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List of notable eccentrics

The neutrality of this article is disputed.

Definition of eccentricity

Eccentricity is necessarily a relative definition. An eccentric is someone whose behaviour, beliefs and/or hobbies deviates in significant way from the accepted norms that the rest of the society that defines that person recognizes as proper or as traditional. He or she may be regarded as strange, odd or at least unconventional, irregular and erratic. Other people usually regard the eccentric with apprehension but also with considerable amusement.

The eccentric is usually alone with his beliefs. Although society may regard members of some subcultures like hippies and so-called computer geeks as deviators of a social norm, they have others with similar disposition to talk to. Eccentrics are usually too impractical to attract serious following even in the level religious movements, like breatharians and if they do, the followers are similarly non-threatening.

Rich and powerful people often behave in strange ways because they can afford it. However, an eccentric millionaire would not behave in a way society or other millionaires would recognize as typical - maintaining lavish surroundings, for example. Instead he could take his life to an opposite direction.

However, in many cases eccentricity is clearly intentional. Many 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 (Holy fools of Russian folklore, 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.

Sometimes the eccentricity may be based of psychological problems. Many historical cases can be recognized as victims of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Eccentrics with possible mental problems are usually relatively harmless and may face only social ostracism and ridicule, and even some bemused affection and respect. Others' whose behaviour is radically different but dangerous, like mad rulers and serial killers are rarely regarded as eccentrics.

While some people would like to have them locked up as lunatics because they are a public nuisance, others regard them mainly with amusement or even recognize that eccentrics may be a source of new ideas. Some communities cherish their own village idiot s.

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.

Persons famous for their eccentric habits, appearance, or beliefs include:


  • Charles Ribart, 18th century French architect who designed a building shaped like an elephant.

See also: by George R. Collins et al. ISBN 0810909146





  • 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


Political Leaders



Main article: List of occultists



Scholars and scientists

Main article: Mad scientist



See also Impostors


  • Le livre des bizarres (in French) - Guy Bechtel and Jean-Claude Carričre, Robert Laffont, Paris (1981)

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45