and military career of Napoleon Bonaparte, one of the greatest commanders and statesmen in history.[ab] Finally, it ushered in almost half a century of international peace in Europe; no further major conflict occurred until the Crimean War.

After his decisive defeat, Napoleon:

attempted to flee to the United States, but the British blocked his escape route. He surrendered to British custody and spent the last six years of his life in confinement on the remote island of Saint Helena. His death in 1821, at the age of 51, was received by shock and grief throughout Europe and the New World. In 1840, roughly one million people lined the streets of Paris to witness his remains returning to France, where they still reside at Les Invalides.[8]

It is for these reasons that we still speak of a Waterloo moment two centuries later.

Other men have also had Waterloo moments, although not of this scale. The Red Bulletin, Red Bull’s freebie magazine which appears in various countries around the world, includes some of their stories in its June 2015 issue.

As for Napoleon, the magazine says that his true Waterloo moment was not so much defeat in battle but the subsequent exile to St Helena (p. 22)!

Summarised below are a few of the magazine’s lesser, but still significant, Waterloo moments in history.

Inventors and designers

These unsung heroes are news to me and may be to you, too. From ‘Forgotten Heroes’ on page 24 of the magazine:

Coffee: Did you know that the 21st century coffee capsule was actually invented in 1970? Eric Favre presented his invention to Nestlé at that time but the multinational rejected it in favour of … instant coffee. So last century!

Logo: Nike lucked out with their swoosh logo, which Carolyn Davidson designed when she was a student. Nike paid her $35 for the ubiquitous design. Fortunately, the company later gave her shares in their stock as further recognition.

Photography: Who knew that photography was invented in Brazil in 1833? Hercules Florence, a painter, was the man, but he kept his invention private. Europeans, developing techniques separately, got the credit.

Physics: In 1956, physicist Hugh Everett published his work positing the existence of a parallel universe. His peers denounced him as being mad. Consequently, Everett retired from his scientific work. Nearly 60 years later, the basic tenets of his theories have been widely acknowledged — and accepted.

Never say never

These men were sure of their convictions — and badly mistaken. From ‘The Faulty Forecasts’ on page 26:

Trains: In 1838, Prussia’s Frederick William III said railways would never take off:

What would the advantage be of arriving somewhere a couple of hours earlier?

Planes: An unnamed Boeing engineer said in 1933 that the twin-engine Boeing 247, capable of carrying 10 people, represented the apogee of aircraft technology:

There will never be a bigger plane built.

Music: In 1962, talent scout Dick Rowe refused to sign the Beatles to Decca Records:

Guitar groups are on their way out.

Conclusion

For some it’s a Waterloo moment, for others, it’s eating humble pie.

When we are too confident of our abilities or predictions, it might be advisable to stay silent and see how things develop!

Advertisements