Are we too hard on mad scientists? After all, many of the world's greatest discoveries were made using experiments that would make the average citizen run screaming from the room.
So really, is there such a thing as a "mad" scientist at all? A man whose methods go so far above and beyond, that you doubt his very sanity?
Yes. Yes there is. Here are nine of them.
What is love? American psychologist Harry Harlow decided to find out. And what stronger bond is there than that of a child and mother? So he did studies on rhesus monkey babies and their mothers, to find the nature of love itself. What could be more noble?
Wait, what's the title of this article again? Oh, shit.
Harlow had a "Rape Rack" in his lab.
That's what he called the forced mating machine he used for the monkeys. See, it turns out Harlow wasn't big on using euphemisms to make people feel better about his experiments. And that's a problem, because he decided early that the best way to find out the nature of love was by torturing baby monkeys.
If you think "torturing" is too strong a word, you should know that he called another of his devices the Iron Maiden.
"To be honest, I don't even know why I'm doing this."
Wait, it Gets Weirder:
His most controversial experiment, however, involved a device affectionately dubbed the pit of despair, where a baby monkey would be placed in a small isolated chamber for periods of up to a year, without any contact with any living creature. As a result, the baby monkeys became psychotic and never recovered.
"You mean you don't like being tortured? Fascinating!"
So when it came time for Harlow to present his findings, we're guessing he just summed it up as, "What is love? Well, you know that feeling you get when you've been locked in a tiny dark space alone for a year? It's the opposite of that."
As a rocket propulsion researcher at the California Institute of Technology and co-founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, chemist Jack Parsons was destined to be immortalized in history as "the guy who knew a lot about rockets." Though, we assume history would have a better handle on coming up with nicknames than we do.
Here's Jack Parsons:
Well, we certainly don't see anything odd there. But as it turns out, Parsons was into the occult. Really into it.
Which would be cool if he kept it to himself, like getting a couple of weird tattoos or holding the occasional orgy in a circle of black candles (thus making him the greatest scientist in history). But no, Parsons didn't believe in moderation in his craziness. He was a strict follower of the Thelema, a sort of spiritual philosophy on life lead by this man, Aleister Crowley:
He was one of Crowley's most devoted students and was even chosen to lead a Masonic/Religious/Quasi-secret organization in California.
Eventually Parsons started invoking the name of the Greek god Pan before every rocket test, because half-goat/half-man, forest creatures are known for their technological aptitude.
Wait, it Gets Weirder:
The infamous publically discredited super fraud L. Ron Hubbard was often Parsons's "magical" buddy. Together they did many cool things, like participating in a ritual known as the Babalon Working, an attempt to summon a living goddess. They didn't succeed, as far as we know. Later, Hubbard defrauded a large sum of money from Parsons and used it to publish his book Dianetics, the basis for the Scientology movement.
Parsons didn't live to see Scientology bloom, as he died shortly after when science exploded in his face. And we mean that literally: He died in an explosion of volatile chemicals he kept laying around. Thanks a lot, Pan.
Sidney Gottlieb was an American military psychiatrist with a Ph.D. in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology. He worked with the CIA during the Cold War, using all of his scientific know-how in the field of biochemistry to help America get a leg up over the evil Ruskies.
Unfortunately, Gottlieb's scientific know-how came down basically to "let's poison everyone." For example, he was the man behind the idea to saturate Castro's shoes with thallium and thus make the hair of his beard fall out, further proving to us that the CIA had some very liberal theories about the source of Castro's power.
Not that we blame them. This thing looks like it will jump up and eat us any second.
Gottlieb also proposed killing Castro with a poisoned cigar, a poisoned wetsuit and a poisoned fountain pen. His later idea for a batch of poisoned poison was unfortunately rejected by the agency.
To prove he wasn't just a one note guy, Gottlieb later on tried to assassinate an Iraqi general and the prime minister of Congo with neurotoxins. Which are different than poison. Somehow.
