I have a secret; as much as I enjoy reading about the latest advancements in biology and physics, I sometimes like reading about the darker side of experimentation.

Most scientists have a fundamental basis for experimentation and results but then there were (and are - we'll get to them in future installments) others who ran with their own rules and avoided opposition by keeping the results mostly secret. These are the people I am referring to as 'Mad Scientists' rather than using the more colloquial 'crazy' meaning of the term.

We all know most doctors are around to help patients, for example, but those who perform their own twisted experimentation make this list. Some will be more controversial (you may not think they are mad at all) but they made my list of "World's Maddest Scientists" and we can discuss it. (dun dun dun...)

Mad Scientist.... (see, he's CRAZY!)
(Photo Credit: PendoTech)

But before we begin, it's only fair I outline what I consider a Mad Scientist. Since subjectivity is okay in an article like this and accuracy will be suspect anyway, we can rely on good ol' Wikipedia for a definition: A mad scientist is simply a scientist who has become obsessively involved with their studies and has begun to develop eccentricities by normal standards.

If that doesn't sound harsh enough, maybe we should open up a secondary category; Evil Genius. An evil genius is a genius who uses their gift for explicitly, consciously evil purposes. Vague enough right? Lets just continue onward shall we...

Characterizations of these individuals include some of the following:

  • The pursuit of science without assessing its destructive or ethical implications.
  • Maniacal laughter, especially pronounced when their experiments reach their climax.
  • Absent-mindedness, often manifested in careless grooming and uncombed hair.
  • An evil assistant to help conjure up materials needed for experimentation.
  • Ranting monologues, plans or revenge, and vindication.
  • Are usually wearing the stereotyped white lab coat and some form of eye protection.
  • Engage in the use of extremely dangerous or unorthodox methods.

Here we go, those crazy/evil enough to make this first list:

Sergei Brukhonenko (1890-1960)

Brukhonenko is best known as the "dog decapator" but he was also the creator of the autojector (a heart-lung machine.) His device consisted of a pair of diaphragm linear pumps and an oxygen chamber which he would connect to the severed head of a dog to keep it alive. In 1928 he previewed his experiment to an audience at the Third Congress of Physiologists of the USSR and he performed tests to prove the head was alive. He shone a light into the dog's face, and the dog would blink, etc. His techniques led to improvements in open heart surgery and overall in the field of medical science but it's still a little crazy by today's standards. Plus, I love dogs.

This chilling video explains how its all done... Warning: Quite Graphic and downright creepy.



Vladimir Demikhov (1916-1998)


Quite a mad scientist he was ... Demikhov would graft the head, shoulders, and sometimes the legs of a puppy onto the neck of a matured dog. The puppy retained nearly all function of its limbs and even drank milk in front of the disgusted audience. Demikhov created 20 known monstrosities, all of which eventually died from tissue rejection or similar problems. His experiments were not just twisted and relegated to the junk heap of science history, like you might think. His creations led to a breakthrough in the understanding of transplant surgeries and the basic principles would be used by hundreds of doctors. Watch the surgery video but WARNING:: Disturbing!



Nikola Tesla (1856-1943)

(photo credit: Tesla Memorial Society of New York)

I told you this could be controversial. It takes real courage on a science site to go after Tesla but I am doing it. Yes, he was a keen inventor and electrical engineer and is accredited for contributions in the fields of electricity and magnetism. He did research regarding wireless technology, high-voltage electricity, altering currents, rotating magnetic field, and invented such things as fluorescent lighting, altering current (AC) and even radar and the radio (Marconi fans will object - they are also wrong.)

But he did a lot of those electricity experiments on animals, so he makes my list. I love dogs. I love elephants. Tesla just loved to electrocute them

To people outside science, Tesla is the very archetype of the mad scientist but he has gotten more respect in recent years.  Good luck playing a video game or reading a steampunk novel without the mythological Tesla coil.

Dr. Josef Mengele "The Angel of Death" (1911-1979)
(Photo credit: Archiv der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Berlin.)

Mengele joined the Nazi regime in 1937 where he dedicated the next eight years of his life to the goals of Hitler and his SS. He tortured thousands of victims living in concentration camps at Auschwitz, using them for research without concern for anything resembling human dignity. His experiments included the following:

  • dissection of live infants, castration of men and boys without the use of anesthetic, delivering high voltage shocks to "test the endurance" of women, sterilize prisoners using x-ray machines causing burns
  • Most famous are his test on twins. He conducted tests on over 3,000 twins including the live dissection, the removal of body parts while the victim was awake...

Auschwitz prisoner Alex Dekel said:

 "I have never accepted the fact that Mengele himself believed he was doing serious work — not from the slipshod way he went about it. He was only exercising his power. Mengele ran a butcher shop — major surgeries were performed without anesthesia. Once, I witnessed a stomach operation — Mengele was removing pieces from the stomach, but without any anesthetic. Another time, it was a heart that was removed, again, without anesthesia. It was horrifying. Mengele was a doctor who became mad because of the power he was given. Nobody ever questioned him — why did this one die? Why did that one perish? The patients did not count. He professed to do what he did in the name of science, but it was a madness on his part"


So that ends my list, at least for now. I have a lot more. Their tactics for scientific research were sometimes beyond imaginable and left the world in shock but some techniques led to breakthroughs in the field of science. So sometimes even the craziest and evilest things can have something good come from them I am not saying we need another Mengele roaming around, but you get the point - and we had someone similar roaming around which I will get to next time.




Tesla on Animal Training by Electricity.  New York Journal. 2/06/1898

Angel of Death: Josef Mengele. Auschwitz.