9 Real Life Mad Scientists

Mad science is less
9 Real Life Mad Scientists

Are we too hard on mad scientists? After all, many of the world's greatest discoveries were made using experiments that would make the average citizen run screaming from the room.

So really, is there such a thing as a "mad" scientist at all? A man whose methods go so far above and beyond, that you doubt his very sanity?

Yes. Yes there is. Here are nine of them.

Harry Harlow, Monkey Torturer

The Scientist:

What is love? American psychologist Harry Harlow decided to find out. And what stronger bond is there than that of a child and mother? So he did studies on rhesus monkey babies and their mothers, to find the nature of love itself. What could be more noble?

Wait, what's the title of this article again? Oh, shit.

The Madness:

Harlow had a "Rape Rack" in his lab.

That's what he called the forced mating machine he used for the monkeys. See, it turns out Harlow wasn't big on using euphemisms to make people feel better about his experiments. And that's a problem, because he decided early that the best way to find out the nature of love was by torturing baby monkeys.

If you think "torturing" is too strong a word, you should know that he called another of his devices the Iron Maiden.

"To be honest, I don't even know why I'm doing this."

Wait, it Gets Weirder:

His most controversial experiment, however, involved a device affectionately dubbed the pit of despair, where a baby monkey would be placed in a small isolated chamber for periods of up to a year, without any contact with any living creature. As a result, the baby monkeys became psychotic and never recovered.

"You mean you don't like being tortured? Fascinating!"

So when it came time for Harlow to present his findings, we're guessing he just summed it up as, "What is love? Well, you know that feeling you get when you've been locked in a tiny dark space alone for a year? It's the opposite of that."

Jack Parsons, Occult Rocket Scientist

The Scientist:

As a rocket propulsion researcher at the California Institute of Technology and co-founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, chemist Jack Parsons was destined to be immortalized in history as "the guy who knew a lot about rockets." Though, we assume history would have a better handle on coming up with nicknames than we do.

The Madness:

Here's Jack Parsons:

Well, we certainly don't see anything odd there. But as it turns out, Parsons was into the occult. Really into it.

Which would be cool if he kept it to himself, like getting a couple of weird tattoos or holding the occasional orgy in a circle of black candles (thus making him the greatest scientist in history). But no, Parsons didn't believe in moderation in his craziness. He was a strict follower of the Thelema, a sort of spiritual philosophy on life lead by this man, Aleister Crowley:

He was one of Crowley's most devoted students and was even chosen to lead a Masonic/Religious/Quasi-secret organization in California.

Eventually Parsons started invoking the name of the Greek god Pan before every rocket test, because half-goat/half-man, forest creatures are known for their technological aptitude.

Wait, it Gets Weirder:

The infamous publically discredited super fraud L. Ron Hubbard was often Parsons's "magical" buddy. Together they did many cool things, like participating in a ritual known as the Babalon Working, an attempt to summon a living goddess. They didn't succeed, as far as we know. Later, Hubbard defrauded a large sum of money from Parsons and used it to publish his book Dianetics, the basis for the Scientology movement.

Parsons didn't live to see Scientology bloom, as he died shortly after when science exploded in his face. And we mean that literally: He died in an explosion of volatile chemicals he kept laying around. Thanks a lot, Pan.

Sidney Gottlieb, aka Dr. Feelgood

The Scientist:

Sidney Gottlieb was an American military psychiatrist with a Ph.D. in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology. He worked with the CIA during the Cold War, using all of his scientific know-how in the field of biochemistry to help America get a leg up over the evil Ruskies.

The Madness:

Unfortunately, Gottlieb's scientific know-how came down basically to "let's poison everyone." For example, he was the man behind the idea to saturate Castro's shoes with thallium and thus make the hair of his beard fall out, further proving to us that the CIA had some very liberal theories about the source of Castro's power.

Not that we blame them. This thing looks like it will jump up and eat us any second.

Gottlieb also proposed killing Castro with a poisoned cigar, a poisoned wetsuit and a poisoned fountain pen. His later idea for a batch of poisoned poison was unfortunately rejected by the agency.

