The Quick 10: 10 Mad Scientists

strangeloveDr. Frankenstein, Dr. Moreau, Dr. Strangelove, and my favorite "“Dr. Frank N. Furter. Mad Scientists abound in science fiction, but what's scarier than these fictional docs are their real-life counterparts. I should warn you, the last two are men who did really appalling, unethical experiments to unwilling human subjects. It made me a little squeamish to write about them, so skip them if you're not up for it. With that"¦

1. Herophilos was a Greek physician who probably introduced the experimental method to the world. It's been written that he vivisected at least 600 living prisoners to see what they looked like inside during his lifetime, from 335-280 B.C.

languille2. Dr. Gabriel Beaurieux was fascinated with severed heads. But at least he didn't sever them himself "“ at the time, France was still actively using the guillotine because it was believed to be a quick, humane death. But Beaurieux's studies showed that perhaps it was not as quick as previously thought. In 1905, he watched a man named Languille be"¦ well, separated from his body. Here's the account:

Here, then, is what I was able to note immediately after the decapitation: the eyelids and lips of the guillotined man worked in irregularly rhythmic contractions for about five or six seconds. This phenomenon has been remarked by all those finding themselves in the same conditions as myself for observing what happens after the severing of the neck...

I waited for several seconds. The spasmodic movements ceased. [...] It was then that I called in a strong, sharp voice: 'Languille!' I saw the eyelids slowly lift up, without any spasmodic contractions "“ I insist advisedly on this peculiarity "“ but with an even movement, quite distinct and normal, such as happens in everyday life, with people awakened or torn from their thoughts.

Next Languille's eyes very definitely fixed themselves on mine and the pupils focused themselves. I was not, then, dealing with the sort of vague dull look without any expression, that can be observed any day in dying people to whom one speaks: I was dealing with undeniably living eyes which were looking at me. After several seconds, the eyelids closed again[...].

It was at that point that I called out again and, once more, without any spasm, slowly, the eyelids lifted and undeniably living eyes fixed themselves on mine with perhaps even more penetration than the first time. Then there was a further closing of the eyelids, but now less complete. I attempted the effect of a third call; there was no further movement "“ and the eyes took on the glazed look which they have in the dead.[

3. Johann Konrad Dippel. As Miss C. pointed out this morning Dr. Dippel (say that. It's fun.) may have been the inspiration for Mary Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein. Dippel did live at Castle Frankenstein in Germany, and he definitely did strange experiments. But they weren't without merit "“ he did end up inventing Dippel's Oil, which was used for a while as a medicine, an animal repellent and insecticide. It's not used much any more. He also sort of accidentally created the dye that makes "Prussian blue", which was great for artists "“ previously, the only way to make that color was either prone to fading or extremely expensive.

So it's clear that he was frequently experimenting with animal bones and the like, but it's possible that he dug up cadavers to experiment on them, too. There were rumors at the time that he was trying to transfer the soul of one cadaver to the body of another. This has never been verified"¦ but it sure makes for a good story.

4. Andrew Ure was a Scottish doctor in who practiced in the 19th century.

He used the corpse of a local murderer, who was executed by hanging, to see if people who had died certain ways could be brought back to life. Based on his trials, he concluded that anyone who died of suffocation, drowning or hanging (anything that restricted breathing, I suppose) could be brought back to life if the phrenic nerve was stimulated. I'm not entirely sure how he concluded this, since he clearly was never able to bring anyone back to life, but he concluded it nonetheless.

5. Was Alfred Nobel a mad scientist? Well"¦ kind of. At least, people viewed him that way. After discovering that nitroglycerine would work to create dynamite, an unstable version of it exploded in their family-own factory. It killed his little brother and a few others who were working at the time. After this, he started to become known as the "Merchant of Death." It was even the title used when a local newspaper mistakenly printed his obituary "“ "Merchant of Death Dies." Upset by this moniker, Nobel used his vast fortune to found the Nobel Prize and distract people from the bad things that had happened because of his invention. It worked "“ to this day we associate the award with the most brilliant people in their fields.

