Respected Scientists Who Were Actually Terrible People

Scientists: They're way smarter than most people, and they see the world in a different way and ultimately change it ... for better or worse. Sometimes, it's a crapshoot which way it's going to go, but science is always moving the world into a new place and it's being driven by some of the strangest people in the world.

Reassured? Didn't think so. Too often, we hear about the discoveries and achievements of some of the world's most famous scientists, but we don't hear about the other stuff. The terrible stuff. Knowledge comes with a price, and some people aren't too hesitant to pay it. Do some digging, and it quickly becomes clear that some of mankind's knowledge came only because the people chasing it didn't have much in the way of morals, qualms, or the ability to think twice before diving headlong into the icky. These scientists were terrible people.

Erwin Schrodinger was all kinds of bad

Schrodinger is most famous for his cat-in-the-box thought experiment. He was a weird guy, and he was also unforgivably horrible to the women (and girls) who had the misfortune to come into his life.

According to a Schrodinger biographer, he kept a series of "little black books" to record the names of the women he had affairs with and to rate each of them. At least three of his mistresses gave him children, and one helped him develop his famous wave equation by providing "inspiration" as he worked.

They're adults, and that's fine, but it gets much worse. Schrodinger did some tutoring, with students that included 14-year-old twins Withi and Ithi Junger. He particularly fancied Ithi and was prone to fondling her while they worked on her math lessons. She was pregnant three years later, and she was sterilized by the botched abortion that followed.

After that, Schrodinger hooked up with the wife of his assistant, Arthur March. A daughter was born from that union, and while March stepped up to act as the girl's father, his wife moved into Schrodinger's home to be his other wife. They eventually headed to Ireland (via The Irish Independent), where he hooked up with the married actress Sheila May. She, too, became pregnant, and Schrodinger wrote, "I am the happiest man in Dublin, probably in Ireland, probably in Europe!" No word on how happy the women were. 

John and William Hunter

Brothers John and William Hunter aren't the rock stars of science, but their work is immeasurably important. William made major discoveries about the lymphatic system and the uterus, while John was an anatomist who developed the idea that interactions between organs make people work and laid the foundations of pathology.

Both believed hands-on experience was the way to learn, but here's the terrible. Research published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (via The Guardian) looked at just where William and his associate, the unfortunately named William Smellie, got the bodies they lectured over and dissected. They linked the two anatomists to a series of London murders between 1749 and 1755, and say they were likely responsible for the deaths of between 35 and 40 pregnant women.

Each of the men was connected to a shady assistant who "procured" subjects for them. William's murder helper seems to have been his brother, and according to The James Lind Library, John also dug up graves himself before turning to professionals. By the time the brothers were done, they had dissected more than 2,000 bodies, sourced in some shady ways. Oh, and John? He also pioneered the idea of tooth transplants, by taking teeth from the poor and giving them to the rich. Robin Hood, he was not.

James D. Watson wanted to genetically engineer away the ugly

James D. Watson turned his love of bird-watching into a career in research and genetics, and then he won a Nobel Prize when he discovered the shape of DNA. That's brilliant work, but there might be more to the story.

According to journalist Ivan Oransky (via Scientific American), there are more than a few people who think his Nobel Prize came only after he took credit for the work of another scientist, Rosalind Franklin. There's no proof, but that's not the only terrible thing he's credited with.

He's also gone on record as saying genetic engineering should be used to "make all girls pretty," and he's spoken freely on his beliefs that there's a connection between race and intelligence. He ultimately retired in 2007 after giving an interview where he stated he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social politics are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours," which he disagreed with.

This is the same guy who spoke out in 1997, proposing the development of genetic testing to allow a mother to determine if her unborn baby was going to be gay. He added homosexuality should be a reason for abortion, claimed libido was linked to skin color, and in 2014, he became the first person to sell his Nobel medallion. Why? Because, says the Smithsonian, he didn't like the way the scientific community shunned him.