To prove he wasn't just a one note guy, Gottlieb later on tried to assassinate an Iraqi general and the prime minister of Congo with neurotoxins. Which are different than poison. Somehow.

Wait, it Gets Weirder:

Gottlieb was also the head of the MKULTRA project, which studied the possibilities of mind control in espionage... using LSD. The Agency wanted to know if the drug we now associate with hippies could help break a man's mind for interrogation purposes. So Sidney and his colleagues did what they had to in the name of science: They tripped like crazy, day and night.

However, they soon grew lonely and invited more and more people on their acid trips. Too bad they didn't have the decency to tell them about it. That's right, the kindly old Sidney spent some time going around America slipping LSD into people's drinks and observing the effects. He mostly chose hookers and drug addicts for his experiments because he gathered no one would care or believe what they had to say about the crazy old man drugging random citizens.

It's a tough job, but someone has to fluffy cloud. I am made entirely of light.

Giovanni Aldini, Corpse Reanimator

The Scientist:

An early 19th century Italian physicist, Giovanni Aldini was the nephew of Luigi Galvani, the man who pioneered galvanism, or "hooking up shit to batteries," as our wise janitor explained to us.

Aldini spent most of his life testing the medical applications of this discovery and wound up becoming the 19th century science equivalent of Elvis Presley. In the end, for his contributions to science, the emperor of Austria made him a Knight of the Iron Crown, a title which could only have been cooler if they fit the words "lightning" or "dragon" into it.

We're just saying.

The Madness:

We were serious about the Elvis thing. Aldini traveled Europe with what can only be described as a science circus. His little big top of horror and science was a magnificent theatrical spectacle in which Aldini electrocuted human corpses and animal carcasses. And, of course, it always gathered huge crowds, because 19th century Europe simply did not have enough horror and violence in its everyday life.

During one show in London in 1802, Aldini electrically stimulated the heads and trunks of cows, horses, sheep and dogs with high powered batteries. The people witnessing this reported that the animals' jaws and eyes started moving almost as if they were alive. It was pretty much Satan's puppet show.

Wait, it Gets Weirder:

In January 1803, Aldini presented his most famous experiment. He was given the body of a hanged criminal, George Forster, who had been executed for the murder of his wife and child. Aldini created quite possibly one of the inspirations for Mary Shelley's famous work.

Displaying Forster's body for the public to see, he electrocuted his face, which started to twitch and move; his mouth and eyes opening and, according to all accounts, he looked very much alive.

But believing he did not freak out the people and humiliated Forster enough, Aldini stuck an electrified rod straight up the corpse's ass, after which the body started to kick and punch around so much, most people were sure he came back to life and started screaming about hanging him again. But how do you kill something... that has already died?

Ah yes.

Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov, Monkey Man Inventor

Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov, Monkey Man Inventor

The Scientist:

Illya Ivanovich Ivanov was a Russian and Soviet biologist famous for creating animal hybrids. This was a man who could take a zebra, a donkey and a turkey baster and pull a Zonkey out of his ass. He also created a hybrid of an antelope and cow (with the milk-giving properties of an antelope and the swiftness of a cow).

Well, how can this possibly go wrong?

The Madness:

Ivanov was also an insane old kook, ordered by Stalin to create a super race of slave ape-man hybrids who would serve the Communistic Russia in taking over the free world. That is, if you believe certain Scottish newspapers.

How much of that is true? Well, we do know the man did inseminate a few chimpanzees with human baby goo to create said hybrid. Mainly for the typical mad scientist motive: "Why the hell not?"

So in 1926, in Conakry (Africa), aided by the French and Soviet government (who expressed more interest in knocking up apes than is acceptable), Ivanov managed to inseminate three chimpanzees. Not one of them became pregnant. That we know of.

