If you've been reading Cracked for a while, you probably already know that some scientists had pretty unorthodox methods of experimentation, and that some others were thought of as idiots in their time. But those are all just cases of misunderstood genius -- brilliant people doing crazy things in the service of the scientific method. What's harder to figure out are the famously brilliant scientists who went above and beyond to proudly wave two middle fingers in the face of reason.
Everyone knows that Sir Isaac Newton was one of the greatest scientists to ever live. He discovered the laws of gravitation, invented calculus and generally made enlightenment more popular than stupidity and madness, which had been topping the charts for most of human history. Even more impressive: He accomplished all of this in his spare time, figuring out gravity, calculus and optics during a single break from university. Newton's main area of interest, and the academic pursuit to which he dedicated the most time, was pants-soiling insanity.
"It's not science if you're covering your junk."
It's estimated that Newton devoted more time to the study of scripture than to science, and he was generally considered a religious nut at a time when everyone took their religion pretty seriously. Newton treated the Bible like Russell Crowe treated newspaper clippings in A Beautiful Mind, poring over it for hours, looking for hidden codes. Newton also spent quite a bit of his time trying to figure out the exact measurements of the Temple of Solomon, which he modestly claimed would allow him to predict the exact date of the apocalypse.
Because all numbers add up to a wolf eating the sun.
Not all of Newton's scientific beliefs have stood the test of time quite as well as gravity. For instance, he also poured hours and hours of his time into alchemy. In fact, he was so interested in alchemy that it is now believed that alchemy was his main focus, and real science was more of a pastime for him. Unlike mathematics and the laws of physics, Newton wasn't even trying to take alchemy in new and interesting directions, opting instead to pursue theories that had long since been disregarded by people who still believed alchemy was possible. His time as an alchemist was mainly devoted to creating the philosopher's stone, which he believed could transmute other metals into gold and grant human beings immortality.
Apple-induced head injuries are kind of a double-edged sword for scientists.
This might sound familiar if you read the first Harry Potter book, where Harry pursues the same stone as Newton. Of course, in the book, Harry has to find the stone to keep the evil noseless warlock who lives on the back of his teacher's head from gaining too much power. Thanks to the alchemical experiments he performed on himself, Newton had so much lead and mercury in his system at the time of his death that he might have been pursuing the stone for the same reason as Harry.
"Behold, I control the RAINBOW. I am your God now, leprechauns!"