Wait, it Gets Weirder:
Gottlieb was also the head of the MKULTRA project, which studied the possibilities of mind control in espionage... using LSD. The Agency wanted to know if the drug we now associate with hippies could help break a man's mind for interrogation purposes. So Sidney and his colleagues did what they had to in the name of science: They tripped like crazy, day and night.However, they soon grew lonely and invited more and more people on their acid trips. Too bad they didn't have the decency to tell them about it. That's right, the kindly old Sidney spent some time going around America slipping LSD into people's drinks and observing the effects. He mostly chose hookers and drug addicts for his experiments because he gathered no one would care or believe what they had to say about the crazy old man drugging random citizens.
It's a tough job, but someone has to fluffy cloud. I am made entirely of light.
An early 19th century Italian physicist, Giovanni Aldini was the nephew of Luigi Galvani, the man who pioneered galvanism, or "hooking up shit to batteries," as our wise janitor explained to us.
Aldini spent most of his life testing the medical applications of this discovery and wound up becoming the 19th century science equivalent of Elvis Presley. In the end, for his contributions to science, the emperor of Austria made him a Knight of the Iron Crown, a title which could only have been cooler if they fit the words "lightning" or "dragon" into it.
We're just saying.
We were serious about the Elvis thing. Aldini traveled Europe with what can only be described as a science circus. His little big top of horror and science was a magnificent theatrical spectacle in which Aldini electrocuted human corpses and animal carcasses. And, of course, it always gathered huge crowds, because 19th century Europe simply did not have enough horror and violence in its everyday life.
During one show in London in 1802, Aldini electrically stimulated the heads and trunks of cows, horses, sheep and dogs with high powered batteries. The people witnessing this reported that the animals' jaws and eyes started moving almost as if they were alive. It was pretty much Satan's puppet show.
Wait, it Gets Weirder:
In January 1803, Aldini presented his most famous experiment. He was given the body of a hanged criminal, George Forster, who had been executed for the murder of his wife and child. Aldini created quite possibly one of the inspirations for Mary Shelley's famous work.
Displaying Forster's body for the public to see, he electrocuted his face, which started to twitch and move; his mouth and eyes opening and, according to all accounts, he looked very much alive.
But believing he did not freak out the people and humiliated Forster enough, Aldini stuck an electrified rod straight up the corpse's ass, after which the body started to kick and punch around so much, most people were sure he came back to life and started screaming about hanging him again. But how do you kill something... that has already died?
Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov, Monkey Man Inventor
Illya Ivanovich Ivanov was a Russian and Soviet biologist famous for creating animal hybrids. This was a man who could take a zebra, a donkey and a turkey baster and pull a Zonkey out of his ass. He also created a hybrid of an antelope and cow (with the milk-giving properties of an antelope and the swiftness of a cow).
Well, how can this possibly go wrong?
Ivanov was also an insane old kook, ordered by Stalin to create a super race of slave ape-man hybrids who would serve the Communistic Russia in taking over the free world. That is, if you believe certain Scottish newspapers.
How much of that is true? Well, we do know the man did inseminate a few chimpanzees with human baby goo to create said hybrid. Mainly for the typical mad scientist motive: "Why the hell not?"
So in 1926, in Conakry (Africa), aided by the French and Soviet government (who expressed more interest in knocking up apes than is acceptable), Ivanov managed to inseminate three chimpanzees. Not one of them became pregnant. That we know of.
Wait, it Gets Weirder:
Concluding that his experiment failed due to doing the whole thing backwards, Ivanov attempted to knock up a human female with liquid monkey juice. In 1929, he obtained the support of the Society of Materialist Biologists, a group associated with the Communist Academy ("Monkey on girl action? Count us in!"), and actually found willing female volunteers for the project.
Now all they needed was the gravy for Ivanov's baster. The good doctor wrote a Cuban heiress, Rosalia Abreu, who had a large chimpanzee menagerie outside Havana, asking if she could provide him with some nice monkey semen.
Word got out about this and the project was shut down by... the Ku Klux Klan.
There is not one bit of this that makes any sense.
They threatened the lady who owned the chimps and got her to back down. The Klan apparently figured that chimps breeding with white women was actually way worse than what they had been fighting up to then.
Congratulations, Ivanov. You found a way to get the whole world agreeing with the Klan.