17 Of The Biggest 'Butterfly Effects' That Happened Throughout History.

People on Reddit were asked: "What are the greatest examples of the 'Butterfly Effect' that have happened throughout history?" These are some of the best answers.


Hitler had an extremely dangerous job as a courier in WW1 and said he was saved by Providence to rule Germany later. He said he heard a voice telling him to move away from an area, right after the place was shelled/gassed and killed the others that were with him. He survived a gas attack and almost drowned as a kid. It's like the devil saved Hitler for WW2


The 1970 Buffalo Bills are responsible for the Kardashians. In 1970 the Buffalo Bills barely lost a game by missing on a bad pass for a touchdown. Losing that game allowed them to get the number one pick in the draft. With that pick they drafted O.J. Simpson. He moved to Buffalo, met Nicole, and then allegedly kills her. Robert Kardashian is on the legal team, they win the case, get famous and it becomes a huge deal when Kim drops her sex tape.


It's easy to forget, but back in 2004 Barack Obama was a virtual unknown. That year, he joined the race for Illinois' open Senate seat which was vacated by a retiring Republican. His opponent after the GOP primary was Jack Ryan.

Ryan was the ex-husband of Jeri Ryan, the actress famous for playing Seven of Nine on Star Trek Voyager. The two had split up years prior to the election, and had their divorce records sealed. However, during the spring of that year, the Chicago Tribune successfully sued to have the records unsealed. They included allegations that Jack had tried to convince Jeri to have sex in public at swingers' clubs in multiple cities.

Naturally, this immediately cratered Ryan's campaign and Obama - who was now running virtually unopposed - was rewarded with a prime speaking slot at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. There he gave a particularly compelling speech that made him a political celebrity overnight.

The Illinois GOP then tried to recruit Mike Ditka to replace Ryan, possibly the only man in Illinois with the name recognition to actually win with a handicap like that, but he declined. They instead brought in Alan Keyes, a pointless sacrifice who was completely stomped in November. Obama wins and eventually rides the success of his overwhelming senate victory into 2008 and the White House.

To recap: If Jack Ryan doesn't perv out and try to bang Seven of Nine in public, Obama possibly loses his first public campaign and returns to local politics.

If Mike Ditka comes in, he might get elected instead.

If Obama doesn't have that momentum in 2008, the election is likely Clinton vs. McCain - one that McCain is much more capable of winning. But in either case, the birther issue never appears for Donald Trump to latch onto.


We eat with forks because Confucius didn't like knives at the table.

In Confucian thought, it's unsightly and inappropriate to have anything remotely violent at the table. Cutting the food is too violent and having knives at the table is like having weapons. This all invites disharmony and Confucius doesn't [like] that. China really really likes to do what Confucius thought. As a result, Chinese cuisine evolves in such a way that all the cutting happens in the kitchen, away from the table. Noodles become a thing, and chopsticks work really well with this bite-size cuisine.

Now be Italy. You've just gotten this crazy noodle thing and so you're eating them with chopsticks because that's how the inventors did it. But then you think, what if I used metal sticks instead? They last longer and you love it. You love it so much that you start using three sticks at a time because it's even easier to eat noodles that way. Then, you think, what if you put all the sticks on the end of another stick? You do and it's so much easier to hold you can't even. So Italy, you become this nation of weirdos with a brand new utensil.

But you're not just any Italian now, you're Catherine di Medici. Your family is loaded. Like owning cities loaded. Like bribing the Vatican loaded. You know who isn't loaded right now? France. So instead of just being a rich lady with a rich guy husband, your dad makes you a marriage alliance with a nation-sized dowry and now you are queen of France. France is a big deal. French court is a big deal. You are now the biggest deal in Europe when it comes to social matters. You like forks. You make everyone in your court learn to eat with them. Remember how you're a big deal? Yeah, so now everyone in Europe likes forks.

Germany likes the forks, but not as much as everyone else. They're kind of clunky. And huge! So some Germans come up with a better fork design. With more tines! And it's super compact, and everybody loves it! All the Europeans make their forks this way, now and it spreads to their colossal number of colonies.

