5 World-Changing Geniuses (Who Were Also Total Monsters)

Being great in one area of your life doesn't mean you can't be completely awful in another. For instance, we can name every single spaceship in the Star Wars universe, but only found out last year that taxes don't "do" themselves. Or, in the case of the following people, they earned the admiration of the world through their genius work while also doing terrible things. Like how ...

Advertisement

5
The Creator Of The Heimlich Maneuver Intentionally Infected HIV Patients With Malaria To "Cure Them"

What You Know Him For:

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

The Heimlich maneuver, duh. Dr. Henry Heimlich described the first aid procedure in 1974. Since we still have some space left in this section, here's a link to some choking first aid tips.

Why He Was An Asshole:

It wasn't enough for Heimlich that he'd come up with this lifesaving, easy-to-perform procedure, and received instant fame and recognition for it. He wanted more. So he started promoting the use of his maneuver for drowning victims, despite that being an incredibly, incredibly bad and dangerous idea (assuming you don't want the other person to die, that is). When the American Heart Association said "Hell no," Heimlich dropped by a U.S. Lifesaving Association seminar and equated following the AHA guidelines with being a Nazi war criminal ordered to kill people. By saving them. And having nothing to do with Nazis.

But other than that, yeah, it's the same thing.Andrei/Adobe StockBut other than that, yeah, it's the same thing.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

When that didn't pan out, Heimlich turned to the idea of reviving "malariatherapy." Ha ha, no, that's not a type of therapy to treat malaria -- quite the opposite. It's the practice of infecting someone with malaria in order to make the body inhospitable to disease. Somehow. He first started advocating it for curing cancer, but that didn't work, so he figured he might as well try his luck with HIV/AIDS. Heimlich went as far as to conduct shady trials in Ethiopia without the approval of its government, giving HIV patients malaria and denying them treatment for the disease. Honestly, we're surprised he didn't become a full-on supervillain at this point and change his name to Dr. Malaria.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

4
Sigmund Freud Faked Some Of His Findings, And Left Some Patients Worse Off Than They Started

What You Know Him For:

Where to start? Sexual symbolism, the Oedipal complex, repression, dream analysis, psychotherapy, the subconscious/unconscious, id/ego/superego, and ... basically every stereotypical image of a psychotherapist ever. On top of that, he was a celebrated beard-haver.

Even if he'd never published anything, he'd still be famous for that beard.Max HalberstadtEven if he'd never published anything, he'd still be famous for that beard.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Why He Was A Total Asshole:

More like Sigmund Fraud. (We're the first to make this joke, don't look it up.) For starters, he would lie about patients being cured or fudge facts about his cases to "prove" his points, and then conveniently burn his original notes, leaving little evidence of his trickery. For instance, he once wrote about a patient, the Wolf Man (not his legal name), remembering something which confirmed Freud's theory about the origin of his dreams. But when a journalist later tracked the patient in question down, the guy essentially said, "LOL no."

Not all of Freud's patients left his office with the same problems they had when they came in, though. Some left with even more. One patient, "Dora," was a victim of unwanted advances whom Freud accused of actually being, like, super into it (and her dad) and in denial. Probably the worst instance of this was the case of Horace Frink, whom Freud instructed to divorce his wife and marry another patient, who herself was married. Frink and the other patient did so, but eventually realized this wasn't such a bright idea, and Frink never recovered from the stress. His new wife started to look like a man or a pig to him.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Freud offered this helpful (and grammatically appalling) tidbit: "Your complaint that you cannot grasp your homosexuality implies that you are not yet aware of your fantasy of making me a rich man let us change this imaginary gift into a real contribution to the Psychoanalytic Funds." Very smooth. Frink ended up having to be committed to a mental hospital, which you might recognize as usually the exact opposite of a therapist's goal.

3
The Guy Who "Discovered" Vitamins Did No Such Thing, And Built A Career Out Of Scaring People

What You Know Him For:

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Elmer McCollum was one of the researchers in the cutting-edge field of some newfangled things called "vitamins," which prevent all kinds of horrible diseases and are now shaped like adorable bears and Fred Flintstone. Yay!

Why He Was An Asshole:

He was also a credit hog who didn't seem to care much for research ethics or being a halfway decent human being. When McCollum was offered a job at another university, he promised his lab assistant, Harry Steenbock, that he would leave their data in a usable condition so Steenbock could continue his own related research. Unfortunately, all the lab notebooks mysteriously disappeared around the time McCollum left. Then McCollum informed Steenbock that they were now rivals, and he would not be cooperating with him. Steenbock's data later appeared, finally -- in an article with McCollum's name on it.

Pictured: 100 percent Vitamin DWiki CommonsPictured: 100 percent Vitamin D

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

In truth, there's no one person who discovered vitamins, since it was a wide-ranging effort involving a lot of talented people. But that didn't stop McCollum from playing up his own contributions. He started "cultivating a Horatio Alger image," and gradually worked his way up to claiming that he was "discoverer of 'two of the four known vitamins,'" and from there to the discoverer of vitamins, full stop. He would have claimed he invented the alphabet too if he thought he could get away with it.

