Some of the scientists that made the most amazing discoveries in the history of mankind were originally regarded as madmen. While others, not necessarily scientists, who shared their less than positive views of the world were also regarded insane. A great example of the latter was Ernest Hemingway, the North American writer who not only claimed that the FBI was after him but that it was after everybody else, too. It's always difficult to challenge convention, and those ready to face the truth of this cold, hard world are frequently punished for doing so. But they remain the greatest examples for freedom of will and expression we could hope for. Let's take a look at the greatest madmen in history!
Billy Mitchell and the "underwater wars"
US Army general Billy Mitchell predicted in 1906 that future wars would be carried out both in the air and underwater. At the time, when aviation was barely the hobby of a few eccentrics around the world, this idea sounded ludicrous and was disregarded even by the highest ranking military officers. Then came the Great War, which put heavier than air vessels to the test and showed that they were a central asset in every strategy, and the Second World War shortly afterwards, with the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, finally proved he had been right all along. Today, Billy Mitchell is widely regarded as the father of the U.S. Air Force.
Mitchell's role in the First World war
In spite of being considered a lunatic for his ideas on the future of air and underwater warfare, Mitchell acquired the rank of Brigadier General during the Great War, proving that his tactical understanding of combat was far from speculative. In fact, he was held in even higher regard and fear by his enemies for having commanded some of the most destructive air raids the Germans had ever seen on their bases.
Ernest Hemingway claimed he was being followed by the FBI ...
This prolific American author, who suffered from alcoholism and would end up taking his own life, lived the latter part of his life in a state of constant paranoia. Since the 1940s, Hemingway had been a great admirer of Cuba, which did not change after the communist revolution. The United States administration obviously didn't approve of one of the country's best-selling authors residing on the island, and that's why Hemingway believed the FBI was after him. He felt he was living in "the worst hell", unable to use the phone and suspicious of having his correspondence intercepted. His family and friends, on the other hand, believed that everything was a product of his imagination, subjected to heavy drinking and a general state of depression.
... and he was right
Hemingway was forcibly subjected to electroshock treatments in a psychiatric hospital shortly after venting his suspicions about the Federal Bureau of Investigation's activities. After his discharge in 1961, he took his trusty hunting rifle off the shelf and blew his own brains out. Two decades after his death, the FBI declassified their files on his case, proving that the author had been right all along. The records showed not only that Hemingway's paranoia was justified, but that he had by far underestimated the extent of the FBI's surveillance. The police had been following him since 1940, as commanded by the Bureau's director J. Edgar Hoover to investigate his involvement in Cuban politics.
Nostradamus and his apocalyptic predictions
Michel de Notredame, better known as Nostradamus, was regarded as a wise man by some ... and as a madman by many others. Michel, who had already shown a profound interest for the occult in his youth, discovered as an adult that he could predict the future. In 1566, his skills were already known all over the continent. But no glory came with his fame, as his enemies spread rumours about his obscure powers being granted by none other than Satan himself. In spite of those accusations, there are some that believe in his predictions even today.
And what did he predict?
Some of his readers hold that Nostradamus wrote about the birth of Napoleon Bonaparte and his subsequent rise as Emperor of France; the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the assassination of U.S. president John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his brother Senator Robert Kennedy; the rise to power of Adolf Hittler and the attack on the Twin Towers of New York. This remains a matter of debate, since Nostradamus did not call any of these events and people by their names, choosing obscure metaphorical references instead.
Russ Tice and the spark that started it all
This former intelligence analyst for the U.S. National Security Agency contacted the New York Times in 2005 to reveal that the United States government had access to its citizens' e-mails and was wire-tapping their phone calls. He was first disregarded as a paranoiac, submitted to psychiatric evaluations and then dishonourably discharged from service. It would take another seven years to confirm his allegations, when Edward Snowden came forth with a report of his own, carrying undeniable physical evidence of the agency's activities.
Galileo Galilei and the roundness of the Earth
This Italian astronomer was the first man to state that the Earth was not only round, but that it orbited around the Sun, against the widespread belief that it was flat and at the centre of the universe. He was called an insane heretic by the Catholic Church and threatened to burn alive on the stake. After a lengthy inquisitorial trial, he would eventually disavow his previous assertions in public. However, and as we all know, time would prove him right in the end ...
Gary Webb and the CIA's own drug trade operation
This journalist was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for uncovering one of the largest drug trade operations in the world, which was controlled in part by the CIA. The agency officially disavowed Webb's writings, which led to his losing the trust of the public and his colleagues. After vehemently denying its involvement in such a drug trafficking operation while destroying Webb's career, the CIA conducted an internal investigation that proved Webb's investigation had been right all along. The operation had been running for more than a decade when it was finally dismantled. But that was too little, too late: in the aftermath of the events and the total demise of his career, Webb had committed suicide in 2005.
Adrian Schoolcraft, the paranoid policeman
Now a former NYPD officer, Adrian Schoolcraft was so paranoiac about his department's activities that he started recording everything he saw at Precinct 81, the station where he was deployed. This kind of behaviour got the attention of his peers, who first thought he was exaggerating and then started treating him like a madman. His recordings, however, proved that his suspicions were correct: other policemen in the force were arresting innocent people and ignoring victim's testimony in exchange for bribes from organised criminals.