6. In 1955, Time magazine reported that Vladimir Demikhov had successfully grafted the head of one dog onto another dog. Here's the original, rather disturbing story or you can skip that and read a few choice quotes here:

Dr. Demikhov started in a small way by replacing the hearts of dogs with artificial blood pumps. Next, he planted a second heart in a dog's chest, removing part of a lung to make room for it. The extra heart continued its own rhythm, beating independently of the original heart. Sometimes the original heart stopped beating first. Then the second heart carried the burden until it failed too.

Encouraged by his successes, Dr. Demikhov tried the reverse operation. He removed most of the body of a small puppy and grafted the head and forelegs to the neck of an adult dog. The big dog's heart pumped blood enough for both heads. When the multiple dog regained consciousness after the operation, the puppy's head woke up and yawned. The big head gave it a puzzled look and tried at first to shake it off.

The puppy's head kept its own personality. Though handicapped by having almost no body of its own, it was as playful as any other puppy. he host-dog was bored by all this, but soon became reconciled to the unaccountable puppy that had sprouted out of its neck. When it got thirsty, the puppy got thirsty and lapped milk eagerly. When the laboratory grew hot, both host-dog and puppy put out their tongues and panted to cool off. After six days of life together, both heads and the common body died.

tesla7. Nikola Tesla "“ obviously a genius. But also? A little bit crazy. Up until his death in 1943 (he was 86), he was still developing inventions and theories, even though he was completely destitute and living in a hotel. Many, many of his theories and ideas eventually came to be, even though they seemed completely insane at the time. Some of the inventions that haven't come to be yet include anti-gravity airships, teleportation, time travel and a thought photography machine. Some of that still seems improbable, but who knows what will come to be. So let's say that scientifically, Tesla wasn't mad "“ just ahead of his time.

But he did do plenty of stange things in his personal life that would classify him as a little bit odd. He probably had OCD "“ he did everything in threes or in numbers divisible by three. He was actually physically disgusted by jewelry, especially pearls. He was definitely a germophobe, although he was strangely obsessed with pigeons. He ordered special feed for pigeons he fed in Central Park and sometimes would bring a lucky few birds back to his hotel room to keep him company. He even claimed that one all-white pigeon visited him every day. He said,"Yes, I loved that pigeon, I loved her as a man loves a woman, and she loved me."
According to Tesla, she flew in through his window one night and told him she was dying. He said,

"And then, as I got her message, there came a light from her eyes - powerful beams of light". "...Yes," "...it was a real light, a powerful, dazzling, blinding light, a light more intense than I had ever produced by the most powerful lamps in my laboratory."

As you can see, the title "Mad Scientist" definitely fits the bill.

8. Giovanni Aldini liked to conduct electricity through corpses to see what they could do. After a murderer was hanged in London in 1803, Aldini put conducting rods connected to a battery on the corpse's face, which made the deceased's muscles contort and more. Apparently his left eye actually opened. Then he stuck a rod up the dead dude's rectum, which made his back arch, his legs kick and one of his fists punch. There's a more detailed account here, including one of his colleague's experiments with "zombie kittens".

9. Josef Mengele. A truly despicable human being, to be sure. He was an SS physician who conducted all kinds of terrible experiments on prisoners, completely unconcerned for their suffering or dignity. He was especially fascinated with twins "“ it's documented that he once sewed two Gypsy children together in an attempt to create Siamese twins. His other tests including injecting chemicals into the eyes of children to see if it would change their eye color, sex change operations and lethal drug injections. Much of this was done without anesthesia.

