Man is prone to forgetfulness, oversight, bias, misunderstanding, and simple mistakes. As such, the scientific discoveries and scientific research of man is also susceptible to mistakes, errors and blunders. In some cases, it is not a case of an error – but is rather old fashioned dishonesty and fraud, motivated by simple greed.

Nevertheless, in many instances, scientific discoveries were later proven to be incorrect or downright dangerous, and many a time, there were hundreds or thousands of people who were maimed or even killed as a result.

Below are a few examples of scientific discoveries that were later discovered to be incorrect or dangerous. It is hoped that presenting these examples will open a person’s mind to the realization that science is filled with errors and mistakes, and should never be given precedence over the teachings of the Quraan and hadeeth.

Faking Studies

John Darsee was a renowned researcher in the prestigious Harvard University. Yet, in 1981, he was found to be faking data in a heart study. Eventually, investigators at the National Institutes of Health discovered that data for most of his 100 published studies had been fabricated.

It should be borne in mind that there are many other scientists who have faked or altered the results of their research (e.g. Robert Slutsky). Furthermore, how many more may be guilty of the same crime but have not been apprehended or caught out?

Simple Blunders

BSE aka mad cow disease is a serious illness occurring in cows. Scientists at the Institute for Animal Health in Edinburgh (Scotland) were alarmed when they discovered that this illness had now jumped across species and had infected sheep. However, it was later found that the infected brains which the scientists had been examining for the last five years actually belonged to cows – not sheep, and it was this that led them to make the gigantic blunder.

Harmful Meds

Thalidomide – Thalidomide was drug used widely in the late 1950s for the treatment of nausea in pregnant women. However, it became apparent in the 1960s that Thalidomide treatment resulted in severe birth defects in thousands of children.

Fen-Phen – In the early 1990s, Michael Weintraub, a researcher at the University of Rochester, concluded that a combination of phentermine, a stimulant, and fenfluramine, an appetite suppressant, could be used for the long-term control of obesity. From here, the fen-phen diet craze was born.

A few years later, in August 1996, a report in The New England Journal of Medicine linked the use of fen-phen for more than three months to a 23-fold increased risk of developing primary pulmonary hypertension – a fatal lung disorder. Additional studies also revealed that prolonged use of fenfluramine could cause heart-valve defects.

It was only in September 1997 that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) officially banned fen-phen. In 1999, the American Home Products Corporation (the producers of fen-phen) were sued and agreed to pay a $3.75 billion settlement to those injured by taking the drug.

Archaeology Flops

Many scientific theories hinge around archaeological discoveries. However, the field of archaeology is also littered with mistakes, incorrect assumptions and examples of fraud.

Piltdown man – In 1913, an ape’s jaw with a canine tooth worn down like a human’s was uncovered at a site near Piltdown. Scientists were excited as this fossil seemed to belong to a creature who had a human skull and an ape’s jaw. This appeared to prove the link between apes and humans in the chain of evolution. However, in 1953 (a whole, long 40 years later), the Piltdown skull was exposed as a forgery. It turned out that the skull was a modern skull, and the teeth on the ape’s jaw had simply been filed down.

The Piltdown Chicken – In 1999, a fossil was discovered in China which seemed to establish the link which proves that birds evolved from dinosaurs. This fossil showed a dinosaur with plumage like a bird. However, the whole discovery turned out to be a hoax. Apparently, a Chinese farmer had rigged together pieces of a bird and a meat-eater’s tail and had passed it off as a fossil.


In the 1950s, polycarbonate was discovered. Unlike most plastics, it was found that polycarbonate could undergo large plastic deformations without cracking or breaking.

Polycarbonate was initially used for electrical and electronic applications such as distributor and fuse boxes, displays and plug connections and for glazing for greenhouses and public buildings. In time, its characteristics became popular for many other applications as well, including plastic bottles (such as baby bottles) and linings for metal-based food and beverage cans.

Years later, in the 1990s, it was discovered that this type of plastic was leaching a chemical that had the properties of estrogen. This was due to the plastic containing BPA.

Subsequent studies found indications that BPA also caused cancer, infertility, diabetes, behavioral problems in children and a host of other complications. Yet, it was only around 2012 that any sort of ban took place regarding BPA – and that was only for BPA in children’s bottles.


