Scientists have a PR problem. If TV is to be believed, doctorates are awarded in the form of fishbowl glasses and a tendency to stutter. Sometimes movies try to help out by portraying action scientists, like in The Core, but usually do more harm than good since it's generally restricted to truly terrible movies, like in The Core.
Here we look at seven self-endangering scientists who only wear lab coats because you can't get explosive-bear-proof tuxedos outside of MI6. Each one of these researchers has been voted "Most likely to inject themselves with the Omega Serum while shouting, 'Dammit, there's no time for testing!'"
While other so-called heroes run around saving useless things like kittens and "civilians," John Paul Stapp looked at jet fighter pilots and thought, "Those poor guys need my help." Yes, the manliest profession in the world since "Grizzly Bear Rodeo" was outlawed, and World War II veteran Dr. Stapp was the man who saved them.
He served as a flight surgeon in WWII, and after the war performed critical research on the effects of sudden deceleration on the human body. His human body. He used a rocket armed with four rocket engines and a total thrust of 6,000 pounds. The wider scientific community believed the human body could not survive more than 18 Gs of deceleration--Stapp hit 35. Because he goddamn could.
He became the fastest man in the world, moving faster than a bullet--632 miles per hour.
In 1954 he decelerated from 120 miles per hour to 0 in 1.4 seconds, and gained two huge black eyes from the force of his own slammed-forward eyeballs punching him on the inside of the face. The impact blinded him for two days, during which we must imagine his response was to walk around and simply dare the world to put things in his way. Oh, and he also broke his back, arm, wrist, lost six fillings and the icing on the cake? He got a hernia.
His response? He built a bigger rocket.
More Rockets = More Science
He lived to 89 and his research has saved lives around the world ever since. Oh, and in case Dr. Stapp hasn't made a mockery of your life's work and achievements just yet: The whole time he he was slinging his own body around like a fleshy cannon shell, he was also running an after-hours clinic for the families of servicemen at the base where he worked, making house calls and providing free medical care. Every night.
Yeah, you sit up straighter now when you're reading about a real man, you loser.
Drs. Warren and Marshall isolated the bacteria responsible for stomach ulcers, but the wider scientific community maintained that stress, lifestyle and general whining were the real cause. Dr. Marshall countered with the little known "frat party" method of science, declaring, "I'll fucking show you" and drinking the vial of filthy bacteria they'd culled from the stomachs of ulcer suffers.
He was positive he was right before he drank it, and when he immediately developed gastritis with achlorhydria, nausea, vomiting and halitosis he was damn sure. We're talking absolutely, positively, "coming down from a mountain and founding a religion" sure.
"Why, yes, I do regret drinking stomach poison."
In true movie-style, this was a daring experiment that broke all the rules--right down to the first rule of biology labs: "Don't drink things in the vials here." Suitably impressed, the Nobel Prize committee awarded him and Dr. Marshall the prize, and presumably some breath mints.
So what could be more disgusting than that?
Dr. Albert Hoffman developed Lysergic Acid Diethylamide-25 in 1938. Five years later he accidentally absorbed a tiny dose through his skin and had to stop working, experiencing intoxication, dizziness and two hours of mind-bending hallucinations. Clearly a man who knows how to party, his first response was "I gots to get me some more of that shit."
He didn't mess around. Three days later he took 250 micrograms, now known to be over 10 times the threshold dose for humans. He later claimed that this was a miscalculation, but we're fairly sure when he said that he winked and added, "Right, guys?" He spent the rest of the day in a state scientifically categorized as "high off his tits." He was unable to speak clearly, he saw sounds, was afraid of witches, threatened by his furniture and watched the best fireworks display the world has ever seen go off inside his eyeballs.
The next day he decided, "The world must share this feeling," and spent the rest of his life campaigning for LSD applications, despite some idiot hippies getting it banned and ruining it for everyone.