10. Shirō Ishii was a microbiologist who served in the Imperial Japanese Army suring the Second Sino-Japanese war. Like Mengele, he conducted horrifying experiments on captives, such as amputating limbs only to reattach them elsewhere on the body, freezing body parts and then thawing them out to study gangrene (while they body parts were still attached to the person), and impregnating women via rape and then removing the fetus to study it. And this is only the beginning of it "“ if you want to know more, Google "Unit 731" to read about all of their experiments "“ but don't say I didn't warn you. Ishii never served any time for his crimes against humanity. He was arrested by American occupation authorities when WWII was over, but he was set free in exchange for some of the germ warfare data he had learned conducting experiments. At least one source says he moved to Maryland and continued researching bio-weapons, but his daughter says he stayed in Japan.

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These Sparrows Have Been Singing the Same Songs for 1500 Years
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Swamp sparrows are creatures of habit—so much so that they’ve been chirping out the same few tunes for more than 1500 years, Science magazine reports.

These findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, resulted from an analysis of the songs of 615 adult male swamp sparrows found in six different areas of the northeastern U.S. Researchers learned that young swamp sparrows pick up these songs from the adults around them and are able to mimic the notes with astounding accuracy.

Here’s what one of their songs sounds like:

“We were able to show that swamp sparrows very rarely make mistakes when they learn their songs, and they don't just learn songs at random; they pick up commoner songs rather than rarer songs,” Robert Lachlan, a biologist at London’s Queen Mary University and the study’s lead author, tells National Geographic.

Put differently, the birds don’t mimic every song their elders crank out. Instead, they memorize the ones they hear most often, and scientists say this form of “conformist bias” was previously thought to be a uniquely human behavior.

Using acoustic analysis software, researchers broke down each individual note of the sparrows’ songs—160 different syllables in total—and discovered that only 2 percent of sparrows deviated from the norm. They then used a statistical method to determine how the songs would have evolved over time. With recordings from 2009 and the 1970s, they were able to estimate that the oldest swamp sparrow songs date back 1537 years on average.

The swamp sparrow’s dedication to accuracy sets the species apart from other songbirds, according to researchers. “Among songbirds, it is clear that some species of birds learn precisely, such as swamp sparrows, while others rarely learn all parts of a demonstrator’s song precisely,” they write.

According to the Audubon Guide to North American Birds, swamp sparrows are similar to other sparrows, like the Lincoln’s sparrow, song sparrow, and chipping sparrow. They’re frequently found in marshes throughout the Northeast and Midwest, as well as much of Canada. They’re known for their piercing call notes and may respond to birders who make loud squeaking sounds in their habitat.

[h/t Science magazine]

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18 Smart Products To Help You Kick Off Summer
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Whether you’re trying to spiff up your backyard barbeque or cultivate your green thumb, these summertime gadgets will help you celebrate the season from solstice to the dog days.

1. ROSÉ WINE GLASSES; $60

Rosé Wine Glass
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Wine not? When the temperature rises and beer isn’t your thing, reach for the rosé. Riedel’s machine-blown SST (see, smell, taste) wine glasses will give the sparkly stuff ample room to breathe, making every refreshing sip worthwhile.

Find It: Amazon

2. NERF N-STRIKE ELITE SURGEFIRE; $25

Nerf SurgeFire
Hasbro

Why It’s Cool: The N-Strike Elite SurgeFire (say that five-times-fast) sports a pump-action rotating drum for maximum foam-based firepower and holds up to 15 Nerf darts in its arsenal.

Find It: Hasbro Toy Shop

3. BUSHEL & BERRY PLANTS; $34

plant
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: You don’t need to have a green thumb to create a brag-worthy garden this summer. Besides producing snackable mid-season berries, these open-growing bushes can be planted immediately for easy set-up to make you look like a botanical pro.

Find It: Amazon

4. INFLATABLE DONUT; $17

Doughnut float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When the only dunking you’re doing is taking a dip in the pool, a 48-inch inflatable donut is the perfect way to stay afloat.

Find It: Amazon

5. STAR SPANGLED SPATULA; $21

American flag spatula
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: O say can you see by your grill’s charcoal light / Meats so proudly we cooked ... with a star spangled spatula. Depending on the specific model, these all-American grilling tools (designed in New Jersey and made in Chicago) are made of a combination of walnut and stainless steel or nylon. As an added bonus: 5 percent of the proceeds go to the Penn Abramson Cancer Center.

