Sometimes famous last words occur long before the individual dies; what I mean by that is that a pivotal statement is made, and thereafter (whether immediately, or down through history ever after) the person ends up eating their hat. Here’s an example:
Charles H. Duell, director of the US patent office 1899, is thought to have said, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
But we should never judge a book by its cover; because he never said this! What he actually said was, “In my opinion, all previous advances in the various lines of invention will appear totally insignificant when compared with those which the present century will witness. I almost wish that I might live my life over again to see the wonders which are at the threshold.” ( The Friend, Volume 76, 1902) Quite a different matter.
It was, in fact, an earlier Patent Office Commissioner, Henry Ellsworth that may have been responsible for the sentiment: In a report to the 1843 Congress, Ellsworth states, “The advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end.“*
Oddly, you will find the misquote in published books and all over the web; let that be a reminder to us to do a bit of investigation of our own. Don’t even trust news sources such as newspapers or television news, as they are known to hype up, propagandize, invent, or at the very least embellish events. This last link is a short talk about journalism in the US, and it’s an important reminder for everyone in the world that just because it’s in print or on the news doesn’t mean you can fully trust its veracity.