Linus Pauling wanted to tattoo 'undesirables'

Linus Pauling died in 1994, and Oregon State University sang the praises of a man who won two Nobel Prizes (Chemistry and Peace), who dabbled in theoretical physics, made advances in genetic diseases and immunology, pioneered the idea of molecular disease, and invented a device that made anesthesia safer.

That's just a tiny portion of the long list of achievements he's credited with, and that's all well and good. But there's a "but" here, and it's a doozy. Pauling's work with molecular disease and genetic illness sent him careening into the murky, swampy cesspool that is eugenics. Oregon State says Pauling was a proponent of eliminating diseases like sickle cell anemia (and other hereditary diseases) by first testing for it, then tattooing carriers with "an obvious mark" on their foreheads. He also said two carriers should avoid marriage and children, and should consider aborting any child that might come into the picture, even saying it would be immoral for a mother to produce a child who will suffer.

Of course, Pauling can speak for himself. During a lecture at Michigan State University, he said (via Oregon State), " It's all right for [a mother] to be allowed to determine the extent to which she will suffer, but she should not be allowed to produce a child who will suffer. This is immoral."

Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope let rivalry get in the way of common sense

Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope were giants in the world of paleontology, brilliant and both determined to write the history of the dinosaurs as they saw fit. There was another name here, too, says Slate, and that's Joseph Leidy, the first vertebrate paleontologist in the U.S., until the Cope-Marsh feud pushed him out.

Leidy was the first to discover dinosaurs in America, and he was the first to describe a full skeleton. Marsh and Cope appeared on the scene, and a life-long, science-destroying grudge kicked off when Marsh bribed pit workers to give him first crack at newly uncovered bones. It went downhill from there, as they all tried to bury each other's work deeper than the dinosaurs they uncovered.

Leidy couldn't keep up with the hate- and rage-filled antics of the others, and quit the field. As the poor son of a hatter, he couldn't compete with Marsh and Cope's big budgets. Some of that cash went to explosives and weapons, when crewmen working under their orders destroyed fossils instead of leaving them for the competition. The entire saga was filled with backstabbing, slander, bribery, and destruction, says UC Berkeley, and sadly, that included destruction of the very dinosaurs they were trying to catalog.

Jack Parsons summoned Satan

Without Jack Parsons — or, as he was born, Marvel Whiteside Parsons — there would be no space shuttle, no spaceflight, and who knows what military conflicts would have changed had the U.S. not had his developments in rocketry and fuel propellent. He was an aeronautics and rocketry genius, and he also believed he had summoned Satan when he was 13 years old.

Parsons was a huge devotee of Aleister Crowley, says Gizmodo. He also did a lot of dancing naked by the moonlight. That's not particularly terrible, but what was terrible was his belief that his weird sex-magick rituals (which he usually undertook with the help of L. Ron Hubbard) were going to summon the Antichrist.

Without going into too much detail, the basics are that Parsons and Hubbard performed a series of rituals to incarnate a goddess named Babalon. Babalon would be the mother of the Antichrist, and they absolutely believed they had summoned her in the body of Marjorie Cameron. Cameron joined in all the bedroom fun, and she did become pregnant. We'll never know if it was really the Antichrist, as she had an abortion. There is a little side note, though. After that whole pursuit petered out, Parson's wife hooked up with Hubbard, and they saw the birth of something else: Scientology.

John Harvey Kellogg hated everything about human reproduction

Everyone knows John Harvey Kellogg. He's the cereal guy, and he was also a surgeon and a pioneer in the field of nutrition. His profile in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons says he suited up for more than 22,000 surgical procedures himself and promoted all kinds of foods he thought were good for people. That's things like peanut butter, yogurt, and soy milk, making him pretty much responsible for your breakfast table.

Kellogg did most of his research into the relationship between nutrition and the soul at the Battle Creek Sanitarium (via Science History Institute). He had a ton of crazy ideas, starting with his belief that tasty food led to rampant fornication. The horizontal tango, he believed, was "against nature" and absolutely shouldn't happen. He even went as far as suggesting the use of spiked tools and acid burns to discourage the pastime, and corn flakes? He invented those to be so bland they couldn't possibly arouse any kind of desire in anyone.

