Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
List of people widely considered eccentric
Definition of eccentricity
Eccentricity is necessarily defined relatively. For the purposes of this article, an eccentric is someone whose behavior, beliefs and/or hobbies deviate in a significant way from the accepted norms of their society, but otherwise can function largely as normal in society. He or she may be regarded as strange, odd or at least unconventional, irregular and erratic. Other people may regard the eccentric with apprehension but also with considerable amusement.
People behave in "eccentric" ways for many reasons. Sometimes, particular patterns of "eccentric" behavior can be a sign of mental illness. For example, many experts believe Howard Hughes suffered from the neurological effects of late-stage syphilis.
Sometimes eccentricity is clearly intentional. Some comedians behave in eccentric ways even off-stage for professional reasons—to maintain their funny public image . Some entertainers and artists like Salvador Dalí use eccentric lifestyle to draw attention to themselves and exploit the common perception that creativity and madness are closely related. Athletes may behave in aggressive ways because it is part of their image as "tough guys" and as a way to intimidate their opponents.
There are historical cases where an eccentric may have taken the mantle intentionally for religious reasons (Russian Yurodivy, for example) or used it as an unusual way to make a semblance of living. Some of their contemporaries may have regarded them with religious devotion.
Other so-called "eccentrics" behave the way they do simply because they care little about societal pressures against their behavior. What other people think often does not matter to them.
Further insight in the complex relations between madness, eccentricity and the perception of deviant behavior by mainstream society can be found in A social history of madness by Roy Porter (1987 - ISBN 0297795716). This book also treats several examples of "famous" people ending up in asylums, as a result of their eccentric behavior, e.g. Schumann.
- Antonio Gaudi, Catalan-Spanish architect
- Charles Ribart, 18th century French architect who designed a building shaped like an elephant.
See also: by George R. Collins et al. ISBN 0810909146
- Ludwig II of Bavaria, also known as Ludwig the Mad, builder of Neuschwanstein Castle
- William Thomas Beckford, builder of Fonthill Abbey
- Lord Cornbury, British governor in America whose political foes claimed, falsely, that he was a transvestite
- Francis Henry Egerton, 8th Earl of Bridgewater who organized banquets for dogs
- John Mytton, English squire who would ride a bear
- Matthew Robinson, Lord Rokeby who wanted to be amphibious
- William John Cavendish Bentinck-Scott, 5th Duke of Portland in UK who liked to live underground, and preferred not to be seen; built an entire underground mansion, painted it pink, and filled it with brown wigs packed lovingly in cardboard boxes
- Stephen Tennant, English aristocrat who spent his life in bed
- Brigid Berlin Warhol superstar, actor, artist
- Ivor Cutler, Scottish poet, musician and thinker
- Salvador Dalí, Spanish surreal artist
- Alfred Jarry, French playwright
- Alejandro Jodorowsky, Chilean-born film director, actor and author of graphic novels
- Edward Leedskalnin, Latvian-born sculptor who built a castle in Florida
- William McGonagall, Scottish poet
- Edith Sitwell, British poet who recited her first poem through a curtain and claimed to be descended from Plantagenets
- Andy Warhol, New York artist and social commentator
- James Whistler, US painter
- Hector Camacho, world champion boxer
- Naseem Hamed, world champion boxer, famous for his ring entrances
- Chris Eubank, world champion boxer who wears a monocle
- Dennis Rodman, former NBA star with brightly dyed hair and numerous tattoos
- "Judge" Roy Bean, US saloonkeeper and arbitrary judge who called himself "The Law West of the Pecos".