All because Confucius didn't like knives at the dinner table.


Mohamed Bouazizi was a Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire on 17 December 2010, in response to the confiscation of his wares and the harassment and humiliation that he said was inflicted on him by a municipal official and her aides.

This act became a catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution and the wider Arab Spring.

Which led to Syrian Civil War, Iraqi Insurgency, The Egyptian Crisis, Yemeni Civil War, Libyan Civil War, the refugee crisis, major unrest in the middle east, proxy wars, power vacuums, the rise of ISIS, frequent terrorist attacks globally, the rise in popularity of right wing politicians in Europe, the rise of Erdogan in Turkey and the election of Trump, Brexit, and all that brings. Stay tuned for more.


King Henry VIII, introducer of state protestantism, serial divorcee, dissolver of the monasteries and father of Queen Elizabeth I, herself a hugely influential monarch, was not supposed to be king. Henry was the 'spare' and his elder brother Arthur was heir to Henry VII's throne.

Had Arthur not died of a mystery illness - which nearly also killed Catherine of Aragon - Henry would have occupied a place in history similar to other second sons. Compare the current Prince Harry and whatever his role will be presuming William accedes to the throne.

Britain would have likely remained Catholic, very much a European country. Relations with Ireland and the continent would have played very differently, and it's very likely America as we know it would be entirely different as a result.

Not to mention that since Catherine of Aragon was first married to Arthur, she would not wed Henry, and so Queen Mary would have never existed.

Henry wouldn't have married Anne Boleyn, as it is unlikely that he would have been divorced and on the rebound looking for a new queen. Anne was also intending to marry another, and Wolsey wouldn't have had any need to step in to stop it. Elizabeth I is thus not born.

English history pivots on Arthur's death. Who knows what the world would be like if he hadn't died.


One of the worst movies ever made directly led to rise of one of the most beloved actors of our generation - and he wasn't even in the film.

When Cannon Films bought the rights to the Superman movie series, they really wanted Christopher Reeve to play the part one more time. He reluctantly agreed, but only on condition that Cannon make his pet project, Street Smart, about a reporter who becomes famous after faking a story.

Superman IV, needless to say, was a disaster of legendary proportions, in no small part because Cannon slashed the budget by more than half just before filming started. They did make Street Smart, which got decent reviews but fizzled at the box office.

Critics generally agreed that there was one standout performer in Street Smart, playing a violent, murderous pimp. This actor was best known, if at all, for having been on the kids' show The Electric Company in the seventies, but his performance in Street Smart was a revelation and earned him his first Oscar nomination.

And that's why MORGAN FREEMAN probably wouldn't have a career today if not for Superman IV.


August 1945, at the tail end of World War 2, Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan are nuked. This of course causes a deep economic depression in Japan (to match the deep craters in the ground where cities once stood).

For years, Japan tries to get back on it's feet, but the economy is so [crappy] that not only have living conditions in general deteriorated, but nobody has any drive to try improving things because there is virtually no such thing as entertainment in post-WW2 Japan, and what little there is, is very expensive and cannot be afforded by most of the population, who can barely even afford rice to feed themselves. Japan is in a deep state of depression, and not only a financial one, but an emotional one.

Enter Osamu Tezuka. In 1952, Tezuka decides to create a comic to entertain the Japanese public, in order to make them happy enough to work to get Japan back on track. He creates Tetsuwan Atom, known as Astro Boy in the west, and prints it on the cheapest, lowest quality paper with the cheapest, lowest quality ink, in order to sell it for dirt cheap, so that the poor Japanese public can afford it.

It becomes a massive success. It gets Japan out of it's emotional depression (and partially gets it out of it's economic one) and spawns dozens of imitators over the next few years, who largely try and imitate Tezuka's art style in order to cash in on the popularity of Tetsuwan Atom.

This forms the basis of the Japanese manga (comic) industry, and later spawns animated adaptations of many of these manga, known as anime. The industry continued to grow, and continued to encourage Japanese people to work hard so they could buy these ever-popular comics, which caused a massive economic boom over the next few decades.

