The idea of the mad scientist didn’t just appear out of thin air – take a look at the following wacky experiments and you might just begin to understand why.
Curiosity killed the elephant:
The 1960s was all about experimentation with drugs. But evidently bored with testing brain-bending psychedelics on himself, Warren Thomas got a little curious about the bigger things in life. And by bigger things, we mean elephants. Specifically, what happens when an elephant is tripping on acid.
The liberal-minded pachyderm Tusko ‘volunteered’ for the experiment and was injected with 297 milligrams of LSD – about 3,000 times the typical human dose. The result, as anyone (except Thomas) could have guessed from the outset, was a disaster: Tusko died. The conclusion: “Elephants are highly sensitive to LSD”, which in no way makes the experiment worthwhile.
Max Josef von Pettenkofer developed the very first large-scale pure-water system in Munich, Germany. And while that’s very impressive, from now until the day you die, if you remember anything about Pettenkofer, it will be this: he drank a steaming cup of cholera bacteria that he cultured from a patient’s diarrhea.
The patient was dead. Pettenkofer suspected that the bacterium which causes cholera was not the only factor in contracting the disease, and that certain environmental conditions also had to be in place. Of course, Pettenkofer was wrong – it was just the bacterium – but he ended up on a stamp, so the real lesson to learn from this is that if you want to end up on a stamp, drink a dead person’s poo.
One for the team:
John Hunter was a famous physician in England, and the personal surgeon to King George III. Other patients included his own penis. When Hunter was practicing medicine, London was a growing urban center, which is a diplomatic way of saying it was rife with prostitution and venereal disease, namely clap (gonorrhea) and pox (syphilis). Hunter argued that clap and pox were in fact the same disease, just at different stages. But how to prove this fine claim? Test it on himself of course. Hunter made incisions on his own penis and inserted a bunch of infected pus from one of his gonorrhea-stricken patients. The problem was that the patient was, in fact, suffering from both gonorrhea AND syphilis, he just didn’t know it yet. So he accidentally took two diseases, injected them straight into his genitals, drew the wrong conclusion and managed to “set back medical progress for half a century.” Good job guy.
Researchers needed to study the effects of Tasers on targets under the influence of methamphetamines. But how to get volunteers? Most people won’t even touch meth for fear they’ll wake up in a different timezone, let alone get Tasered while on it. But you know who’s got a pulse, doesn’t mind getting Tased and loves the hell out of meth? Meth addicts! Except rather than opting for reason and logic, the scientists went instead for hilarious insanity:
They rounded up 16 sheep, gave them a speedball of powerful sedatives and methamphetamines, and then proceeded to Taser the crap out of them. Despite being given the exact recipe for a nonsensical death, all of the sheep lived, displaying no signs of the potentially fatal heart rhythm that human targets under similar conditions often succumb to.
Final outcome: Somewhere out there, there exists a small gang of speed-freak sheep struggling with a dueling sedative addiction. They may or may not be immune to electricity.