- E. H. Bronner, US soapmaker who covered his product's packaging with dense text expounding his philosophical views
- Timothy Dexter, US businessman who literally sold coal to Newcastle
- Hetty Green, US businesswoman famous for her stinginess; her estate was more than $100,000,000
- Howard Hughes, US industrialist and aviator who became a recluse and feared germs
- Bernarr McFadden , US publisher and fanatical fitness proponent
- George Francis Train, US businessman who circled the world four times
- GG Allin, punk rocker
- The Great Antonio, Canadian strongman
- Syd Barrett, British psychedelic musician
- John Cage, American composer and artist
- Wendy Carlos, American pioneer of electronic music, formerly Walter Carlos
- The Cherry Sisters, whose performances were typically met with a barrage of thrown vegetables
- Robert Coates, "Worst actor on Earth"
- Roky Erickson, US rock singer
- Crispin Glover, actor
- Glenn Gould, Canadian classical pianist, Bach interpreter
- Joseph Haines, 17th century actor, singer, dancer, guitar player, fortune teller, and author
- Louis T. Hardin, street musician called The Moondog
- Michael Jackson, US pop singer, likes to be like a child and be with children; has had multiple facial surgeries
- Alejandro Jodorowsky, Chilean-Mexican film director and author of graphic novels
- Russ Meyer, American cult film director and photographer
- Keith Moon, drummer for The Who
- Anton Newcombe , US rock singer, of the Brian Jonestown Massacre
- Oofty Goofty , entertainer posing as a "wild man from Borneo" who claimed to feel no pain
- Ol' Dirty Bastard, US rapper famous for a series of bizarre public actions and legal trouble
- Lucia Pamela, American musician
- Sun Ra, American jazz musician
- Edie Sedgwick, model, actor
- Phil Spector, producer
- Stanley Unwin, comedian and wordsmith
- John Waters, American film director
- Brian Wilson, Beach Boy
- Ed Wood, independent film director
- Idi Amin, president of Uganda, self-proclaimed "Conqueror of the British Empire"
- Jean-Bédel Bokassa, president of the Central African Republic who had himself crowned "Emperor"
- François "Papa Doc" Duvalier, president of Haiti, who re-wrote the Lord's Prayer to his own honor and believed the assassination of John F. Kennedy was a result of a his placing a curse on Kennedy.
- Farouk, the last King of Egypt and an accomplished pickpocket
- Lord George Gordon, who insisted on reading out long irrelevant pamphlets in Parliament, and led a riot which killed or injured 450
- Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, Fadimid caliph, suffering from insomnia, he ordered his people to sleep during the day and stay awake at night
- Maximiliano Hernández Martínez, President of El Salvador, who believed that hanging colored lights in San Salvador would cure a smallpox epidemic
- Enver Hoxha, leader of Albania
- Uday Hussein, Iraqi politician and son of Saddam Hussein
- Kim Jong Il, leader of North Korea, noted for his movie collection, cognac consumption, platform shoes and "pleasure squad"
- Antonio López de Santa Anna, Mexican dictator, who had his amputated leg buried with full military honor
- Ludwig II of Bavaria, also known as Ludwig the Mad, builder of Neuschwanstein Castle
- William Lyon Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada who consulted mediums to communicate with his deceased mother
- Matayoshi Mitsuo, Japanese politician who calls himself Matayoshi Jesus
- Saparmurat Niyazov, President of Turkmenistan , renamed months of the year after his family and declared himself "President for Life" and "Father of All Turkmen," among other things
- Miguel Primo de Rivera, Prime Minister of Spain, known for walking around in his underwear and never bathing
- Screaming Lord Sutch, British founder of the Monster Raving Loony Party
- Charles Taylor, President of Liberia
- James Traficant, US Congressman from Ohio and law enforcement official, known for outrageous mannerisms and speeches in Congress
- Joshua A. Norton, who declared himself "His Imperial Majesty Norton I, by the Grace of God, Emperor of the United States, and Protector of Mexico"
- Adolf Hitler, failed Austrian artist, German politician and "Führer".
- Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy who flew to Scotland in 1941.
- Hermann Göring, Minister of the Interior and commander of the armed forces in Nazi Germany
- Alex Chiu, discoverer of "immortality rings"
- Alfred Lawson, ballplayer, economic theorist, founder of Lawsonomy
- Nikola Tesla, Serbian-born obsessive-compulsive who feared pearl earrings
Main article: List of occultists
- Aleister Crowley, British occultist
- G. I. Gurdjieff, Armenian-born mystic
- Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, magician
- Diogenes of Sinope ("the Cynic")
- Brigid Berlin, Warhol superstar, actor, artist
- Jemmy Hirst, English trainer of unusual animals
- Horace de Vere Cole, British aristocrat
- Brian G. Hughes, US banker
- Joey Skaggs, US media prankster
- Edward Askew Sothern, British actor
- Hugh Troy, US painter
- Grigory Rasputin, Russian monk who became the advisor of the last czar
- Basil Fool for Christ (see also yurodivy)
- Justo Gallego Martinez, Spanish builder of his own cathedral
- Anton LaVey, founder and High Priest of the Church of Satan
- Charles K. Johnson, president and promoter of the Flat Earth Society
- Hester Stanhope, who wanted to carry a child of a messiah
- Cyrus Teed, US proponent of a Hollow Earth theory
- Philip Neri
- Dwight York, man of many names & costumes, inventor of United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, et al.