The x-ray was invented or discovered in 1895, and undoubtedly, it revolutionized the medical field. Being able to see the bones, within the body, without any invasive means, was amazing for the time.

However, the harms of the radiation from x-rays was not known. Thomas Edison, the renowned inventor, began to experiment with x-rays. One of his main assistants who would operate the x-rays was Clarence Dally. Ultimately, due to radiation exposure, by 1900, he had developed lesions on his hands and his hair began to fall out. In 1902, his left arm had to be amputated, and the following year his right arm. He died in 1904 at the age of 39 from metastatic skin cancer.

However, what many people do not know is that x-rays were so common that they could be found in most shoe shops! Shoe shops contained devices consisting of a large wooden cabinet with an X-ray tube in its base and a slot where customers would place their shoe-clad feet. When the sales clerk flipped the switch to activate the X-ray stream, the customer could view the image on a fluorescent screen, showing the bones of the feet and the outline of the shoes. The machines were heralded as providing a more “scientific” method of fitting shoes. Hence, by the early 1950s, an estimated 10 000 machines were operating in the United States, 3 000 in the United Kingdom, and 1000 in Canada.

Though the discovery of radiation and its harms brought about an end to shoe-shop x-rays, one can only wonder as to how many thousands of people suffered and contracted illnesses due to the unnecessary exposure.


A century ago, glow-in-the-dark watches were an irresistible novelty. The dials, covered in a special luminous paint, shone all the time and didn’t require charging in sunlight. It looked like magic. The secret? – paint containing radium.

One of the first factories to produce these watches opened in New Jersey in 1916. It hired about 70 women, the first of thousands to be employed in many such factories in the United States. For the delicate task of applying the paint to the tiny dials, the women were instructed to make the tips of the brushes pointed by squeezing it between their lips. Hence, the women were ingesting the paint with nearly every brushstroke.

Though we now know radium to be poisonous, at that time, radium was regarded as an all-powerful health tonic, taken in the same way as we take vitamins today. Thus, radium became an additive in a number of everyday products from toothpaste to cosmetics and even food and drinks. One such preparation, called Radithor, was simply distilled water with tiny amounts of the radium dissolved in it. Boldly advertised as “A Cure for the Living Dead” and “Perpetual Sunshine,” it promised to tackle various ailments from arthritis to gout.

Eventually, however, the harms of radium were experienced. One athlete, Eben Byers, who was notorious for drinking a bottle of Radithor every day for years thereafter died from it in 1932. The headline of a Wall Street Journal story about his death reads, “The radium water worked fine until his jaw came off.”

In the early 1920s, some of the Radium Girls (working in the watch factories) started developing symptoms like fatigue and toothaches. The first death occurred in 1922, when 22-year-old Mollie Maggia died after reportedly enduring a year of pain. Although her death certificate erroneously stated that she died of syphilis, she was actually suffering from a condition called “radium jaw.” Her entire lower jawbone had become so brittle that her doctor removed it by simply lifting it out. “The radium was destroying the bone and literally drilling holes in the women’s jaws while they were still alive,” said Moore.

Undoubtedly, she was not the only one who suffered before science discovered the harms of their initial discovery and remedied it. Another example, similar to this, is that of asbestos.

Cocaine and Heroine

It was around the mid 1880s that scientists were able to isolate the active ingredient of the coca leaf and produce cocaine. Pharmaceutical companies loved this new, fast-acting and relatively-inexpensive stimulant.

Due to its anesthetic qualities, it was soon marketed as a treatment for toothaches, depression, sinusitis, lethargy, alcoholism, and impotence. As such, cocaine was being sold as a tonic, lozenge, powder and was even used in cigarettes.

Popular home remedies, such as Allen’s Cocaine Tablets, could be purchased for just 50 cents a box and offered relief for everything from hay fever, catarrh, throat troubles, nervousness, headaches, and sleeplessness. In reality, the side effects of cocaine actually caused many of the ailments it claimed to cure—causing lack of sleep, eating problems, depression, and even hallucinations.

The result of this was that by 1902, there were an estimated 200 000 cocaine addicts in the U.S. alone. It was only in 1914 that the Harrison Narcotic Act outlawed the production, importation, and distribution of cocaine.

Similar to this is the case of Heroin which was sold by Bayer (the well-known pharmaceutical company) in the form of heroin-laced aspirin which they marketed towards children suffering from sore throats, coughs, and cold.