Have you ever done something unusual and thought to yourself “I bet I’m the only person in the world who’s ever done this?” It’s impossible to know how true that is for any given task, but it’s also an entirely reasonable thought. After all, someone always has to be the first and sometimes only person to do literally everything that can or ever will be done. As it happens, sometimes those historic feats are a little more memorable than others. Like these 10 achievements that have never been repeated. At least, not yet…
10. Andre Geim Won Both a Nobel Prize and an Ig Nobel Prize
In the worlds of Alfred Nobel, the Nobel prize was set up to honor “those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind.” They are awarded in a number of scientific fields as well as the humanities.
The Ig Nobel prizes, on the other hand, are to award achievements in something bizarre or trivial that nonetheless required extensive research and hard work to accomplish. The two awards rarely cross paths in real life, but they did once in the form of Andre Geim, the only man to win one of both.
In 2010, Geim won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his “groundbreaking” work with graphene. His work involved isolating single layers of graphite that may one day have future applications for how we build nearly endless things, given how strong graphene is.
Ten years earlier, Geim also won the Ig Nobel Prize for levitating a frog. There was more to his work than flying frogs, of course, and it was focused chiefly on something called diamagnetism. Magnetic fields can hold diamagnetic materials by pushing them away if they’re strong enough. Since water is diamagnetic, if you put a frog in the water and hit it with a magnetic field, the frog floats. And that’s how you get an Ig Nobel Prize.
9. Roger Sherman Signed Four Major US Foundational Documents
When people invoke the Founding Fathers of America, they usually refer to people like Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin. They should probably be talking about Roger Sherman, however, since he was the most foundingest of the fathers. Which is to say he’s the only one who signed four of the most significant documents related to the founding of the country.
While some may have signed the Declaration of Independence or even the Constitution, Sherman signed both of those along with the Articles of Confederation and the Continental Association, otherwise known as the Articles of Association.
A real man about town, Sherman became a lawyer when another lawyer told him he should just start practicing law, then a judge, then a Superior Court Justice in Connecticut, and politics was not far behind. It’s said he was admired by many of the other Founding Fathers and his life was very much dedicated to the nation and defining it.
8. John Paul Scott is the Only Confirmed Escape from Alcatraz
Alcatraz will go down in history as one of the most infamous prisons ever. It held some of the nation’s most notorious criminals, but it was even more well known for being inescapable. People tried, of course, and some were never seen again. But only one man ever got off the Rock and lived to tell the tale.
Several attempts came close, such as when John Giles used a stolen uniform to get on a boat. Unfortunately, he went to Angel Island instead of San Francisco. The famous story Escape from Alcatraz covered the attempt by the Anglin brothers and Frank Morris who got off the island but are believed to have drowned.
The only man officially recognized as having set foot on San Francisco soil after escaping Alcatraz is John Paul Scott, who made it out in 1962. He came to shore near the Golden Gate Bridge, exhausted and almost dead, where he was promptly captured and returned to the prison. No one said he escaped for long, but he did escape.
7. Kathy Sullivan Has Gone to The Deepest Place in the Sea and into Space
They say life has its ups and downs, but only Kathy Sullivan can claim to have mastered that truth like no one else in history. Kathy has been further up and further down than any other human, having traveled both to space as an astronaut and to the depths of Challenger Deep, the deepest part of the ocean.
Sullivan was actually the first woman in history to go out on a space walk and that was all the way back in 1984. As of 2021, 72 women had been to space. However, in 2020, Sullivan upped the ante for exploring the outer reaches when she traveled seven miles below the surface of the sea to Challenger Deep. She was the first woman to accomplish that task, as well.
As for why Sullivan is pushing the limits of exploration, it’s a matter of understanding. Sullivan has said she wants to “understand the world around her as much as possible.”
6. Harold Russell Won Two Academy Awards for the Same Role
Not a lot of people know the work of Harold Russell these days. The actor and WWII veteran died back in 2002 and only had five acting credits to his name. Remarkably, one of those was a role in the film The Best Years of Our Lives in 1946, for which Russell ended up winning not one but two Academy Awards, making him the only actor to pull off that feat.
Obviously, many other actors have won multiple acting awards in the past. Some people have won multiple awards for the same film if they also wrote or directed a film in which they starred. But none of that was the case with Russell. He was given two acting awards for the same role in the same film.
The first award was for Best Supporting Actor, an award audiences today are still very familiar with. But the second award was where things got a little unusual. He was given that award, an honorary one, for “’bringing aid and comfort to disabled veterans through the medium of motion pictures.”
