4Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht, aka Mr. Freeze
While hypothermia and its deadly effects are well-documented, there were very few scientific studies on how freezing actually affects the body until recently. We knew that nerve endings stop working and muscles contract, but there were almost no data on the details, such as the time frame for this process or what can be done to help the body resist it.
Knowing what this article is about, you can guess that someone -- in this case, Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht -- decided to take things into his own hands. His frozen, twisted, bizarrely self-punishing hands.
He looks so normal, too.
In this case, that means that Giesbrecht went to the nearest frozen lake and jumped in. He continued his studies by lowering his body temperature below 95 degrees, and since science is all about repeated measurements, did it about 33 times. We know 95 degrees doesn't sound too bad, until you realize that that's basically Stage 2 hypothermia and at Stage 3 hypothermia, you die. To top it all off, Giesbrecht drove a snowmobile into an icy pond, and for the hell of it did it all night. We ... think that was part of his experiment.
Liquor may have been involved.
Besides seriously punishing his body, Giesbrecht made several important discoveries about the way we react to the cold and how to survive should you get drunk and fall into icewater one day. Giesbrecht now runs a cold water boot camp where volunteers can learn all they need to know about freezing water, firsthand, from a frozen lake. If you want to sign up, you can click the hell out of that link right there. We'll wait.
3Elisha Graves Otis Taunts Gravity
Elisha Otis was an engineer in a time when the job description for the position was "dude who disassembles old machines." As such, he found himself with the job of converting an old mill to a factory, a position made significantly more exciting by the fact that the only way to clear the upper floors was by using a system of hoisting platforms. We said this was exciting because back in 1851, hoisting platforms was about as safe as trying to insert contacts into the eyes of an angry bear.
"This seems like a terrible idea."
After having to dodge certain death every few days, Otis decided enough was enough, but instead of quitting and becoming a street sweeper, he invented the world's first automatic braking system. This was a safety device that, should the hoist fail, would clamp down on the rope before the platform could collapse to the ground and kill everyone using it.
That's it right there. Probably.
Pleased with himself, Otis continued his job, never thinking of patenting the device or even asking for a raise. It took two years until he realized that people might be extremely interested in an invention that could prevent them from plummeting to a certain death from the 30th floor of a recently built skyscraper.
So how did this guy earn a spot on this list?
His rockin' power beard?
Well, deciding to go into business for himself, Otis knew he'd have to demonstrate his life-saving braking system. So at the 1853 World's Fair, he got up on a platform and allowed volunteers to cut the fucking rope holding him aloft. Always eager to help, or maybe just wanting a funny story to tell later, a volunteer stepped forward and chopped through Otis' lifeline.
The brake worked. It was so successful that it was soon implemented in all elevators and contributed to a boom in tall buildings. Not only did Otis' safety mechanism encourage people to use elevators, but construction workers could now use cranes and hoisting platforms with a lot more confidence. It's surprising how much morale can increase when you're not likely to die every morning on your way to your cubicle.
Ah, the glorious days before workers' comp.