- Leonard Knight, chief architect and custodian of Salvation Mountain
Scholars and scientists
Main article: Mad scientist
- Jeremy Bentham, British philosopher who wanted himself mummified
- James Burnett, Lord Monboddo, Scottish judge and scholar
- Martin van Butchell, British dentist who put his dead wife on display
- Horace Donisthorpe, myrmecologist
- Paul Erdős, Hungarian mathematician
- Francis Galton, British scientist who developed statistics and eugenics
- Kurt Gödel, Austrian mathematician
- Oliver Heaviside, British scientist who replaced his furniture with giant granite blocks
- Patrick Moore, British astronomer and xylophonist
- John Forbes Nash, American mathematician
- Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher, philologist, poet, prophet
- Gene Ray, discoverer of the Time Cube
- Edward Teller, Hungarian "father of the hydrogen bomb"
- Josef Maria Wronski, Polish mathematician
- William Blake, British poet
- William S. Burroughs, American Beat Generation author
- Truman Capote, American author
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, British poet
- Gabriele D'Annunzio, Italian poet, playwright and adventurer
- Comte de Lautreamont, Uruguayan-French poet
- Gerard de Nerval, French poet and lobster fancier
- Edgar Allan Poe, American author, critic and poet
- J.D. Salinger, American author and recluse
- Marquis de Sade, French author, philosopher and political prisoner
- Hunter S. Thompson, American journalist
- Horace Walpole, British novelist
- Oscar Wilde, Irish playwright and poet
- Tom Wolfe, American author
- J. R. "Bob" Dobbs all around eccentric type Savior, temporary Savior
- Patch Adams, US doctor and clown.
- David Belasco, US writer and producer, wandered New York dressed as the Bishop of Broadway
- Harry Bensley, UK adventurer known for being the subject of a notorious wager
- Bill Boaks, UK road safety campaigner and election candidate who set records for the fewest votes
- Robert "Gypsy Boots" Bootzin, American fitness pioneer
- Ian Brackenbury-Channell, a.k.a. The Wizard of New Zealand
- Beau Brummell, British fop
- Ferdinand Cheval, castle-building French postman
- Frank Chu, San Francisco protestor and political activist
- Collyer brothers, US recluses and hoarders
- Fred Crisman, paranormal enthusiast
- Quentin Crisp, English homosexual activist
- Daniel Dancer, stingy British farmer
- John Patrick Ennis, known as Sollog
- Bobby Fischer, chess prodigy
- James Hampton, janitor who secretly built a throne from scavenged materials
- Ultimate Warrior (Jim Hellwig), professional wrestler and public speaker
- William Hung, former American Idol star noted for his boldness along with his lack of talent.
- David Icke, conspiracy theorist who proclaimed himself 'son of the Godhead' and wore only turquoise
- Florence Foster Jenkins, US lady who thought she could sing
- Stanley Marsh 3, best known as sponsor of the Cadillac Ranch
- Edward Wortley Montagu, who wanted to be an Ottoman prince
- Cecil G. Murgatroyd, Australian/New Zealand satirical political candidate
- Archimedes Plutonium, "The King of Science"
- Dr. William Price, who refused to treat smokers and carried out an impromptu cremation of his baby son
- Geoffrey Nathaniel Pyke Difficult to categorise but tried to use opinion polls to prevent World War II among other unusual ideas.
- John Roche , Irishman who built a castle for himself in County Cork
- Richard S. Shaver, US author who believed the earth to be controlled by sadistic inner-earth dwellers operating mind-controlling ray machines
- William James Sidis, US secluded autistic genius
- Viv Stanshall, notable English eccentric
- David Sutch, British founder of Official Monster Raving Loony Party
- John Cleves Symmes Jr, US proponent of a Hollow Earth Theory
- Orelie-Antoine de Tounens, French lawyer and adventurer
- Edmund Trebus, Polish-British compulsive hoarder
- Charles Waterton, English explorer who improved on nature
- Sarah L. Winchester, US heiress who continued construction of her house for 38 years to confuse the spirits
see also Impostors
- Le livre des bizarres (in French) - Guy Bechtel and Jean-Claude Carričre, Robert Laffont, Paris (1981)
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