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HISTORY FACTS * The most famous typos in history *

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Post by Paul Mon 20 May 2024, 12:29 pm

5 of the Most Famous Typos in History

An occasional slip of the keyboard or pen can lead to errors in spelling, punctuation, or grammar, and while they may seem trivial or even funny when they happen, some typos throughout history have had significant consequences. One infamous example of a typographical error is a 17th-century printing of the Bible that caused an uproar after it changed the meaning of one of the Ten Commandments. NASA’s onetime coding error, meanwhile, has been called the most expensive typo in history. In the grand scheme of things, typos may appear as minor nuisances, but these minuscule mistakes can spark conversations and even shape historical narratives. Read on to learn about some famous typos that remind us that even the smallest errors can have profound consequences.
HISTORY FACTS * The most famous typos in history * 1_HF_famous-typos_bible
Photo credit: Historic Images/ Alamy Stock Photo


The “Wicked Bible”


In 1631, a small but significant typo shook the religious world. In a reprint of the King James Bible by royal printers Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, the word “not” was egregiously left out of the Seventh Commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” which was mistakenly printed as “Thou shalt commit adultery.” The typo appeared in about 1,000 copies of the text, which later came to be known as the “Wicked Bible” or “Sinners’ Bible.” It isn’t clear how the misprint happened. Some theories over the years have suggested that a rival printer might have done it deliberately, but the more likely cause was simple oversight. When the error was discovered, the ramifications were swift and severe. The king fined the printers £300 (around $70,000 today), revoked their printing license, and proceeded to find and destroy as many copies of the Wicked Bible as possible, turning it into a rare collector’s item. Today, only about 20 copies remain in circulation.




HISTORY FACTS * The most famous typos in history * 2_HF_famous-typos_nasa
Photo credit: NASA Archive/ Alamy Stock Photo

NASA’s Million-Dollar Typo

On July 22, 1962, NASA’s Mariner 1 spacecraft, designed for a mission to Venus, was set to launch from Cape Canaveral. But just minutes after liftoff, the shuttle had to be destroyed due to a course deviation. The culprit behind this mission-ending error was a simple coding mistake. While it’s been widely reported that a missing hyphen in the software coding was to blame, NASA has said that it was an “omission of an overbar for the symbol R for radius (R instead of R̅) in an equation,” as well as a guidance antenna on the atlas, that caused the failure. Mariner 1 was set to be America’s first interplanetary probe. It set NASA back $18.5 million (over $180 million today), an amount that led 2001: A Space Odyssey author Arthur C. Clarke to call it “the most expensive hyphen in history.” Just 36 days later, Mariner 2 successfully launched and flew by Venus, becoming humankind’s first successful scientific planetary mission.




HISTORY FACTS * The most famous typos in history * 3_HF_famous-typos_lincoln
Photo credit: lunamarina/ Shutterstock

The Lincoln Memorial Typo

The Lincoln Memorial is one of the most iconic landmarks in the United States. Before its official dedication took place in 1922, an unfortunate typo was discovered etched into the words of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, one of two famous speeches inscribed on the monument, along with the Gettysburg Address. During the original carving of the inscriptions, an engraver mistakenly carved an “E” in place of the “F” in the word “FUTURE” in the phrase “WITH HIGH HOPE FOR THE FUTURE.” Eventually, the error was corrected by filling in the bottom line of the “E,” but the flub is still visible to those looking for it. 




HISTORY FACTS * The most famous typos in history * 5_HF_famous-typos_dictionary
Photo credit: Buyenlarge/ Archive Photos via Getty Images

The Dictionary’s Fake Word

A dictionary is a presumed source of accuracy, but in 1934, the nonword “dord” appeared in the second edition of Webster’s New International Dictionary. It appeared between the text’s entries for “dorcopsis,” a small kangaroo species, and “doré,” meaning “golden in color.” “Dord” was listed as a noun referring to density in the fields of physics and chemistry. The intended entry was actually “D or d,” the abbreviation for density used by physicists and chemists, but the error went unnoticed before going to print. The mistake wasn’t caught until 1939, when an editor at Merriam-Webster discovered it and hastily marked up the page announcing the “imperative” and “urgent” need to correct a “ghost word” — the term given to a word that doesn’t actually exist.


HISTORY FACTS * The most famous typos in history * 7_HF_famous-typos_google
Photo credit: NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google’s Lucky Typo

In 1996, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the co-founders of Google, named their new search engine “BackRub.” As their project grew, the tech duo began looking for a new name, and fellow Stanford student Sean Anderson reportedly suggested the name “googolplex,” the name of an incredibly large number (1 followed by a “googol” of zeroes). Page suggested the shorter “googol,” which is the mathematical expression for the number 1 followed by 100 zeros. Anderson typed the domain name to check its availability, but reportedly accidentally searched for “google.com.” The name stuck, and on September 15, 1997, Page and Brin registered the domain, a word that, while a happy accident, nonetheless succinctly reflected their mission to organize the world’s information.
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