When someone is remembered as a genius, little else about them as a person is made public. Why would we care that Einstein cheated on his wife like, all the time? The guy invented gravity, he was awesome!
In a similar vein, there are other geniuses from a variety of respective fields that are, or were, straight-up awful people, despite how little attention people pay to that fact. People like …
10. Bobby Fischer
The name Bobby Fischer is synonymous with genius, mainly because he kicked so much ass at chess he brought it back into the mainstream. People who’d never played a game in their life were enthralled by this chess wizard as he stomped all over Russian grandmasters like they were cockroaches made of eggshells.
His influence on the world of chess was so great, that his match with Russian master, Boris Spassky was front page news. Following his victory, the entire US was taken in by what is now colloquially referred to as the “Fischer Boom,” which saw chess receive unprecedented amounts of media attention.
Field Of Awfulness: Anti-America, Anti-Semitism
Despite the fact that Fischer quickly became a media darling following his victory in 1972, and many thousands of Americans cheered his name, Fischer’s stance on America was anything but kind. Claiming that he hated the country he once called home, Fischer was quoted as saying about 9/11, “I applaud the act” and within the same breath, “F**k the US I want to see the US wiped out.”
He was also a raging anti-Semite, to the point even his most die-hard supporters found him repugnant. But boy, was that a good chess game, eh guys?
9. Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf is a name that will likely always be remembered. One, because it’s awesome. Two, because she made some of the greatest contributions to the literary arts in recent history. Basically, if you haven’t read one of her books, chances are you’ve at least heard of one of them, making her more famous than 99% of writers ever.
Field Of Awfulness: Intellectual Superiority, Elitism
Today, her books are studied and read by millions of children. But unless those kids have a trust fund, Woolf would have hated the thought of them reading her work. You see, Woolf was a staunch supporter of the leisure class (In other words, people with enough money to not work) and was quoted as saying that reading and learning should be exclusive to them. Yes, Woolf felt that learning and reading was a special gift that belonged to rich people.
She took class snobbishness a step further in her own home. When her diaries were made public, people combing through them noticed a rather unsettling trend. Woolf loved talking smack about her servants. In her private diaries, she expressed everything from disgust to pity at the people literally cleaning up after her mess. She felt they deserved more, but also believed they’d never be able to enjoy life on as deep a level as she did.
Woolf eventually took to giving all her servants orders via notes she’d leave around the house and, when her orders weren’t followed, she’d note in her diary that this only proved the “inherent stupidity” of the working class. You know, instead of saying something to their faces, like an actual human being would.
8. Richard Dawkins
Dawkins is the guy who came up with the theory of social memes in his book, The Selfish Gene way back in 1976. The book was an instant classic and is still considered by many as required reading for anyone interested in evolutionary biology or social theory.
However, despite this, Dawkins is mostly known today as the author of The God Delusion, which is a shame. Instead of being known as the guy who developed a massively important theory which helps explain cultural evolution and why we as humans act the way we do, he’s known as the guy who wrote the book on being a turd online.
Field Of Awfulness: Being A Turd Online
Dawkins has a reputation for being a very active and avid user of the Internet. However, rather than use his many years of scientific experience, and his deep knowledge of human and evolutionary biology, to educate people, he’s taken to basically becoming a comment troll.
For example, when Rebecca Watson, the founder of the mega-popular Skepchick blog, attended a conference on skepticism, a random guy cornered her in an elevator and asked her if she’d like to come to his room. At 4 in the morning, meaning he likely did not have movies and board games in mind. Watson firmly told the guy to do one, and wrote about the experience online. In a nutshell, she said that what that guy did was creepy as all hell. Which to be fair, it totally was.
Dawkins, for some unknown reason, then appeared in the comment section of her site and made a wildly sexist and demeaning comment addressing a fictional Muslim woman called “Muslima.” Essentially, he said that Watson’s experience was trivial in comparison to other things that are happening in the world, so she had no right to complain about something that made her feel massively uncomfortable. Yep, according to Dawkins, you have no right to complain about stuff that’s important or personally affects you, unless you are literally the single most oppressed person on the planet.
Unless, of course, you’re Dawkins, and you want to act super butthurt about people calling you out on proposing a sliding scale for sexual assault. Then you can complain all you want, because that’s way more important than raising awareness about sexism.
Aristotle is one of those names that is just dripping with good vibes. As one of the ancient world’s most famous philosophers, Aristotle’s life and work are still studied today, thousands of years after he kicked the bucket. Aristotle is credited with being the mind behind some of our most enduring philosophical concepts, including basic freaking ethics. Though Socrates beat him to the punch, Aristotle expanded upon the concept, and encouraged people to be good to one another.
Field Of Awfulness: Sexism
Unless that person was a woman. Aristotle’s views on the fairer sex are so expansive that they get their own Wikipedia page. He basically asserted that women should be subservient to men, to the point where they shouldn’t even be allowed to eat as much food. He also claimed that women were basically incomplete men, and thus, inferior.
But so what, right? This was 2000 years ago; surely everyone was like this back then. Except they weren’t. For example, Spartan women from the same time period were treated with a relative amount of respect. Queen Gorgo of Sparta famously responded to one person asking why Spartan women could rule men with the frankly badass line “because only Spartan women produce men.” Yes, she actually said that. It wasn’t just put into the film 300 for effect. Spartan women were that awesome, and Aristotle was that pig-headed.
6. Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton has made a bigger impact on science and physics than just abut anybody, and will go down in history as the guy who pretty much came up with the theory of gravity.
Field Of Awfulness: Endless Feuding And Grudge-Bearing
Throughout most of his adult life, Isaac Newton had an ongoing feud with one Robert Hooke. Some of you may recognize that name, but the majority of you won’t, and that has a lot to do with Newton.
