Mad Scientists

Mad Scientists   :  by the definition of this site, are those that are engaging in or have engaged in very strange or unusual experiments.  They themselves are not necessarily mad just what they are proposing or have proposed.  The first of these such persons is a man called Andrew Crosse and following is a little bit about his work in the early 20th century.

Crosse's Acari
Mary Shelley who wrote Frankenstein once attended a lecture in London given by an eccentric electrical engineer and and researcher called Andrew Crosse.  Traditionally the inspiration for her classic horror story Frankenstein was believed to have been a nightmare, but writer Peter Haining proposed in his book The man who was Frankenstein that the actual model for Shelley's book came from the inspiration she gained from Andrew Crosse. Please view the reader comments, as there is some debate about this.

There is controversial evidence to suggest that during one of his many mysterious experiments with electricity, performed at his secluded country home at Broomfield this extra-ordinary man actually found a means of creating life!

"On the fourteen day from the commencement of this experiment I observed through a lens a small whitish excresences or nipples projecting from about the middle of the electrified stone.  On the eighteenth day these projections enlarged, and stuck out seven or eight filaments, each of which they grew.

On the twenty-sixth day these appearances assumed the form of a perfect insect, standing erect on a few bristles which formed in it's tail.  Till this period I had no notion that these appearances were other than an incipient mineral formation.  On the twenty-eighth day these little creatures moved their legs.  I must now say that I was not a little astonished.  After a few days they detached themselves from the stone and moved about at pleasure.

In the course of a few weeks about a hundred of them made their appearance on the stone.  I examined them with a microscope, and observed that the smaller ones appeared to have only six legs, the larger ones eight.  These insects are pronounced to be of the genus acarus, but there appears to be a difference of opinion as to whether they are a known species; some assert that they are not.

I have never ventured an opinion on the cause of their birth, and for a very good reason - I was unable to for one.  The simplest solution of the problem which occurred to me was that they arose from ova deposited by insects floating in the atmosphere and hatched by electric action.  Still I could not imagine that an ovum could shoot out filaments, or that these filaments could become bristles, and moreover I could not detect, on the closest examination, the remains of a shell...

I next imagined, as others have done, that they might originate from the water, and consequently made a close examination of numbers of vessels filled with the same fluid: in none of these could I perceive a trace of an insect nor could I see any part of the room."

If the creatures were Acari, i.e. mites then they were arachnids not insects but more importantly than their taxononmy is their apparent origin - spontaneously generated from - non living matter in a solution much too caustic to sustain any form of life.

Unfortunately Crosse was subjected to such 'vitriolistic tirades' from his peers that he chose to retire from public life 'shunned by and shunning - the world'.

Fellow researcher W.H. Weeks repeated Crosse's experiments with success and so too did eminent physicist Sir Michael Faraday, who gained similar results from his 1909 experiments.  Charles E. Benham urged more replication studies to solve the mystery but still more than 80 years later the phenomenon goes unexplained.

Source:
(Quotations taken from: The Unexplained by Dr. Karl. P. N. Shuker, Carlton Books Limited 1996 & 1997, ISBN 1-85868-394).


Recommended Reading
Haining, Peter, The Monster Trap and Other True Mysteries, Armada London, 1979
Shuker, Karl P.N., The Unexplained, Carlton Books Limited 1996 & 1997


Reader Comments 
Comments by Dennis Bell 

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