Wait, it Gets Weirder:

Concluding that his experiment failed due to doing the whole thing backwards, Ivanov attempted to knock up a human female with liquid monkey juice. In 1929, he obtained the support of the Society of Materialist Biologists, a group associated with the Communist Academy ("Monkey on girl action? Count us in!"), and actually found willing female volunteers for the project.

Now all they needed was the gravy for Ivanov's baster. The good doctor wrote a Cuban heiress, Rosalia Abreu, who had a large chimpanzee menagerie outside Havana, asking if she could provide him with some nice monkey semen.

Word got out about this and the project was shut down by... the Ku Klux Klan.

There is not one bit of this that makes any sense.

They threatened the lady who owned the chimps and got her to back down. The Klan apparently figured that chimps breeding with white women was actually way worse than what they had been fighting up to then.

Congratulations, Ivanov. You found a way to get the whole world agreeing with the Klan.

Guy Ben-Ary, Artificial Brain Maker

The Scientist:

Guy Ben-Ary is a Los Angeles born scientist-slash-artist now working in Australia. He specializes in microscopy; biological and digital imaging; tissue culture and engineering; and artistic visualization of biological data.

Isn't it interesting how you can strip the horror out of anything with enough technical language?

The Madness:

Let's start with his involvement in the Tissue Sculpture Program, which creates partially organic and partially manufactured objects that blur the boundaries between art and science, not to mention the boundaries between creepy ass horror and a slap to God's bearded face.

We don't know what this is but it's gross.

But that is small stuff as compared to Guy's other projects. He is part of the team developing the so-called Living Screen, a freak show endeavor (hey, their words, not ours) where you can observe "Nano Movies" being projected on living screens made from such lovable materials as mice cornea, blood or skin.

These living screens, which actually have the ability to age and die, react differently to each showing of the movies, which are observed through a projector shaped like a coffin, in case you thought these guys weren't doing this on purpose.

Wait, it Gets Weirder:

Guy Ben-Ary is also part of the core group behind the MEART project, which built the first possibly sentient biomechanical entity. By cultivating nerve cells in a laboratory in Atlanta, the MEART team established a connection between their do-it-yourself brain and a mechanical robotic arm in Australia.

The cultivated brain is expanding all the time, learning new things everyday the same as a real brain would. Lately, it actually learned how to draw, and is starting to depict its own unique imagery the artists are calling "art."

Is the MEART entity "alive"? Is it sentient? When will it realize it's just an intelligence using the Internet to occupy a mechanical hardware arm? When will it learn to take over other machines? And most importantly, how in the fuck do we kill it?!

Jose Delgado, Aspiring Supervillian

The Scientist:

Dr. Delgado was also a Spanish professor of physiology who actually had to take his MD degree course twice due to the Spanish Civil War, where he served in the medical corps on the Republican side. In 1946, he began a fellowship at Yale University where he joined the department of physiology, studying electrical brain stimulation.

The Madness:

Electrical brain stimulation is just nerd talk for mind control, baby!

Delgado was the man behind the invention of the Stimoceiver, which will be referred to from this point on as the "Brain Fuck Switch." The Brain Fuck Switch was basically a wireless brain stimulator/monitor which worked with a transmitter planted in the head of the "patient." Its job was to send electrical signals to evoke responses in the brain. Dr. Delgado first started with cats, but later moved on to monkeys and even human beings, including mental patients.

The Brain Fuck Switch could basically control behavior and stimulate any emotion the good doctor wanted, be it pleasant sensations, odd feelings or even visions. Yes, he was an aspiring Batman villain.

Wait, it Gets Weirder:

To truly prove he was mad scientist material, Delgado went to a Cordoba and stood in front of a charging angry bull. Well, that took care of the madness part, but he was also smart enough to previously install the transmitter in the animal's head. In mid-charge, the Brain Fuck Switch was activated and the ferocious animal simply stopped in its tracks and mellowed out.

You may be asking, why didn't Dr. Delgado retire to a private island, build a fortress shaped like a skull and construct a massive transmitter that would have the whole world doing his bidding? He could put all of our brains under his control and we wouldn't even know it.

The answer to that question is, of course: How do you know he didn't?

