The Butterfly Effect is a theory that a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world can cause devastating consequences in another part.

Previously, the term was weather-related, but nowadays it is a metaphor for how a small and insignificant event can cause a major change in circumstances.

It is virtually impossible to corroborate this theory. However, it is interesting to think that if any one of your ancestors had not met, you would not be reading this right now.

Throughout history, major events have changed the world, but some have turned on the tiniest of detail.

We are going to look at the top examples of butterfly effect that changed the world:

Abraham Lincoln dreams of his death – 1865

Ten days before Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, he had a dream in which he attended his own funeral in the White House. Despite being extremely disturbed by this dream, he decided to take a trip to the theatre with hardly any security to protect him.

His assassination marked a pivotal point in American history as all the work Lincoln had undertaken to free African American slaves was rejected by his successor – Andrew Johnson.

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is still regarded as the heart of America’s national identity, and it is certainly true to say that if he had not gone to that theatre, he would have gone on to do many other great things.

How buying a sandwich lead to WW1 – 1914

Plans to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand by the Black Hand terrorist group had so far been unsuccessful. A grenade lobbed at the Archduke’s motorcade during a visit had missed and hit another car.

The Archduke was determined to visit the injured so travelled to the hospital but during the journey, he noticed that the driver was not going down the altered route that had been previously decided.

As the driver began to back out, one of the men assigned to assassinate him – Gavrilo Princip, happened to be buying a sandwich at the corner where the car carrying the Archduke conveniently stopped right outside. Princip shot the Archduke and his wife, which plunged the world into a four-year war with millions of casualties.

A rejected letter caused the Vietnam War

In 1919, Woodrow Wilson received a letter from a young man called Ho Chi Minh who asked to meet him to discuss independence from France for Vietnam. At the time, Ho Chi Minh was quite open-minded and ready to talk, but Wilson ignored the letter which angered the young Ho Chi Minh. He went on to study Marxism, he also met Trotsky and Stalin and became a staunch communist.

Later, Vietnam did win independence from France, but the country was split into a communist north and non-communist south, with Ho Chi Minh leading the North. In the 1960s, North Vietnamese guerrillas were attacking the south, and the USA stepped in. Something that would not have happened if Wilson had read Ho Chi Minh’s letter.

One man’s kindness caused the Holocaust

Henry Tandey was in France in 1918 fighting for the British Army when he decided to spare one young German’s life. This decision was to cost the world in ways no one could have ever imagined. Tandey was fighting to gain control of Marcoing and saw one injured German soldier trying to flee. Because he was injured Tandey could not bear to kill him so let him go.

The man was Adolf Hitler.

The rejection of an art application lead to World War Two

This is probably the most widely known butterfly effect on this list. In 1905, a young man applied to the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, unfortunately for him and us, he was rejected, twice.

That aspiring art student was Adolf Hitler, who after his rejection, was forced to live in the slums of the city and his anti-Semitism grew. He joined the German Army instead of fulfilling his dreams as an artist and the rest is history.

A fictitious book loses the US economy $900 on one particular day

In 1907, a stockbroker called Thomas Lawson wrote a book called Friday the Thirteenth, which uses the superstition of this date to cause a panic between stockbrokers on Wall Street.

The book had such an effect that now the US economy loses $900 million on this day because instead of going to work, holiday, or out shopping, people stay at home instead.

Martin Luther King Jr’s reputation rests on a gun license

Martin Luther King Jr is famous for his pacifist and non-violent protests, but history might have remembered him differently if a request for a gun license had been granted. When he had just been elected leader of the Montgomery Improvement Association, it is known that he applied for a license to carry a firearm.

This was after a number of threats from whites who were opposed to his selection. He was turned down, however, by a local sheriff and Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy of non-violence remains intact.

An admin error ended the Berlin Wall

Günter Schabowski was a spokesman for the Communist Party and in 1989, he was given a notice that stated a major change in how people could visit the Wall. For the time being, so long as they applied for permission, East Germans could now visit the West.

However, the notice was difficult to understand and Schabowski believed it meant anyone with a passport could visit whenever they wanted. When he was questioned by a reporter as to when the new rules were starting, he said ‘immediately’. And so a rush to cross took place, and the wall was effectively gone.

The above examples of butterfly effect prove how small choices by specific people can shape the future of the whole world.

What would you add to this list? Please share your examples of butterfly effect in the comments below.



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