Brilliant Historical Figures Who Were Called Mad Back In Their Day

Our understanding of the world is constantly evolving thanks to the brightest minds out there. But sometimes, the most significant ideas are so groundbreaking that they’re straight out rejected by others at first — even though they’re proven to be right in the end. In fact, many brilliant figures in history have been called crazy and have suffered as a result of unjust rejections. Here’s a selection of some of the most vilified and victimized.

1. Ignaz Semmelweis — hygiene and handwashing

In the mid-19th century, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis realized something important: medical practitioners washing their hands was essential to reduce mortality in their patients. He encouraged his peers to do so, but he met resistance. In particular, his boss didn’t agree with him. The physician’s career suffered as a result, and he decided to leave his job and take up another elsewhere.

A tragic end

In his new role, Dr. Semmelweis continued to encourage his fellow medical practitioners to wash their hands. He even wrote a book to make his case, but it failed to make an impact. In the end, the doctor’s life ended in tragedy. He passed away in a mental institution, without ever getting the recognition his work deserved. It was only decades after his death that hand-washing was accepted as wise.

2. Galileo Galilei — the Earth revolves around the Sun

The year 1633 was a grim one for Galileo Galilei. For the second time in his life, he was on trial for arguing that our planet revolves around the Sun. This was considered heresy by the Catholic Church, which was determined to see the astronomer fall into line. In the end, he was found guilty.

Found guilty

The verdict meant Galileo was forced to agree not to pass on his teachings any more. On top of that, he was condemned to house arrest for the rest of his days. He’d been right in his thoughts, of course, but it took more than three centuries for the Church to admit that.