And today, Japan is the go-to place for technology, video games and of course, their wacky anime and manga.


The weather being poor over Kokura on August 9th, 1945. Kokura was the primary target for the second atomic bomb, but the mission was under strict orders for bombing by visual sighting only. They made several bomb runs hoping for a break in the clouds before proceeding on to the backup target, Nagasaki. Bad weather resulted in the destruction of one city and ten's of thousands of lives while saving another city and its inhabitants. Untold numbers of lives at the time, and generations into the future, were impacted by the weather that day.


In order to get the shuttle into orbit, the engineers knew they'd need an external rocket that would separate after firing and allow the shuttle to continue onward into space. Ideally, they would have just slapped a single large rocket to the shuttle because one rocket is safer than two, but that wasn't possible.

Why not? Because the rockets were built in Utah, far away from where the shuttle would be launched in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Because of this, the external boosters had to be designed in such a way that they could be shipped by train from Utah to Florida. At one point, the train travels through a tunnel in the mountains where the tunnel is only slightly wider than the track, so the boosters can't be much larger than the tracks themselves.

The standard US railroad gauge is 4 feet 8.5 inches across. Kind of a weird number, right? Why are the tracks that wide? Because that's the way they built them in the UK, and many of the first railways in the US were designed by British expatriates. This would also ensure that American tracks could accommodate British trains and equipment.

But why did the British make the tracks that wide? Because the first railway lines were built by the people who built the first pre-railroad tramway lines, and that's the size they were accustomed to.

But why was that width used by the first tramway designers? Because those first tramways were built using the same jigs and tools that were used to build wagons, which themselves had specific wheel spacings.

But why did those wagons have such a weird width? Because the major trade roads in England had deep ruts in them and if a wagon had different wheel spacing, the wheels wouldn't be in the ruts and the wheels would likely break.

But where did these roads come from? The first roads in England were built by the Romans for their legions to use. They've been used ever since.

But why did these roads have ruts in them? The original ruts, which everyone eventually had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels, were first made by Roman war chariots. They were all built to the same standard specification, so the ruts were consistent.

But why were the chariots built to that size? Because the chariot is just wide enough to accommodate being pulled by two horses standing side by side.

So the design of the space shuttle, one of the most advanced transportation systems ever devised, was determined in part by the width of two horses' [butts] centuries earlier.


That even though a few presidents and politicians are blamed, it was President Woodrow Wilson (in office from 1914 to 1921) who was responsible for the Vietnam War.

In 1919 a young Ho Chi Minh was living in France and approached the delegations at Versailles to consider an independent Vietnam. In particular he sent a letter to president Wilson (who advocated for the sovereign independence of nations following WWI) explaining that he wished to create his new country based on the US Democratic model, citing the Declaration of Independence as an influential document.

Wilson and other Western leaders flat out rejected the notion (since France was an ally but also largely considered because of racism since Wilson was a segregationist and noted racist) and rejected an audience for Ho Chi Minh. Later the Vietnamese revolutionary would court the Communist ideology, and the rest is history.


In November 1669, Anne Hyde has doubts about the truth of her Protestant religion. Someone recommends her to read Heylin's History of the Reformation and that will answer all her doubts. Anne reads it, but it has the opposite result: she concludes that the Protestants were wrong, and she becomes Catholic.

Anne's husband is James, the Duke of York. Influenced by her, he investigates things and becomes Catholic. James' older brother is Charles II of England. Charles II dies in 1685 with no legitimate children. James is crowned James II, King of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

But in 1688 James II is kicked off the throne and run out of England because he's Catholic. From 1689 through 1745, James II, his son, and his grandson all fight various major battles to try to retake the throne.

Three generations of bloody Jacobite risings-- all because Anne Hyde had to go and read a book.


A guy left his lab for a month. He came back and found mold growing in a Petri dish and decided to keep it rather than throw it out.