Dr. Hoffman's heaping helping of acid has had effects on science development since: Professor Crick, one of the men who figured out a little thing called DNA, admitted that he used LSD to boost his powers of thought which should be obvious. While we're sure that decoding DNA took all kinds of "science" and "experiments," when your final result is "All life is like spelled out in an alphabet of chemicals, man, two helices spiraling around each other and it's the same way for all the animals and plants and everything," then we don't care how correct that might be. There's only one thing to be said: totally high.
The line between heroic bravery and complete stupidity is a blurred one and Stubbins Ffirth sprinted over it while chugging a bowl of vomit. Seriously.
Perhaps driven to insanity by his ridiculous name, trainee doctor Ffirth attempted to prove that Yellow Fever isn't contagious (Note: it actually is). His "experiments" were maniacal displays of filth, lack of self-respect and absolute depravity, so it's pity he lived a full two centuries before the invention of the internet.
Ffirth's great-great-granddaughter and her friend.
He subjected himself to possible infection by victims in every conceivable manner--and his brain could conceive manners that would make yours lock itself in the bathroom with a bucket of bleach.
He jammed infected patient vomit, blood and urine into every orifice. This includes several holes he cut in his arm, dripping pus from dying men into his eyes, and he rounded off a nice day of horrific self-mutilation with a filling lunch of fried puke.
Amazingly, these experiments neither got him locked up as a fucking lunatic nor infected him. Real scientists later found that this is because Yellow Fever is blood-borne, and that the late-stage (translation: dying) patients Stubbins was using as a smorgasbord were no longer very contagious.
Still, the odds of his not catching something are on par with playing Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun, but having it jam on a winning lottery ticket that just dropped out of the sky.
The High Explosives Applications Facility, the single coolest-named facility in the entire world, decided to show off how precisely they could control their new metal-melting laser. Instead of shooting an apple off their least-favorite employee's head, they decided to demonstrate the laser's precision by cutting through the shell of a Stinger missile. Yes, the type that blow up. No, they didn't take out those explosive bits first.
That's the segment they lasered out of the shell, and that powder still attached is ammonium perchlorate which is practically chemical-ese for "goddamn explosive." Amazingly, this research was not unveiled on a huge television in front of the United Nations before demanding a million dollars--it's just what they do there. We can imagine the daily conversations of the staff:
"What are you doing today, honey?"
"Well, dear, we're going to fire a massively intense laser into the side of a live missile."
"Oh, that's nice, be sure to take your extra Ziploc bags in case you get blown into chunks. Remember what happened to Jenkins!"
In 1929, Werner Forssmann was a surgical trainee who wanted to learn about the heart. Unlike other wimpy doctors at the time, instead of learning about it from books or dead animals, he went for the more classic investigatory approach of "poke it with something."
Without any supervision, advice, or regard for that concept you call "survival," he cut a hole in his arm and pushed a catheter all the way up the limb and jammed it into his still-living heart.
A female nurse had volunteered for the procedure, and while he wouldn't risk anyone else (perhaps shouting "Dammit, it's too dangerous!"), he needed her to hand him the necessary surgical tools. So he laid her on the surgical table, gave her a painkiller, then performed the procedure on himself while she wasn't looking. That's right, this guy shoved two feet of cable into his own cardiac system as a sleight-of-hand trick, thereby permanently upstaging David Copperfield 27 years before he was even born.
He then walked--WALKED, mind you--with a tube hanging out of his fucking heart like some kind of price tag to the X-Ray room and presumably said "Hey guys, check out what I just did."
"I'm a very good doctor."
When another doctor desperately tried to pull the catheter out of him (perhaps shouting "Dammit, it's too dangerous!"), Werner had to kick him away because his hands were full with the cable running into his own heart. At this point it's clear that if a 10-man SWAT team composed entirely of Arnold Schwarzeneggers had attacked Forssman, he'd have beaten the life out of every single one, then performed lifesaving research on the corpses.
He was fired, probably for being tougher than everyone and everything else in the building (including the concrete foundations)--27 years later they gave him a Nobel Prize.