Psychology Today says that was just one part of his crazy — he was also one of the founding members of the Race Betterment Foundation. He's got his own section in the Eugenics Archive, and his organization started a eugenics registry to help push the supposed superiority of anyone of Nordic background. Go ahead and burn those corn flakes now.

Alexander Graham Bell hated deaf people

Everyone knows Alexander Graham Bell as an inventor, but inventing was only a side gig. According to PBS, he was really interested in deaf education and the physiology of speech. He even opened a school for the deaf, but that's not to say he had noble aspirations. Quite the opposite.

Bell was also interested in heredity, and eventually came to the conclusion that eugenics was the way to go. He saw an America that was being overrun by immigrants and the deaf, and he wasn't about to stand for any of it. In his 1884 paper "Upon the Formation of a Deaf Variety of the Human Race," he wove a cautionary tale about what could happen if deaf people kept forming clubs, socializing, marrying, having deaf babies, and communicating in a language only they could understand.

It went downhill from there. Rooted in Rights says Bell embarked on a quest to remove sign language from schools, and it absolutely worked. Signing was learned behind closed doors, and deaf students were forced to learn through oral communication. It was so successful that the National Association of the Deaf produced 18 films in the hopes of preserving sign language for a time when people weren't so irrationally hateful.

One thing that's never mentioned along with Bell and his anti-deaf crusade was what his mother thought of the whole thing. Eliza Bell was deaf. And his wife, Mabel? Also deaf. At least they didn't have to hear his ramblings.

Marie Curie stole another woman's husband

When anyone talks about Marie Curie, they talk about her pioneering work in radiation and chemistry. She's often mentioned in the same breath as her husband, Pierre, who was also a brilliant scientist in his own right and shared a Nobel Prize with her. What's not mentioned is the fact that she stole another woman's husband, shacked up with him, and caused a scandal.

Pierre died in a carriage accident in 1906, so she wasn't cheating on him. She did, however, fall in love with his protege, a physicist named Paul Langevin. The affair started around 1910, when they rented a flat outside Sorbonne for their trysts. The problem was Langevin was married, to a woman who had just given birth to their fourth child about the time he hooked up with Curie.

Curie pressured him to divorce his wife and marry her, and their secret didn't stay secret for very long. We know, says the Independent, because Langevin's wife found the love letters they'd written each other and had them published in a tabloid. Consequences came fast. The Swedish Academy of Sciences whispered that it wouldn't be proper for her to pick up her Nobel Prize in person because she'd have to shake the hand of the king and everyone knew where her hands had been. Curie's reputation took a hit that took her years to recover from.

William Buckland ate puppies

You may not know William Buckland's name, but everyone has seen the results of his work. Buckland was a 19th-century geologist at Oxford University, and he documented geological phenomenon, wrote papers on fossils and the dinosaurs, and made major strides in mineralogy. He also made it part of his life's work to eat anything and everything.

According to Atlas Obscura, one of his favorite dishes was field mouse on toast, and one of the most disgusting dishes he claimed to have eaten was a meal made of bluebottle flies. He ate moles, hedgehogs, crocodiles, porpoises, and — worst of all — he was even known to have cooked up some puppies.

He never said why he felt it necessary to eat puppies, but there are a few stories that show just how obsessed he really was. He was in an Italian cathedral when he was shown a stain that was reportedly a martyr's blood. Always the scientist, he licked it and said it wasn't blood, it was bat urine. There's another story that when he was presented with the heart of France's King Louis XIV, he ate that, too.

That last one is only alleged, but we do know he passed his weird obsession on to his son, Francis. When the boy was a child, his father encouraged him to ride then eat a turtle. Francis was allowed "as a treat" to help the cook behead the turtle. Ahh, childhood.