Weird Scientist: Johann Konrad Dippel

By Daniel Smith on Mar 16, 09 11:37 AM


Little Johann was born at Castle Frankenstein back in 1673 in what is now Germany. Yep, you might see what's coming.

As a youngster he believed he was a prophet and gifted with a supernaturally-high intellect. Not much of what happened later backs this up, though.

Dippel studied theology, philosophy and alchemy, publishing works under the name of Konrad Dippel von Frankenstein and simply Frankensteina, and led a pretty adventurous life.

He was always up for an argument and, in between getting into trouble for his disputed opinions and problems with managing money, was once imprisoned for looking like King Charles XII of Sweden. A bit harsh, surely?

Now historians appear to have difficulty separating the man from the myth, and I'm no historian so please bear with me.

He created an animal oil known as Dippel's Oil which was supposed to be the equivalent to the alchemists' dream of the 'elixir of life.'

It was concoction of bones, blood, and other bodily fluids distilled in iron tubes and other alchemical equipment. I doubt it was very tasty and, as Johann is no more, obviously didn't work.

In fact he sold the idea to Count August vot Wittgenstein, an old patron, and Dippel made extravagant promises the Elixer would allow the Count to live to the age of 135.

Unsurprisingly, Wittgenstein died only a few years later, possibly from an overdose of Dippel's elixir, which may have contained cyanide... oops.

The oil was later used to dye stuff red. Well, it would have done but to everyone's surprise it dyed everything blue instead.


There are many rumours about what Johann was up to in Castle Frankenstein and it was these stories which could have inspired some of the ideas behind Mary Shelley's famous book.

According to folk living nearby, Dippel performed gruesome experiments with cadavers, attempting to transfer the soul of one body into another.

He was also accused of trying to reanimnate corpses, and having created a 'living' hand a bit like Thing from the Addams Family.

There are also various rumors of grave robbing that lead to his association with the Frankenstein story.

Whether any of that is true is up for debate, but he did get run out of town for whatever the hell he was doing. The locals were freaked out and stormed the castle while holding fiery torches, probably.

Weird Science Factoid: The silkworm moth has 11 brains. Stolen from Big Brother contestants.

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Daniel Smith

Daniel Smith - a long time ago, in a galaxy far away just north of Watford, Daniel fancied himself as a scientist but turned out to be the worst scientist since that bloke who mapped out all those canals on Mars that turned out to be scratches on his telescope's lens. Luckily, he is now not working on the Large Hadron Collider inadvertently creating a black hole that would swallow the world but is safely behind a desk writing this blog, bringing you the fantastical underbelly of nature... weird science.

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