These brilliant figures in history literally changed the world, but they were not recognized at their time.
For centuries, humanity has shown rejection towards great minds that seem to be ahead of their time; but if we stop to think for a moment, so many statements that were once treated as absolute truths now seem completely absurd and impossible to believe.
Time has shown us that reality is different. What would you think if people believed the idea that the Earth is square? That the Sun revolves around the Earth? Humans had four arms and four legs until Zeus got angry and decided to separate them and created men and women.
Despite being nonsensical statements, they used to have greater acceptance by society. Even those who thought differently were condemned, so it is not surprising that those people oppressed by powerful institutions for having other ideas have in common a passion for science and knowledge, since the more we know, the more we question everything around us.
If we go back to one of the first cases -or perhaps the first one on record-, it happened in ancient Greece, where the great philosopher and teacher of Plato and Aristotle, the great Socrates, lived. He once wrote incredible phrases such as “The wise man does not say all he thinks, but thinks all he says” or “In adversity virtue comes to light.”
Socrates was respected and recognized as one of the most brilliant minds of his time. In 399 B.C., he was sentenced by the Athenian court for refusing to believe in the Athenian gods - those who today only serve as inspiration for mythical characters in movies and video games - so he accepted his sentence calmly.
To continue our journey, we must look at the stars as Giordano Bruno, an Italian philosopher, and former bishop. His insatiable curiosity led him to read texts forbidden by the Church, which awakened in him the idea that the Universe was infinite or close to being infinite. This thought, at a time when it was believed that the Universe was only what we could see with the naked eye, was condemned by the Catholic Church. He was imprisoned and sentenced in Rome in 1600, 10 years before Galileo Galilei invented the telescope, which would only certify that Giordano was right.
The list of brilliant minds rejected by humanity is very long, but to highlight one of the most surprising cases is that of the English scientist Alan Turing. Using a machine called “Enigma,” Turing was able to decipher German codes that ended up saving countless lives.
Although Turing, considered the father of modern computing, was not condemned for heresy, he was persecuted for his identity, for which his licenses and awards were revoked, and he was forced to take medication for his alleged problem. The British government apologized in 2009, 55 years after his passing.
If we look at these examples and think of many more we can ask ourselves the following questions: Is it worth it to be so intelligent? Should we continue to think differently, or is it better to stay within what is considered “normal”? History has shown us that those who are intelligent do not always have a good end...
Story originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva