6 Spectacularly Bad Ideas From History's Greatest Geniuses

The modern world as we know it was shaped by the minds of geniuses. But the same "outside the box" thinking that gave us our great innovations also gave them some truly ridiculous ideas.

Does that give us the right to mock some of history's greatest minds? Ah, who knows?

#6. Thomas Edison's Ghost Busting Machine

Thomas Edison is America's most beloved asshole inventor, famous for stealing other people's inventions, hiring thugs to physically intimidate his competition and heroically electrocuting an elephant to discredit the use of alternating current. Also, he invented the light bulb (which he stole) and the motion picture camera, which he only invented so he could film himself having sex with other men's wives [citation needed].

"...and you'll just be in the closet the whole time we're boning, filming the shit out of it."

Naturally, the next step for Edison was paranormal extermination. During the early days of the 20th century, contacting the spirit world was all the rage and any jackass with a gypsy wig and/or monocle could make bundles of cash holding seances to bilk grieving families hoping to talk to a deceased loved one. And if there was one thing Edison loved, it was money.

After intentionally burning his finger to the point his fingerprint was erased, Edison noted the fingerprint grew back and triumphantly concluded that all human beings must be made of "immortal units" which cannot be destroyed, thus explaining the existence of ghosts. He set about creating a device that would trap these immortal units and allow them to be studied by the living.


Edison was incredibly secretive about the nature of his ghost hunting mechanism--not even a prototype was ever seen. Just about the only real detail anyone knows is that one of his assistants died while working on it, presumably because Edison wanted to test and see if it worked.

You'll have to watch Casper: Origins to learn more.

#5. Nikola Tesla's Earthquake Machine

Nikola Tesla is like the photo negative of Thomas Edison. Edison made Direct Current (DC), Tesla made Alternating Current (AC). Edison became grotesquely rich, Tesla died poor. Edison got tons of stuff named after him, including corporations and high schools. All Tesla got was a crappy rock band from Sacramento.

Though it wasn't all sour grapes for Tesla--while Edison invented some pretty common place items like light bulbs and record players, Tesla excelled in awesome invention like robots, wireless electricity and death rays. He predicted the Internet 80 years before its existence. Also, he was played by David Bowie in a movie.

"Immediately, I rule harder than any scientist ever."

One thing Edison and Tesla did have in common was batshit lunacy. In Tesla's case, it was a pocket-sized earthquake generator. In 1898, Tesla conducted an experiment in mechanical resonance in his New York lab, which basically measures the tendency of something to absorb more energy from a vibration if said vibration matches its own natural frequency. In other words, everything has its own musical pitch that, if matched, will break the object, not unlike opera singers breaking crystal glasses with just their voices. Except in this case Tesla's crystal glasses were buildings.

Allegedly while testing his electro-mechanical oscillator (or earthquake machine), many buildings began to shake. Once the very building he stood in began to tremble, Tesla took a sledgehammer to the device, destroying it and likely saving everyone in the city.

"Shit, I've gotta break this fucking thing."

It's not really clear why Tesla was developing a portable earthquake machine, other than the fact that he could use it to get virtually whatever he wanted, for the rest of his life. There is no further record of Tesla using or trying to market the device, though we presume he kept a working version of it in his home in case he ever caught Edison combing through his garbage.

Tesla wouldn't hesitate to murder you with science.

#4. Alexander Graham Bell's Six Nippled Sheep

As all of you (hopefully) know, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, which is arguably the single most important invention of all fucking time. As probably none of you know, one of Bell's less notable inventions is the six nippled sheep.


Bell spent the last 30 years of his life and $250,000 (adjusted for inflation that's roughly the Gross Domestic Product of Canada) on his beloved deranged sheep. Why would a famed inventor spend all his time and money just to shit on nature? To make more sheep, of course. Upon purchasing a pet ewe for his children, Bell noted sheep possessed only two nipples, an inferior number compared to pigs and cats. Evolution had clearly fucked this one up.

Bell versus Evolution: The Throwdown.

Bell figured that sheep with more nipples would naturally produce more offspring and thus make farmers' wallets fatter, a postulation not supported by science of any kind. Of course, the ramifications of the nipple enhanced sheep implies more far-reaching applications, the likes of which man has only fantasized about to this point.

And by "man" we mean Total Recall.

Recommended For Your Pleasure

To turn on reply notifications, click here


The Cracked Podcast

Choosing to "Like" Cracked has no side effects, so what's the worst that could happen?

The Weekly Hit List

Sit back... Relax... We'll do all the work.
Get a weekly update on the best at Cracked. Subscribe now!