After Sir Isaac Newton died, his hair was examined and found to have contained mercury, probably resulting from his alchemical pursuits. Many historians believe that this probable mercury poisoning could explain his eccentric behavior in his later life.
The big four artificial sweeteners – Saccharine, Cyclamate, Aspartame and Sucralose – were all discovered after scientists accidentally tasted the chemicals.
Saccharine was discovered in 1879 by Constantin Fahlberg, who was researching coal tar derivatives and forgot to wash his hands before going for lunch.
Cyclamate (Sweet ‘n’ Low) was discovered in 1937 when graduate student Michael Sveda was looking for anti fever drugs, and noticed a cigarette he’d put down on his lab bench tasted sweet.
Aspartame (Nutrasweet) was found in 1965 by James Schlatter, who was researching ulcer drugs. He licked his finger to pick up a piece of paper and found it tasted sweet.
Sucralose (Splenda) was created in 1976 when researcher Shashikant Phadnis was asked to test a substance and misheard it as taste.
A professor ran a long running study on a pitch drop missed every single drop. One in 1977 because he went home tired, another in 1988 because he went to get a cup of tea, and in 2000 due to a malfunctioned webcam. When the next drop finally fell in 2014, he had died 8 month earlier.
Leona Woods was the only woman physicist on the team which built the world’s first nuclear reactor as part of the Manhattan Project. She became a mother during the Project but hid her pregnancy as not to miss work. Afterwards as a professor, she authored >200 papers in physics and astrophysics.
When his father died of a heart attack, Ronald Mallett resolved to discover time travel to see him again. He went on to earn a PhD in physics and become a professor, and has been working on plans for a time machine ever since.
In 1911, physicist George de Hevesy suspected his landlady was bulking up his meals with leftovers; he proved it by sprinkling radioactive material over his dinner and detecting it in the next day’s portion.
In the early 1940s a Mexican scientist named Guillermo Gonzalez Camarena created a color television system some considered better than any American system at the time. His work made it possible in the 1970s for NASA to transmit color photos of Jupiter from the Voyager satellite.
After losing her position in her university’s anatomy department in 1938, Rita Levi-Montalcini set up a laboratory in her bedroom and studied the growth of nerve fibers in chicken embryos. This work led to her discovery of nerve growth factor, for which she was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1986.
Henry Cavendish, noted for his discovery of hydrogen, was a “notoriously shy man”. He communicated with his female servants only by notes. By one account, Cavendish had a back staircase added to his house to avoid encountering his housekeeper.
In Russian culture “British Scientists” is a running joke and Internet meme used as an ironic reference to absurd news reports about scientific discoveries, particularly ones that have no practical value. For example, “British scientists debunked the myth that mice love cheese.”