On the topic of scientists who were more than a little crazy, one of my recent favorites is '30s and '40s rocket scientist Jack Parsons.
Now being a rocket scientist in '30s America was already enough to qualify you as insane if not downright suicidal. Before WW2, rocketry had next to zero credibility with the scientific establishment, who considered it the stuff of trashy science fiction pulp magazines. Not to mention that whole "it involves explosions that can very easily kill you, and everyone around you" stigma.
On the plus side, this left the "I am a rocket scientist" bar low enough that Parsons, a college drop-out and self-taught chemist, could just show up to the California Institute Of Technology and jump right in to blowing shit up with some CIT grad students dubbed "the Suicide Squad". Which is a good thing, since he developed the advances to solid rocket fuel and rocket-assisted aircraft takeoff that eventually helped jump-start the American space program. The "Suicide Squad" founded CIT's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is now part of NASA, and Parsons even has a crater on the Moon named after him.
So what makes him notably more eccentric than his fellow pioneering rocket scientists?
Jack Parsons thought he was the Antichrist.
The same urge to explore the unknown that inspired Parsons to tinker with explosives and rockets inspired him to delve into the occult. He eventually became a devotee of infamous British occultist Aleister Crowley, also known as "The Great Beast", "The Wickedest Man In The World" and "Oh, That Guy Ozzy Wrote That Song About". By the time Jack Parsons and the other rocketeers at the Jet Propulsion Lab had become well-paid government employees, Parsons was also leading the California chapter of Crowley's "Ordo Templi Orientis" organization.
And by "leading the organization", I mean "living in a mansion with a bunch of other eccentrics, doing lots of drugs and having orgies under the guise of 'sex magick' rituals".
When Parsons' wife left him (shocking, I know), he decided that the best way to snag himself a new partner was to perform a sex magic ritual known as the "Babalon Working", which in addition to altering the fabric of the cosmos and ushering in a new era of Dionysian sensual liberation would summon forth a living female embodiment of the Biblical Whore Of Babylon. Once she appeared, Parsons would then fuck her brains out as part of some other, even more esoteric magical sex ritual.
(Or in other words, what the plot of Weird Science would have been if they'd never invented computers.)
So Jack got his ritualistic freak on while another member of the O.T.O. took notes. Because apparently masturbating can only punch holes in the fabric of the universe if someone else is watching. Within days of the ritual, a sexy redhead named Marjorie showed up at the O.T.O. mansion and hooked up with Parsons, who declared the ritual a smashing success. Since he thought he was now fucking the Whore Of Babylon in an effort to usher in the apocalypse, he declared himself to be the Antichrist and started writing unauthorized additional chapters to Crowley's books on the subject.
Crowley didn't take this too well, and kicked Parsons out of the O.T.O.. Around the same time, Parsons lost his government job due to a combination of his eccentric lifestyle becoming public knowledge and the science of rocketry becoming complex or at least academically acceptable enough that self-taught amateurs like Parsons were no longer invited to blow shit up with the more book-smart scientists.
He then took some private sector gigs, and founded a boat company with the half-sister of his ex-wife and her new husband, the former O.T.O. member who took those notes during Parsons' big sex magic ritual. This turns out to be a horrible idea, as said half-sister and husband run off with all of Parsons' money not once, but twice.
Parsons, broke and out of work, moved back in with his mother and took random movie special effects jobs, all while continuing both his chemical and mystical experiments. Eventually one of those chemical experiments went terribly wrong, when Parsons dropped a coffee can full of unstable explosive material and set off a massive explosion that blew off one of his arms and chunks of his jaw and his three other limbs. This explosion didn't kill him immediately, however, as he lingered for several hours before eventually dying. His mother, upon hearing the news of his death, killed herself.
Now Jack Parsons is a footnote in the history of space exploration, but has developed a cult following, no pun intended, amongst folks who can say the phrase "sex magick" without laughing.
Oh, whatever happened to the guy who watched Jack Parsons ritualistically masturbate and then twice scammed him out of his hard-earned cash? He combined his love of ripping people off and his love of writing and after a long and controversial career of doing both, died at the age of 75. His name?
L. Ron Hubbard.