The 5 Strangest Cases of Simultaneous Invention

#2. E=mc2

OK, hang on. This was Einstein. Everyone knows it was Einstein. Not many people know what this equation represents (mass-energy equivalency) or what it does (confuses undergrad physics students), but everyone knows that it was Einstein who first figured it out. How could it not be? Einstein is the personification of genius.

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And daring fashion sense.

And all that's true. But only just, as there were more than a few other people sniffing around the same problem. Henri Poincare was working on a related problem a few years earlier and discovered the relationship between mass and energy, although he didn't come up with the famous equation.

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"Wait. E=mc ... pared? Bared? Scared?"

And an Italian physicist called Olinto De Pretto, while working on a theory centered around the slightly daffy idea of aether, managed to come across the equation E=mc2 a couple years before Einstein.

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Based on the standard genius metric of follicular entropy, his mustache is smarter than the rest of him.

Now obviously, none of these people framed their work in the same way Einstein did in the context of special relativity, a truly legitimate breakthrough. So Einstein's discovery and reputation remain intact. But if one of those others had just a slightly messier haircut ...

#1. Polio Vaccine

Polio is one of the biggest assholes of the virus kingdom, causing paralysis and occasionally death, almost exclusively in young children. One of the cruelest diseases in the world, its near eradication in the last half-century was a big smack in the face of nature, and as sure a sign as any that humanity ain't nothin' ta fuck with.

Here, two members of the Wu-Tang's research auxiliary, Virus Killa and Ol' Hygenic Epidemiologist, celebrate their victory over nature.

The story of polio's eradication is pretty widely known, especially among people who were alive in the 1950s and who probably don't read Cracked, so maybe I'll just explain it here anyways. Back in the 1950s, polio outbreaks were a common occurrence in the United States. Stepping up to this challenge was Jonas Salk, Man of Science, who created the polio vaccine in 1952, probably using test tubes of some sort, before sprinting around the countryside, distributing his vaccine to all the grateful schoolchildren.

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Later, his work stabbing children would earn him the cover of the 1950s predecessor of Cracked.

Only, as you might have guessed by now if you've read all the way through this article, Salk wasn't the only one to create a vaccine, nor even the first. Salk's vaccine was a "dead virus" version, containing dead samples of the polio virus, jabbed into kids to allow their immune systems the opportunity to have some target practice on dead versions of polio. "Live virus" versions of the vaccine were being developed at the same time, with the first, an oral version developed by Hilary Koprowski, apparently in a working state as early as 1950. A few years later, Albert Sabin's version of this oral vaccine would eventually replace Salk's vaccine in most parts of the world (but not the U.S.). Indeed, in many parts of the world Sabin is more famous than Salk for his work eradicating polio.

This isn't to discredit Salk, whose work made it to large-scale trials first, which does count for something. (All those lives saved, I guess.) No, he fully earned all the virologist tail that Wisdom cover surely would have gotten him.

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"First round's on me, ladies."

Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and has never, not once, gotten any virologist tail. Join him on Facebook or Twitter and listen to him lament that.

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