47 Surprising Facts About Famous Scientists You Didn’t Learn in High School

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26Robert Boyle

350 years ago, Robert Boyle wrote down a 'to-do list' of fantastical things he hoped science would one-day accomplish. We are over halfway there.

27. Michael Faraday, one of the foremost experimenters of his time, declined a knighthood, believing that it was against the word of the Bible to pursue worldly reward. He stated that he preferred to remain "plain Mr. Faraday to the end."

28. Schrödinger did not believe in the possibility of a cat being simultaneously both dead and alive. His thought experiment was meant to criticize the absurdity of the existing view of quantum mechanics.

29. French mathematician Évariste Galois died in a duel. A day before his duel, he published all his work because he didn't think he would survive. The next day he died at the age of 20 from a bullet to his gut.

30. In 1900, a German mathematician named David Hilbert outlined a list of 23 unsolved problems in mathematics that he hoped would be solved in the 20th century. As of 2018, only 12 have been answered.

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31Wernher von Braun

After Wernher von Braun's first V2 rocket was used in combat, he was quoted as saying "the rocket worked perfectly, except for landing on the wrong planet."

32. A Russian scientist named Alexander Bogdanov hoped to achieve everlasting life, by transfusing blood with others who were younger than him. Later, he died after transfusing a student with malaria, who made a full recovery after the transfusion.

33. Scientist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach created one of the earliest racial classification systems. He believed that none of the races were inherently inferior to the others, nor that colored peoples were uncivilized. His classification system became very influential but his opposition to racism was mostly ignored.

34. A British scientist named Dr. Ian Walker rode a bike fitted with an ultrasonic distance sensor to see how closely cars would pass him. He found that cars gave him about 6 inches more space when he was wearing a wig so that drivers passing from behind would think he was a woman.

35. In 1906 when Dr. Alois Alzheimer presented his groundbreaking research on the disease which would later be known as Alzheimer's Disease, the audience asked zero questions and made zero comments because they simply wanted to hear the next lecture (which was about compulsive masturbation).

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Ancient Greek mathematician Eratosthenes was nicknamed "Beta" because he was skilled in many things, but never the best.

37. The famous physicist Pierre Curie slipped in the rain and got his head ran over by a horse-drawn cart, killing him instantly.

38. Famous mathematician and scientist Blaise Pascal converted to Catholicism after having a 2-hour mystical experience. He spent the rest of his life mostly writing about theology and apologetics. 

39. An agricultural scientist named Norman Borlaug developed new strains of crops which yielded 4 times as much food. He is said to have saved the lives of over a billion people, making him one of the most influential men in human history.

40. In 6th century BC., a Greek philosopher named Anaximander suggested that all land animals trace their origins to the sea, predating modern evolutionary theory by 2,400 years.

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41B. F. Skinner

B. F. Skinner invented a temperature controlled baby crib that he called the "heir conditioner."

42. Linus Pauling, a Nobel prize winner in chemistry, was a eugenicist. He urged that human carriers of defective genes have a compulsory visible mark such as forehead tattoos to discourage potential mates with the same defect, having kids together.

43. In 1850, Dmitri Mendeleev walked almost 1000 miles to Moscow so that he could apply for the University of Moscow. Although he was not accepted, he walked to St. Petersburg where he was accepted, and with that education, he developed the periodic table of the elements.

44. As someone who actively avoided any kind of attention, Paul Dirac wanted to refuse the Nobel Prize in 1933 in order to avoid the publicity. He accepted it only when advised that, as the first person to refuse a Nobel Prize, the publicity would be even greater. 

45. James Parkinson, the man after whom Parkinson's disease is named, was accused of a plot to assassinate King George III using a poisoned dart fired from a pop-gun.

46Enrico Fermi

Enrico Fermi’s paper discussing neutrinos was rejected by journal Nature because “it contained speculations too remote from reality to be of interest to the reader.”

47. Oliver Wolf Sacks, the author, and neurologist, known as a "poet laureate of contemporary medicine”, burned his first book due to self-doubt, but he went on to write many bestsellers, including ‘Awakenings’ about his breakthrough work with survivors of the 1920s sleeping sickness a.k.a. encephalitis lethargica.


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