Radical Thinkers: Big Ideas No One Wanted


Big ideas challenge the status quo and threaten the fabric of “how we’ve always done it” and “the way it is.” For this reason, radical thinking is often met with skepticism, suspicion, and bold opposition. New perspectives and theories are critical to our development as a society, however, as the following pioneers have demonstrated throughout history.

1. Giordano Bruno

In 1584, this Italian astrologer insisted that Earth was not the center of the universe. This was a radical idea for 16th-century Europe, particularly Italy, which upheld Roman Catholic doctrine declaring that all celestial bodies orbited our planet. Bruno was tried for heresy by the Roman Inquisition and burned at the stake, but his published theories would inform the work of later scholars.

2. Wright Brothers

Would you have believed a machine could fly? In 1906, these famous brothers began pitching their successful flying machine to governments in order to negotiate a contract to sell their invention. They were met with ridicule and scorn from skeptics. They were once known as “bluffers” across Europe, but opposition would soon be quieted several years later, after their first public demonstration of flight.

3. Galileo Galilei

You’ve heard of this Italian astronomer often called the “father of modern physics.” He collected data on the phases of planets and tracked satellites and sunspots using a telescope. He is credited with several scientific inventions, including a military compass, but his biggest idea was that the Earth orbits around the sun, which is, in fact, the center of the universe. He, too, was declared a heretic by the Roman Inquisition. His work was banned and he remained under house arrest for the rest of his life.

If you have a big idea on your hands, take heart. Radical thinking changes the world, not just by inventions alone, but by perspective. In many parts of the world today, we welcome new ideas and challenge ourselves to accept different perspectives. Don’t fear criticism while you forge a path.