As if that weren't enough, he would give hectoring talks about how a lack of vitamins would ruin your life, your baby's life, and everything you held dear, illustrating this with gruesome slides. This was bad for science, but great for advertisers, who promoted vitamins as miracle elixirs. Which they're not, unless your definition of "miracle elixir" is something that might increase cancer risk.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

2
Erwin Schrodinger (Of Cat Fame) Boned His Teenage Students, And Impregnated Them Against Their Wishes

What You Know Him For:

You know Schrodinger's cat? It's that intentionally stupid thought experiment that somehow became the default way of explaining the concept of quantum superposition, using the example of a cat that is both alive and dead until you bother to check which one it is. Well, that's Erwin Schrodinger. Yes, he's the cat.

Wait ... no, sorry. He's the guy who came up with the cat. Our notes got smudged.sorocka/Adobe StockWait ... no, sorry. He's the guy who came up with the cat. Our notes got smudged.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Why He's A Total Asshole:

Being a horndog isn't a crime, and it isn't even necessarily a moral failing. Preying on your teenage students, however, definitely is, especially given that Schrodinger was so goddamn creepy about it. He was married, but he didn't find his wife very sexually appealing (and wasn't shy about telling her), so he decided to take on a series of mistresses, one of whom eventually lived in his house. That's really not our concern here. Nor are the "little black books" in which he kept track of all his love affairs, carefully noting each one's "denouement," as one biographer calls it.

The Schrodinger Paradox: Bemoaning someone else's lack of sex appeal despite looking dopey AF.Nobel FoundationThe Schrodinger Paradox: Bemoaning someone else's lack of sex appeal despite looking dopey AF.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

What really grosses us out is how he was tutoring two 14-year-old twins, Withi and Ithi Junger, and began "petting and cuddling" Ithi (or as he called her, "Ithy-bitty") during lessons, started trying to get her to have sex with him when she was 16, and then slept with her when she was 17. She got pregnant, at which point he lost interest and she had a disastrous abortion. He liked 'em young, but not fetus young.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Ithi wasn't the only young girl to catch Schrodinger's eye. One biographer describes him as having a "Lolita complex," and not in the "he liked dressing as a Japanese maid" sense (although who knows). He was also pretty creepy toward 26-year-old Kate Nolan, a "frightened virgin" whom he "consoled" by saying, "You had no father, now you get one to lie in bed with." Even though she was super worried about getting pregnant, he got her pregnant too. In WWII-era Ireland, where it was almost impossible to get an abortion. We wonder what his excuse was. "Technically, you were both pregnant and not pregnant until you took the test. So really, this is your fault."

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

1
Eric Gill, Whose Fonts Are On Your Computer, Was A Complete Monster

What You Know Him For:

If you have a computer, open up Microsoft Word and pull up your fonts. You see that one called Gill Sans? If it rings a bell, that's because it's freaking everywhere, from BBC shows to Benetton stores to Tommy Hilfiger clothes. The "Gill" stands for early 1900s craftsman and designer Eric Gill, who's also known for creating a sort of hippie commune paradise in his home, and for his hardcore Catholicism, which he boasted about frequently.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

You'll never guess where this is going.

Why He Was A Total Asshole:

Let's start with the incest, and continue with the other incest. Gill routinely had sex with his two sisters, at least one of them almost up until he died. But he didn't stop there. He also raped two of his three daughters, starting when they were very young. He recorded these encounters in a diary, in entries such as "stayed [in her room] 1/2 hour -- put p. in her a/hole." Later in their lives, he stopped raping them but became incredibly jealous and controlling of their romances. Oh, and he also "experimented" with his dog. Like, sexually.

We take back every mean thing we said about the dude who created Comic Sans.Eric GillWe take back every mean thing we said about the dude who created Comic Sans.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

As if all this weren't creepy enough, at one point he made a statue of his sister -- with whom he was still having sex -- having sex with her husband. He called it ... Fucking. That was definitely creepy enough, but he also used his daughters/victims as nude models, which, nope, we're not displaying or even linking to here. Instead, here's the appropriate tribute to Gill's wretched life:

5 World-Changing Geniuses (Who Were Also Total Monsters)

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Nimby has a Twitter and, if any fancy Hollywood agents are reading this, several scripts (email: nimby DOT writer AT gmail DOT com).

The RAINN National Sexual Assault hotline is 800.656.HOPE (4673).

Never deal with that Schrodinger crap with your own cat -- get a pet carrier you can just look into.

Support Cracked's journalism with a visit to our Contribution Page. Please and thank you.

For more, check out 6 Historical Villains Who Were Actually OK Guys and 5 Famous Historical Bad Guys (And Their Side Of The Story).

Follow us on Facebook. Because we love you.

To turn on reply notifications, click here

64 Comments

Load Comments

More Articles

The Classic Sitcom That Looks Completely Insane In 2019

Let us pitch you a sitcom ...

313

5 Huge News Stories The Media Straight-Up Forgot About

Sometimes the follow-up is worse than original headline-grabbing story.

146

The 6 Most Epically Lazy Ripoffs Of Famous Movies And Shows

Some people in entertainment don't even bother trying to come up with fresh ideas.

87