In the comments on this question on Physics about the usefulness of expensive experiments such as the CERN, the following short discussion happened:
Has there ever been a major basic science result that did not lead to practical applications within the next couple of hundred years?
Isn't there a strong selection bias there? If something hasn't lead to anything much in the following couple of hundred years, we've probably forgotten about it, regardless of how big a deal it seemed at the time.
While the second argument is indeed sound, I wonder whether there is any good example for this. More precisely and with slight deviations from the inspiration, I am looking for the following:
- A scientific result that can be considered basic science in the sense that it was not mainly about application to begin with.
- This result was considered a breakthrough at its time by notable sources (in particular not by people gaining advantage from exaggerating something as a breakthrough).
- Neither this result nor its successors are considered relevant today. There is no relevant technological application (nor has there ever been) and it does not appear in modern textbooks of any discipline.
- The result was not a negative one, such as the falsification of the ether theory.
- The result must be real, e.g., it should not have turned out to be due to experimental errors.