The man? Alexander Fleming. The mold? Penicillum, which produces penicillin; among the most important drugs ever discovered. If he'd just thrown out the contaminated culture, who knows where we'd be in terms of medicine?


A little Cuban boy being rescued at sea on his way to Florida created the world we now live in. In 1999, Elian Gonzalez was picked up by a fisherman, floating in the ocean after the boat he and his mother were on sank. His mother died, but he survived and was taken to Miami where he had relatives. His father still lived in Cuba, and obviously he wanted the boy back. There was a long custody battle between the Miami relatives and the boys father, in which the Clinton administration backed sending him back to Cuba. In April of 2000, federal agents stormed the home the boy was staying in and took him into custody, and returned him to Cuba.

There was absolute outrage from the Cuban-American population in Miami. This all took place in an election year in which Clinton's Vice President was running for President. The Cuban-American voters did not forget what happened when they went to the polls that November. George W. Bush won the state by 500 votes.

If that whole saga had not taken place, Al Gore most certainly would have been able to get at least 500 more votes among the Cuban-American voters. And had he become president instead of Bush, there is really no way to calculate just how different the world of today would be.


A German bureaucrat messing up on live TV led to the Berlin Wall falling.

This East German guy, Gunter Schabowski, was set to announce new travel being allowed outside of East Germany- in a few days from the announcement, and one had to wait days to get and have the special travel visa authorized. He was to announce on live government TV.

He was rushed and tired, going to the press conference, and had not read the official government press release before coming on live TV. An aide just handed him the paper, which he read on camera.

But, like I said, he was unprepared, tired, and rushed. So he read the first part of the release, which said "the government now authorizes travel freedom" on live TV. A reporter then asked "so when does this take effect?" He had not had the chance to read about the travel limits and visa requirements yet, and had had a long day. So instead of taking several live minutes to read the whole thing, Schabowski just mumbled "as far as I know...right away."

This led to thousands of East Germans massing at the Wall and border checkpoints. People got angrier and angrier as they were refused passage. Finally, to avoid a riot or getting hurt themselves, one guard let some people on through. This led to a chain reaction...and so bye-bye, Berlin Wall.


Ole Kirk Christiansen was a carpenter in Denmark who was struggling to make ends meet during the Great Depression. After his wife died, he was trying to take care of his kids by himself and they loved this duck toy that he made. He started to manufacture the ducks in a factory, but the factory burned down because his kids were playing with fire and wood shavings. He was basically destitute for a while, but continued making little models of houses, vehicles, and small toys. After a while, they grew in popularity, and Christiansen decided to move on to making them in plastic instead.

And now we have Lego.


In 1876, the illegitimate son of one Maria Anna Schicklgruber was legitimated by his father and officially changed his last name from Schicklgruber to his father's last name: Hitler. Twelve years later, that man fathered a young lad named Adolf.

Can you imagine trying to get a campaign going around "Hail Schicklgruber?" It lacks good cadence completely. You have to wonder: would things have shaken out differently if an absurd little Austrian painter with a silly mustache had a silly name to match? My favorite historian, Richard J Evans, thinks it might have made a difference in the campaign leading to Hitler's chancellorship, which would have changed everything.


The Chinese were technologically more advanced than Europe pretty much all throughout the time between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance. but they invented porcelain.

Europe was envious of porcelain and it was something kings and rich people sought to posses. So naturally a lot of people tried recreating it. This led to the invention and refining of working glass.

Glass is the single most important material basically all modern science is based on, it allows to create lenses. Lenses are used in microscopy leading to us discovering bacteria and basing modern medicine and the effects of longer life spans the ability to treat and eradicate whole diseases that previously were lethal.

Lenses are used in astronomy and navigation, which enabled European Nations like England, Spain, France, the Netherlands, and Portugal (and a few others like Belgium, Italy, and later Germany) to spread all over the globe colonizing the planet, securing vast amounts of resources and spreading their culture.

So if the Chinese didn't have porcelain they'd probably would have invented glass, and that a few centuries earlier than Europe, the world would have looked vastly different today.


Sources: 1, 2, 3

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