#2. The Pill Was Invented by a Devout Catholic
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In 1930, the pope threw all his little popelings a bone (tee hee) and said that, while couples shouldn't wrap themselves in rubber to stop having children, those who sexed it up while unable to conceive weren't sinning. He was talking mainly about infertile folks and the elderly (gross, pope -- come on), but Catholics soon realized that they could sinlessly avoid pregnancy by reserving sex for those days when the menstrual cycle made them less fertile.
John Rock, a devout Catholic, jumped at the opportunity and opened a clinic to teach this newly approved "rhythm method." Nowadays, the idea of a legitimate medical clinic devoted exclusively to the rhythm method is fairly laughable, but you know what they say: "Careful boning is a gateway to science."
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"Guys, that's not what I meant by ... you know what, just keep doing what you're doing."
Rock eventually worked on that famously anti-Catholic tool, the birth control pill. Scientists had been tinkering about with hormones for decades, and in the '50s, Rock and his team successfully squeezed synthetic hormones into a tablet that prevented ovulation. But through everything, Rock still considered himself a religious man, and he argued that the church should accept his new inventions. They didn't, obviously, and in 1968 they officially condemned the birth control pill.
Devout Catholics, who were all too happy when Rock was teaching them about the safest week to screw to avoid having their 17th child, turned on him and called him a heretic. "You should be afraid to meet your maker," said one angry woman.
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And then she immediately had six babies out of sheer spite.
"My dear madam," he replied, "when my time comes, there will be no need for introductions." He meant that "God is with us always," or something equally beneficent. But it came across more like "God already knows my name, honey." He stopped just short of clarifying "His girlfriend's got it tattooed on her ass."
#1. A Pizza Delivery Guy Invented the Bulletproof Vest
We've had the loose concept of "clothes that try not to let your vital chest pieces get dead" kicking around forever, but the bulletproof vest that we all know and love today -- made from synthetic fiber instead of plates and fully concealed under your clothes -- was brought to us not by a police officer, a reformed criminal, or a military think tank. It was a pizza delivery guy.
Well, all right, let's be clear: Yes, this pizza guy was also a Marine. But that's neither here nor there, because Richard Davis' years in active duty on the battlefield had nothing to do with designing the Kevlar vest. An active war didn't teach him the value of keeping your guts in one handy place. No, to learn that lesson, he had to do something much more dangerous: deliver Italian food in Detroit.
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Dude wasn't fucking around when he said "no mushrooms."
Davis was delivering a pizza on July 15, 1969, when he realized that the call had directed him to a dark alley occupied by three armed men. Davis had a gun of his own and fired on his attackers, escaping with his life. But just barely -- he'd been hit twice. Shit, that's barely enough to get the night off for a Detroit pizza deliveryman. Still, the experience left Davis shaken, and he started looking into how other people in that sort of situation could protect themselves from gunfire. Police wore rigid armor. The military used flexible nylon armor, and it could stop grenade fragments as well as small bullets, but it was bulky. All available options were just too heavy and thick for people to wear comfortably. And as Davis would later tell people, for day-to-day use, comfort is more important than stopping power, because if the armor isn't comfortable, people won't wear it, and armor is totally useless to you bundled away in the closet with the NordicTrack.
So Davis carved out his own vest, one smaller and lighter than anything the military had, by cutting the design down to a couple of rectangles joined together by loose Velcro. He made it out of Kevlar, which was stronger than military nylon. To test the result, Davis put a phone book behind a prototype and opened fire. The book got through unscathed, but still nobody was biting. Davis realized that some people needed a slightly more dramatic display, so in the early days he would meet up with prospective buyers, put the shaky prototype vest on, aim a pistol at his life-bits, and pull the trigger.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is called a salesman.
Wait, no, that's the wrong word. "Maniac" was the word we were looking for. That's called a maniac.
Related Reading: Comic books are responsible for some pretty incredible inventions too. Did you know Donald Duck invented Minecraft? Oh, and by the way, Neil Young helped improve the model train. If you're interested in the most violent game ever invented, take a look at the mesoamerican ball game.