Find It: Amazon

6. MLB HOT DOG BRANDERS; $8 AND UP

MLB San Diego Padres Hot Dog BBQ Brander
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Take your hot dogs, sausages, brats, and more out to the ballgame without ever leaving your grill. These branders from Pangea Brands are dishwasher-safe and made of ceramic-coated cast iron.

Find It: Amazon

7. UNA GRILL; $139

grill
MoMA Shop

Why It’s Cool: This portable charcoal-heated grill is as efficient as it is stylish. The compact size lets you cook at the park, after hitting up MoMA, or anywhere in between.

Find It: MoMa Shop

8. HAMBURGER GRILLING BASKET; $21


Why It’s Cool: Made of steel and finished with a non-stick coating, this grilling tool flips four burgers at once and maintains perfect burger proportions to guarantee nobody stays hungry for long.

Find It: Amazon

9. COPPER FIRE PIT; $121

metal fire pit
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: The grill isn’t the only place for a roaring fire this summer. This 100 percent solid copper fire pit makes for the perfect gathering spot at your next BBQ, or just to warm up after a cool summer evening.

Find It: Amazon

10. BENDY STRAW POOL NOODLE FLOAT; $10

Bendy Straw Inflatable Pool Float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Inflatable pool floats shouldn’t be boring, and this bendy straw float definitely does not suck. This unique spin on traditional pool noodles is sure to make for some cheesy jokes, but at least you’ll be comfortable floating in the pool or at the beach.

Find It: Amazon

11. GRIDDLER DELUXE; $111

Cuisinart GR-150 Griddler Deluxe
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: If you’re looking for some serious panini power, this griddler offers up a versatile lineup of six cooking options in one. And with dual-zone functions you can sling burgers while searing filets and sautéeing vegetables all at the same time.

Find It: Amazon

12. VINTAGE SNOW CONE MAKER; $30

Vintage Snow Cone Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: With its old-timey design, dual cone shelf, and endless flavor options, this snow cone maker is guaranteed create a cool treat.

Find It: Amazon

13. DACHSHUND CORN ON THE COB HOLDERS; $7

Dog Corn Holders
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: While meat-lovers will inevitably scarf down a lot of hot dogs this summer, vegetarians who happen to love another kind of dog will be smitten with these stainless steel, Dachshund-shaped corn on the cob prongs. They’re a fun spin on a summer grilling favorite.

Find It: Amazon

14. ICE CREAM SANDWICH MAKER; $16

Ice Cream Sandwich Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Four sandwiches are better than one, especially when they're of the ice cream variety. Make four ice cream sandwiches at once with this homemade spin on a classic cold treat.

Find It: Amazon

15. UE WONDERBOOM; $68

Bluetooth speaker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Besides delicious food and great company, some memorable tunes are required for the quintessential barbeque. This portable bluetooth speaker offers up some booming sound in a small package, and with a battery power of 10 hours on a single charge you can keep the party going all night.

Find It: Amazon

16. ROLLORS GAME; $38

Rollors Backyard Game
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When you’re sick of bocce, hate horseshoes, and you’re over cornhole, you might want to take up “rollors,” a family-friendly game that combines your favorite traditional backyard festivities into one game for people of all ages.

Find It: Amazon

17. HAMMOCK; $174

hammock
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Rest easy knowing that this 100 percent hand-woven and hand-dyed cotton hammock contributes to artisan job-creation in Thailand.

Find It: Amazon

18. VSSL SURVIVAL ESSENTIALS; $59

Emergency Survival Tent Outdoors
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Compact, convenient, and durable, the VSSL Shelter can come in handy when things don’t go quite as planned. The device—which features a lightweight emergency shelter all within the handle of a compact, weather-resistant aluminum LED flashlight—is designed to keep you safe under the worst conditions.

Find It: Amazon

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