Hooke theorized the existence of gravity before Newton did. The only problem was he wasn’t smart enough to calculate the exact math behind it. When Newton published Principa, in which he shared his famous gravitational law, Hooke pointed out that he should have gotten some of the credit. Newton disagreed, since although Hooke had formulated and hypothesized gravity’s existence, he sucked eggs at the mathing part, and therefore wasn’t allowed in Newton’s book.
Because Newton was more famous than Hooke, he supposedly used his influence to suppress Hooke’s work until after his death. Newton even took to outright slandering Hooke, calling him an idiot in open letters. In fact, Newton’s famous “standing on the shoulders of giants” quote was a direct insult to Hooke, in reference to the fact Hooke was simply observing something much greater than himself.
It’s even suggested that Newton destroyed the only known portrait of Hooke after his death, because that is how you make a statement. Today, Newton lives on as one of the most famous minds in scientific history, whereas Hooke is just a footnote in a scientific textbook.
5. Thomas Edison
Though Thomas Edison’s reputation has suffered a slight knock in recent years, due to the fact that Tesla has become the patron saint of the Internet, he’s still regarded as one of the foremost inventors in history.
Field Of Awfulness: Killing Animals
During the so called “War Of Currents,” Thomas Edison had an ongoing feud with the aforementioned Tesla, over which form of electricity was superior: Edison’s DC current, or Tesla’s AC. The obvious answer was AC current, based on Tesla’s designs, because it was invented by the much more handsome scientist. Also it was, like, wicked efficient or something.
Not wanting to be proven wrong, and determined to keep America shackled by stupidly inferior DC system, Edison tried to prove to America that AC current was dangerous, by murdering puppies with it. Yes, when faced with the fact that someone had invented a much, much better system for providing electricity than his own, Edison committed puppycide as a retort. When proving that you’re smarter involves animal murder, you’re not an inventor; you’re a serial killer in training.
4. Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla is hugely famous online, and within pop culture. Though in his lifetime his contributions to science and technology were largely overlooked, today he’s widely regarded as one of the best minds science has ever known.
Field Of Awfulness: Eugenics
Eugenics, for those of you too lazy to open up a new tab on Wikipedia, is the art of selective breeding on a mass scale. It’s the act of actively denying people with undesirable traits (such as infirmity or stupidity) the right to reproduce, which supposedly betters the human race. You’ll notice that this is a terrible, horrible idea, if only because if it happened, we never would’ve gotten reality TV.
And Tesla loved that idea. In his writings, Tesla extended the notion that “The year 2100 will see eugenics universally established,” referring to it as important for “weeding out undesirable strains.” Of course, none of this alters that fact that he was a fantastically gifted mind, but it’s more than a little disconcerting to realize that this guy fully supported the thought of certain people getting denied the chance to mate. Especially once you realize he never took a wife or had a kid. This is one of the smartest people to have ever lived, and even he didn’t think he was good enough to have a baby; how high were this guy’s standards?
3. John Lennon
Peace, love, and goodwill to all men: that’s what John Lennon was all about. Well, that and taking enough drugs to cause sniffer dogs to go into early retirement. Lennon is effectively the face of the 60’s and, by extension, the hippie movement. And those guys were all about peace, so what could Lennon possibly have done wrong?
Field Of Awfulness: Hitting Women
Lennon was the Chris Brown of his day. That’s not us making a cheap joke; that’s a direct comparison that has been made about him. Lennon openly admitted that he used to beat the living crap out of women, in an interview with Playboy Magazine, a magazine literally dedicated to appreciating the awesomeness of womanind, albeit the naked variety. Woman beater or not, you have to admire his sense of irony.
The kicker of this is that very few people know this about Lennon. Whereas Chris Brown has become a walking joke, and has his domestic violence charges listed very clearly on his Wikipedia page, not a single mention is made of John Lennon’s similar abuse, despite him being massively more famous and influential than Chris Brown will ever be. And when it is mentioned, his fans are so quick to defend his actions that they almost break through time and land on the receiving end of one of his punches personally.
2. James Cameron
If you’re about to complain that we’re putting James Cameron on the same list as Isaac Newton, just remember that this guy won 11 Oscars for a film everyone already knew the ending to, and convinced people to pay $15 to see Dances With Blue Aliens. If that’s not genius, we don’t know what is.
Field Of Awfulness: Ego
Cameron’s ego is legendary in the film industry, but the guy made Titanic, so surely he deserves to be a little proud of himself, right? Sure he does; we’d never begrudge him for being proud of his work. We will, however, begrudge him for yelling at actresses until they cry, and nailing people’s phones to a wall. Which are all things he has done in the past.
But to truly see how much of a douche Cameron is, you only have to read this quote he once said to Linda Hamilton, his wife at the time: “Anybody can be a father or a husband. There are only five people in the world who can do what I do, and I’m going for that.” Come on, Cameron. Yes, Titanic was good, but it wasn’t good enough to get away with saying that to your wife. It’s not like you wrote Star Wars.
1. Henry Ford
Yeah, this guy made cars and revolutionized how they were manufactured. And yeah, you’ve probably heard that he was a raging anti-Semite. However, the extent he went to express this notion will likely surprise you.
Field Of Awfulness: Inspiring Hitler
Yes, that Hitler. Though Ford’s anti-Semitic views are well known, few realize just how far they went. Hitler was quoted as saying he was directly inspired by Ford, even hanging a portrait of Ford in his office. Just re-read that last sentence again. One of the most evil, reviled men in history hung a picture of Henry Ford on his wall. He was also the only American Hitler referred to by name in Mein Kampf. Talk about an honor.
We could go on, but honestly, how the hell could we top inspiring Hitler? We don’t even think Satan has the files in his office to classify something that awful.