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5 Maddest Scientists in History

Updated on October 30, 2015

Men of science often give people the impression of scholarly men who follow the scientific process for determining the validity of their experiments. There are times, however, when some scientists go way beyond the normal processes and methods of testing their theories that they are deemed “mad scientists!” These men of science had curious minds and found strange ways to prove what their theories were about. May it be because of their passion or being just plain absurd, here are 5 of the maddest scientists in history:

  • Giovanni Aldinni – This thing may have been considered magic before since it was during the early 19th century. Giovanni was the nephew of Luigi Galvani who was the pioneer of galvanism where he was able to connect things to batteries to make them work. Giovanni had other things in mind though, specifically reanimating dead bodies. He traveled around Europe to show the people what he was able to do to carcasses and corpses. It became known as something like a scientific circus and it drew crowds since what happened was something new to the people. There was a show he held in 1802 where the people saw cow heads blinking and their jaws were moving. It had looked like a mad puppet show where the puppets were made of dead bodies. A year later, he went as far as using the dead body of hanged murderer George Foster for his show. When Giovanni electrocuted the corpse’s face, it began to twitch—the mouth and eyes were moving and the dead body looked alive. To make the show more interesting, Giovanni decided to place an electric rod up the corpse’s anus which caused it to uncontrollably kick and flail its arms around. This caused an eruption of awe and panic among the crowd and some even asked the dead body to be killed again! Much of Aldinni’s life was dedicated to finding ways to resurrect the dead. According to some accounts, this may have even been the inspiration for some sci-fi works—much similar to Frankenstein!

  • Sergei Brukhonenko – You may be thinking that a head can never survive away from the body. Decapitation is basically one of the most effective ways to end the life of any living creature after all. Sergei Brukhoneko however was able to do this to a decapitated dog’s head. He was a Soviet scientist who lived during the time of Stalin and he is also known as the inventor of the very first heart-lung machine which was called the autojektor. Of course, to test whether this machine would work in real life meant he had to use living things—in this case, dogs, to test his machine. Over time, he killed a considerable number of dogs to prove that his machine works and find ways to develop it. The famous experiment called the Dog’s head featured the decapitated head and connected it to Sergei’s invention which was called the Genesis machine. The machine brought the dog back to life and it was fully responsive.

  • August Bier – The father of spinal anesthesia was actually quite bizarre when it came to how he proved this improved anesthesia method. This happened back in 1898 when he first theorized how injecting cocaine into the space inside and around the spinal cord could numb his patients for whatever surgery needs to be done without them having to fall asleep. His plan was to test the method himself. But the assistant who he asked to inject the cocaine into him fumbled and when he did, August took the matter into his hands and numbed his assistant’s leg. Of course, there was a need to test the effectiveness of this new kind of anesthesia and as it could not be tested on him he used his assistant instead. He tested whether the anesthesia worked by literally beating his patient up. This “beating” did not just involve pinches and slaps—think more about iron hammers and cigar burns! Suffice to say that the patient did not feel pain during the experiment but incurred some injuries because of it. After this experiment, he may have lost his assistant but he gained worldwide fame because of the more effective anesthesia method he discovered. Today, the spinal anesthesia procedure is still used for preparing patients for major surgeries and it is all thanks to this mad scientist.

  • Robert J. White – Similar to the achievements of Sergei Bryukhoneko, Robert White was able to keep a dog’s brain alive after removing it from its host body. He had been an expert in the field of transplantology and he was also the discoverer of a spinal cord cooling process which is still used by medical institutions today. In 1964, he was able to transplant the brain of a dog to the neck of another dog. Furthermore, he was able to successfully transplant a monkey’s head to the body of another monkey. The result of this experiment he did in the 70s was that the transplanted monkey head was able to survive a few days while it was attached to the host body. However, the monkeys he experimented on had to be euthanized because they were paralyzed. They were paralyzed because no amount of knowledge and skills in medicine back then or today were able to repair the nerve damage which resulted from the transplant. This made the surgery partly successful. If you want to try it, there is a step-by-step guide on how this procedure can be done. The results would still be the same though—you’d have a different body, but you’ll be paralyzed.

  • Barry Marshall – When no one else would do the things needed to be done for the sake of science, scientists—especially the “mad” ones—can do the experiments on themselves. Barry Marshall is one of the best examples of this. Everyone else was telling him that bacteria won’t survive in the harsh acidic environment of the stomach. The Australian doctor sought to prove those people wrong. He had spent his childhood making fireworks and experimenting on his dog, and he had other scientific ideas in mind. Marshall knew how bacteria can cause ulcers and he had witnessed how his parents recovered from these ulcers through antibiotics. He tried to publish the findings he was able to gather, but the medical community laughed at him and shrugged him off. This made him resort to a crazy idea—drink bacteria and prove them wrong. After just a few days of drinking bacteria, he was able to prove how it can indeed cause ulcers. He developed some crippling gastroenteritis symptoms. He was able to confirm how his theory was right, and at the same time he put himself in trouble. However, there was no stopping his medical genius or madness as he went on to perform a stomach biopsy on himself. He isolated some of the bacteria he drank and made his own antibiotics. Because of this, he was able to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology later on.

Although these mad scientists had been more than strange with their ideas and how they carried out their experiments, they were still able to prove some of the ideas they had. They may not have been successful with all the steps and it did take a lot of failed experiments which were deemed weird, but some of them had even received high recognition for their work and the contributions they had in the field of science are still being researched on today.

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