It’s no surprise that people at the very limits and heights of human intellect are also sometimes a little strange. The term Mad Scientists exists in no small part because many normal people simply fail to understand the actions of a truly clever scientist. There is also the fact that the greatest scientists are completely dedicated to their work, this can seem like, and often is, an obsession and in turn give rise to the impressions the person is not mentally very well.
The British are also somewhat well known for being a little eccentric but also for giving the world some of the most important scientific research of all time. Darwin was British, Stephen Hawkins too! The inventor of the internet Tim Berners-Lee is also from the UK along with arguably the reason World War 2 was one Alan Turing. There is simply a huge list of British scientists that have helped shape the world. But, there are also some slightly crazy ones too! They are no less important but their stories do add some classically British “madness” to proceedings. (Oh, and don’t forget our Doctors!)
Commercially, the Brits are not to be left behind. There are also a huge number of British scientific companies that are important on the global market. There are huge names like GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca but also smaller tech firms like MCI Neuroscience.
But at the core of it all are the scientists who make things happen despite – or maybe because of – their quirkiness. Here are three British Scientists that made very important discoveries, but even more so (for our purposes today), the quirks that make them quite “interesting”.
Born in 1784 William Buckland was a theologian as well as a geologist and paleontologist. He was well known for a number of reasons but perhaps his most famous work was the creation of the first full account of a fossil dinosaur. The dinosaur was called Megalosaurus. Initially, Buckland had some of the remains but was not aware of what it was. A visit from William Conybeare set the two of them working together to be the first people to properly describe a Dinosaur.
Megalosaurus aside, Mr. Buckland was known for a few other reasons too. He was certainly known as an eccentric even in those days. He would sometimes ride into lectures on horseback which must have caused quite a stir. He would also mimic the movements of the animals he was teaching about which in somewhat straight-laced times was not normal practice.
But perhaps his most famous trait was his obsession with eating his way through the entire animal kingdom. This “habit” is known as Zoophagy. Buckland would eat literally any animal he could find and famous meals of note included Panther, Mole, Fly, Crocodile, and Mouse. He was reported to have also eaten the heart of Louis XIV. This was during a dinner party when he showed the alleged preserved heart to a guest and then proceeded to eat it after having stated he had never eaten the heart of a king.
Born in 1916 Crick was arguably part of the greatest scientific discovery of all time…DNA! With a certain James Watson Crick discovered and recreated the structure of DNA. While at the time important the understanding it has led to and the potential medical implications in the future are so huge as to be significant to mankind forever.
All that being said, later in his career Crick started pursuing some slightly more marginal ideas. During the 1970s he began to be a supporter of the theory called directed panspermia. This is a theory that suggests all life on earth was essentially seeded by other intelligent lifeforms. For many people, this kind of theory is completely mad but it is interesting that the man who discovered our genetic makeup feels, for some reason, it has origins not of this earth. Maybe Crick knew something the rest of the world did not!
Born in 1642, we all know of Newton and his laws. However, his achievements were, in fact, much broader than this. Some of Newton’s less known work included his research with optics. He worked a lot with prisms and splitting white light into its constituent colors and also bringing them together again without affecting the light beam itself. He became quite obsessed with this side of his research and in one rather odd moment was also reported to have poked himself in the eye with a needle! That is certainly dedication. He was also obsessed with the apocalypse and firmly believed the world would end in the year 2026. As with Crick, when someone who literally discovered gravity thinks something is definitely going to happen maybe the rest of the world should give it some thought!
This post was written by Ade Holder. He can often be found writing about all things car related but he also happens to be somewhat of a science and Sci-Fi nerd too. After studying Zoology at University, Ade went on to become a motoring writer but he still gets to stretch his scientific legs in his spare time and likes nothing more than writing about science; except perhaps reading a bit of Clarke perhaps!