List of notable eccentrics

Table of contents
1 Definition of eccentricity
2 Aristocrats
3 Artists
4 Athletes
5 Business
6 Entertainers
7 Incumbents
8 Inventors
9 Occultists
10 Pranksters
11 Religious
12 Scholars and scientists
13 Writers
14 Others

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 the 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 Dali 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.

However, even if eccentric may have mental problems, he is 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.

Acceptance of eccentric behaviour differs from place to place and person to person. Some would like to have them locked up as lunatics or as a public nuisance. Others regard them mainly with amusement or even recognize that eccentric may be a source of new ideas or at least puts a good show that can be economically exploited. Some communities may even cherish their own village idiots.

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

Aristocrats

  • Lord Cornbury, British governor in America whose political foes claimed 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

Artists

Athletes

Business

  • 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
  • E. H. Bronner, US soapmaker who covered his product's packaging with dense text expounding his philisophical views

Entertainers

Incumbents

Inventors

Occultists

Pranksters

Religious

Scholars and scientists

Writers

Others

See also Impostors


The neutrality of this article is disputed.



copyright © 2004 FactsAbout.com