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The so-called “Mad Scientist” has long been a defining character in Gothic stories. Although the archetype is often considered to have entered the genre with the titular character of Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, there were already a pair of mad (and utterly depraved) doctors in de Sade’s “Justine”. The historical, literary, and cinematic inspirations that follow are generally focused around the Ghastly Age (1765 – 1820), with some notable exceptions whose prominence mandates their inclusion. Even if you don’t play the Ghastly Affair RPG, the lists might proved useful for inspiring Mad Scientist-type characters in your favorite Horror, Steampunk, or Victorian-era game.

Some Historical Mad Scientists:
Charles Babbage
Johann Bessler (Orffyreus)
Henry Cavendish
Armand-Marie-Jacques de Chastenet, Marquis of Puységur
James Cox
Andrew Crosse
Honoré Fragonard
Franz Joseph Gall
Wolfgang von Kempelen
Dr. Robert Knox
Ada Lovelace
Franz Mesmer
Sir Isaac Newton
James Price
Joseph Priestly
Charles Redheffer
Count Saint-Germain
Nikola Tesla

Some Literary Inspirations:
Coppelius (The Sandman – E.T.A. Hoffmann)
Victor Frankenstein (Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus – Mary Shelley)
Doctor Henry Jekyll (Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson)
Doctor Moreau (The Island of Doctor Moreau – H.G. Wells)
Doctor Rodin (Justine; or, the Misfortunes of Virtue – Marquis de Sade)
Doctor Rombeau (Justine; or, the Misfortunes of Virtue – Marquis de Sade)
Crawford Tillinghast (From Beyond – H.P. Lovecraft)
Herbert West (Herbert West – Reanimator – H.P. Lovecraft)
Willy Wonka (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl)

Some Mad Scientists from Movies and Television:
Ichabod Crane (Sleepy Hollow – 1999 Movie)
Heinrich von Frankenstein (Frankenstein – 1931 Movie)
Dr. Moreau (Island of Lost Souls)
Will Plunkett (Plunkett and Macleane) [ Multi-Classed Mad Scientist / Bandit]
Doctor Pretorius (Bride of Frankenstein)
Dr. Thomas Rock (The Doctor and the Devils)
John Seward (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) [Seward is not a Mad Scientist in Stoker’s novel, but qualifies as portrayed in Coppola’s film]
Dr. Frank-N-Furter (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) [ Multi-Classed Mad Scientist / Libertine]
Rotwang (Metropolis)

A Few Inspirational Songs:
Am I Going Insane – Black Sabbath
Brain Damage – Pink Floyd
Diary of a Madman – Ozzy Osbourne
Flight of Icarus – Iron Maiden
Frankenstein – The Edgar Winter Group
Frayed Ends of Sanity – Metallica
Funtime – Iggy Pop (Covered by Peter Murphy as Fun Time)
Happy House – Siouxsie and the Banshees
I’m Going Slightly Mad – Queen
Living Dissection – Cannibal Corpse [Warning: disturbing image follows link]
No One Knows My Plan – They Might Be Giants
She Blinded Me With Science – Thomas Dolby
Spiral Architect – Black Sabbath
They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa! – Napoleon XIV
Weird Science – Oingo Boingo
Welcome to My Nightmare – Alice Cooper

Gallery of Images
1 Accum at Surrey Institution

2 Franz Joseph Gall examining the head of a pretty young girl, Wellcome V0011119

3 "Le Baquet de Mesmer" Wellcome M0006352

4 An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1768

5 An international system of electro-therapeutics - for students, general practitioners, and specialists (1894) (14596130718)

6 Frankenstein, pg 7

7 Homunculus Faust

8 An aged anatomist selecting his dissection instrument whilst Wellcome M0008887

9 Giovanni Aldini, galvanism experiments Wellcome L0007024

The Treatment of Mental Illness in the Ghastly Age

The late 18th century saw rapid scientific and technological progress, resulting in the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain. Sadly, the treatment of the mentally ill remained generally abysmal. Despite the work of Philippe Pinel in France (who pioneered compassionate care of the mentally ill), in most of Europe the “mad” were imprisoned, chained, beaten, and abused – or simply starved and neglected. As mentioned in the “Ghastly Affair Player’s Manual”, the mentally ill were sometimes even displayed for money by the asylums that housed them. In 1788, King George III received the best treatment available in the England at the time for his mental illness – he was alternately locked in a straitjacket, purged withe emetics, made to swallow mercury, tied to a chair, had his skin blistered, and was locked in a cold room – when he wasn’t being made to do manual labor. Because doctors had little idea about the underlying causes of mental disorders, treatments for those deemed insane could also include bleeding, enemas, verbal abuse, and regular beatings. King George’s treatment was a country garden party compared to the horrible fate that awaited those sent to London’s infamous Bethlem Hospital, better known as Bedlam. There many patients were kept naked and chained by their necks to metal poles, in the unheated cells of a dilapidated building.

Credit for Images 2,3,8, & 9 : Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org . Images 2,3,8, & 9 are copyrighted works available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/