5. Peter Siebold is the Only Survivor of a Spaceship Disaster in History
Anyone who survives a deadly disaster is lucky, most people would agree. Whether it’s a tornado, a sinking ship, a fire or something just as harrowing, to make it out with your life can seem like a miracle. Peter Siebold knows this better than most. He’s the only man in the world who fell from space and lived to tell the tale.
Siebold was a test pilot for a Virgin Galactic spaceship that suffered a catastrophic failure at about 50,000 feet in the air. His seat ejected and fell about 30,000 feet at nearly 200 kilometers per hour before his chute deployed, giving him 20,000 more feet to go before he hit the ground and survived to tell the tale.
Tragically, Siebold’s co-pilot didn’t survive the incident and Siebold himself actually lost consciousness during his fall but had enough time to come to and even signal to people with a thumb’s up that he was ok.
4. Marie Curie is the Only Person to Win Nobel Prizes in Two Scientific Fields
We already saw Andre Geim’s impressive achievement of both a Nobel Prize and an Ig Nobel Prize but he’s got nothing on Marie Curie who remains the only person to get a Nobel Prize in two separate scientific fields.
Her first prize came in 1903 when both Curie and her husband were awarded the Nobel in physics for her work with radiation. It’s arguably what she’s most well known for, and is the reason a curie is a unit used to measure radiation intensity. But it wasn’t the only thing she focused on in her scientific career.
In 1911, Curie was awarded her second Nobel Prize, this time in chemistry, for discovery of the elements radium and polonium.
3. Arrhichion Won Olympic Gold After He Died
Implausible as it sounds, a number of politicians have won elections despite being dead. So it’s rare but not exactly unique. That said, there are some more rare accomplishments that the dead have pulled off and arguably one of the most remarkable was when ancient Greek athlete Arrhichion won an Olympic event despite dying during the match.
Arrhichion was a pankratiast, which is to say he played pankration, a sort of violent, old-school MMA fighting sport that mixed boxing and wrestling and was known to end in fatalities. So how did the man win and also die?
As the story goes, Arrhichion had won at two previous Olympic games. In his third championship bout, his opponent had him in a choke hold and was slowly but surely killing the man. To fight back, Arrhichion broke the man’s ankle, forcing him to end the hold. The maneuver put the fight in Arrhichion’s favor but the damage had already been done. He died from his injuries even though he won the match.
2. Adam Rainer was a Dwarf and a Giant
Medically speaking, dwarfism is defined as a condition that limits a person’s height to under about 4-foot-10. It can be brought on by several other conditions, but the main symptom most of us would associate with it is that short stature. Acromegaly, also known as gigantism, would be an opposite condition in many ways. Those afflicted can grow to unusual heights, even closing in on eight feet. It tends to express itself later in life, however, in the teens even to early adulthood.
Since both dwarfism and gigantism are different conditions, you may wonder if it’s possible for a person to somehow be afflicted with both and how that could even work. Well, the answer is yes. Adam Rainer had both, and it played out in a very unusual way that was likely quite painful for the young man.
Rainier was 4-foot-8 at the age of 19. It was said that, despite his short stature, he also had unusually large hands and feet. He wore a size 10 shoe, for instance. Three years later, he was in a size 20.
By age 21, Rainier’s growth became remarkable. In ten years, he would reach a height of 7-foot-1. A tumor on his pituitary gland had caused acromegaly and led to his increased growth as well as a curved spine, large lips, hands, feet and forehead. He is said to have been about 7-foot-8 when he died at age 51.
It’s worth noting that most tales of Rainier include photos that are not Rainier at all. The pictures most often included are of a man named Baptiste Hugo who was also a giant, but never a dwarf.
1. Gerald Ford Was Never Elected Vice President Or President
When it comes to “official” rankings of US Presidents, Gerald Ford is not particularly memorable. He’s not the best, he’s not the worst. One survey had him ranked 28th, about as middle of the pack as humanly possible. But, if nothing else, Gerald Ford deserves recognition for his astounding and unmatched achievements in American politics. He is the only person to ever reach the position of both Vice President and then President, having never been elected by anyone to either job.
Ford was House Minority Leader in 1973 at the height of the Watergate scandal that saw Vice President Spiro Agnew resign from his position over charges of tax evasion and taking bribes. President Nixon then appointed Ford to the office of Vice President.
Less than a year later. Nixon himself would resign from office, and that meant Ford had just been given a promotion. He served from 1974 until 1976 and is mostly known for pardoning Nixon for his crimes and doing not much else.