Sergei S. Bryukhonenko, Zombie Dog Inventor

The Scientist:

Dr. Bryukhonenko was a Soviet scientist during the Stalin era, and is credited as the inventor of the first primitive heart-lung machine called the autojektor. The machine was used to help perform the first Soviet open heart surgery.

He was also one of the heads of the Research Institute of Experimental Surgery. A Soviet experimental surgeon? Why, how could this possibly turn into unthinkable horror?

The Madness:

It is very important to understand what a heart-lung machine is supposed to do: to sustain life through artificial means. So the only logical way to test such a machine would be to transplant some life out of a living creature, which is just our way of saying, "Sergei killed aloooot of dogs."

With time, his research lab was filled with hundreds of dead Lassies, Old Yellers, Rin Tin Tins and... that's all the famous dogs we remember.

In a series of.... no wait, we got one more! Benji! He was kinda famous, right? Anyway, in a series of experiments some would describe as revolutionary and others as "OH MY GOD, NO!" Sergei started to cut out the canine's organs, hook them up to his machine, and keep them alive outside the body.

Wait, it Gets Weirder:

Sergei's most famous experiment, however, was the video documented "Dog's Head." In it, a freshly severed dog's head was placed on the table and connected to Sergei's Genesis Machine (fueled by the sorrow of orphans). The machine brought the head back to life. Fully responsive.

For the sake of future audiences, the ghoulish screams of sadness and terror from both the audience and the dog were edited out, or so we assume.

The living head responded fully to various outside stimuli and even accepted a treat from the staff... which in a cartoonish fashion fell out right behind it. Of course creating living heads is pure mad scientist territory, but you know what would make it even better/creepier? If Sergei created zombie dogs. Like he totally did.

Robert J. White, Brain Transplant Specialist

The Scientist:

Dr. Robert J. White is an American surgeon famed for his expertise in the field of transplantology. His years of research into the human nervous system and the brain lead to the discovery of a spinal cord cooling process used by almost all medical institutions today.

He is retired now, but for over 40 years he was a neurological surgery professor for Case Western Reserve University medical school where... oh who are we kidding, you don't care about this, right? Let's just get to...

The Madness:

In 1962, Dr. White was the first person to succeed in removing the brain of a dog and keeping it alive outside the body. The canine gray blob was hooked up to a brain wave monitor which proved that, yes, it was still active and full of thoughts. Whether the thoughts were centered around confused panic and pleas to kill it remain unverified though implied.

Then, in 1964, Dr. White further succeeded in freaking out everyone around him by transplanting the brain of one dog into the neck of another. Silly doctor, brains go in the skull, not the neck. He must have been quite embarrassed when that was pointed out to him.

While the experiment proved that an alien brain can be kept alive in a host's body, unfortunately it did not create a dog smart enough to write Internet comedy.

Our retirement plan.

Wait, it Gets Weirder:

In the 70s, after a series of experiments, White succeeded in transplanting the head of one monkey onto the body of another one. Take a moment to let that sink in. OK, the monkey only lived for a few days, but since then White has repeated his experiment, proving that his monkey heads could basically survive indefinitely with its new host body. Too bad he had to euthanize them because they were all paralyzed.

Unfortunately, all of you who were just packing to stalk Vin Diesel's apartment in hopes of wearing him like a new suit, please, put the syringes and saws down.

Modern medicine is still unable to repair nerve damage resulting from severing the spinal cord during the transplant, so all of the monkeys from the experiments ended up paralyzed from the neck down. BUT, if you feel the life of a quadriplegic is a small price to pay to have girls all over your (totally unresponsive) Vin Diesel junk, Dr. White was kind enough to provide a step-by-step guide for you.

If you haven't grabbed your torch and pitchforks yet to hunt down some scientists, then read The 5 Scientific Experiments Most Likely to End the World and Science is a Dick: The 5 Most Evil Robots Ever Invented.

And check out Cracked.com's Top Picks to discover how we're working to combine all our columnists into one super dick-joke writing machine.

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