Carl Sagan´s Guide to Fake News: The real story of Theophilus Van Kannel

The story that Theophilus van Kannel hated opening doors for women and hence invented the revolving door is somewhat convoluted.  Occam’s razor would suggest a simpler explanation – he invented the revolving door because he was an inventor.  The fact that there are a number of patents lodged by Van Kannel related to doors would support this.  In the anti-chivalry story an Appeal to Authority is made, citing the Mayor of Philadelphia, however, no source is provided to indicate where and when the Mayor gave this quote.

Theophilus Van Kannel was a real person who lived in Philadelphia in the late 1800s.  He also really invented the revolving door – the patent is still available to view.  However, it does not seem likely that his motivation was to invent a door that did away with the chivalrous convention of holding open doors for women. He had submitted patents for other door related inventions and contrary to the story as quoted, he was married with a daughter. provides chapter and verse on Theophilus and also on the origin (100 years after Van Kannel´s death) of the anti-chivalry story.

Click on Carl Sagan´s Guide to Fake News if you want to find out more about fake news or the baloney detection toolkit.

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