#5. William Dickson Invented the Motion Picture, Porn Movie
Cracked nemesis Thomas Edison gets credit for creating the motion picture camera, but it was actually the work of one of his brilliant but unacknowledged underlings, William Dickson. Edison had patented a "motion picture camera," but the device didn't actually exist. So he brought Dickson on to actually figure out how to make the thing. Dickson saved Edison's ass by designing a system to feed celluloid film of 35 mm in width through a camera to create a moving image (if that sounds familiar, it's because Dickson's standard is the same one used today).
This genius Scottish inventor went on to found the first movie production company, made the first talking movies and ... created the first porno film.
Dickson used a close relative of the Kinetoscope, a Mutoscope, to create a set of moving flip cards that could be cranked by hand while the viewer peered in.
Given the peepshow nature of the Mutoscope, one of its very first (and very popular) films was a classic called "What the Butler Saw."
This film was the first pornographic movie in history. It showed Victorian lovelies in various stages of undress as a lecherous butler (read: you) enjoyed the scene from a keyhole. This Mutoscope reel became so popular that Mutoscopes are colloquially known as "What the Butler Saw" machines.
We mentioned that William Dickson set up the first movie studio. Well, that studio went on to be the first porn clearinghouse, producing a variety of naughty films under Dickson's watchful eye. While Mutoscopes did show things like horse races, it was smut and violence that made the machines so popular. After all, the Mutoscope was one of the few places where a Victorian gentleman could see a naked woman as long as he was willing to risk having a giant boner in the middle of an arcade.
#4. Hugo Gernsback Invented Science Fiction, Then Published a Sex Magazine
While combining elements of science with fantastical stories is standard now, there was actually a time when such a thing didn't exist, or at least didn't have a name. Hugo Gernsback was the first to realize that women riding robots should be classified differently from women dying horribly in England, aka traditional fiction. Gernsback (who, by the way was also a pretty smart inventor, holding over 80 patents) coined the term "science fiction" and went on to publish the first magazine devoted to the stuff, Amazing Stories.
Have you heard of a sci-fi story winning a Hugo Award? Yeah, it's named after him.
He is so well known for his work in science fiction that most people forget his other massive publishing endeavor: the first widespread U.S. magazine devoted to sex, Sexology.
Keep in mind, this was freaking 1933 here, not an era known for its libertine attitudes toward sex. Yes, illicit girly mags had been around for decades, but Gernsback wanted to put his own, scientific twist on the subject.
In its 30-year run, Sexology didn't just discuss having sex. It went all out and did scientific research on such crucial topics as homosexual chickens, odor fetishists and Hitler's sex life. The topics were written by MDs and PhDs, with everything taken seriously and laid out in a way that was factual and straightforward. Most of the time.
Remember, Gernsback was a science fiction fan at heart. In addition to the relatively mundane stories on chastity devices, one could also find stories that were obviously sensational.
Along with the academic articles on sexual dysfunction, you could read about real women with three breasts, the dangers of sexual vampirism and notorious husband poisoners. Come on, how else would he get people to actually buy the thing?
#3. The Real-Life Indiana Jones Brought The Kama Sutra to the Modern World
Most people don't attend a Harrison Ford movie expecting any sort of realism, but the story of Indiana Jones bears a remarkable resemblance to the ridiculous travels of one Richard Burton.
Burton was a swashbuckling Brit whose swash was so large that we're pretty sure his buckle was usually ajar. He embarked on a collection of amazing adventures through Bombay, Brazil and really any other location he could construe as dangerous, mysterious and outrageously sexy. He wrote an elaborate account of his experiences sneaking into Mecca as a European non-Muslim (he became wildly famous for this daring feat, even though Ludovico di Varthema did the same thing 300 years earlier). He adventured to Africa to discover (read: find something while white) Lake Tanganyika, but not before the trip killed off all but one of his expedition.
Through his travels, Burton came to study a little-practiced field known as anthropological boning.
By becoming well acquainted with the customs and literature of foreign people, he rapidly acquired knowledge of everything from male prostitution to female circumcision. While these may seem relatively unexotic, remember that this was 19th century England. As a result, his "discovery" of an ancient sex manual known as The Kama Sutra of Vasyayana was nothing short of uncovering a well of sexual pleasure in an unending desert of awkward metaphors.
Burton spruced up the work and brilliantly advertised it to the British as a way to challenge the anti-sex status quo. He intended the book to be a primarily educational endeavor that would help people do what he'd been doing for years: have mind-blowing sex.
Burton wasn't done -- he also added more sex scenes and helpful sex tips to The Arabian Nights, which is a lot like revising Hamlet to include a 15-minute instructional scene on anal sex. Hey, whatever you need to do to get the information out there.
#2. Charles Goodyear Invented Vulcanized Rubber, Rubber Condoms
Charles Goodyear makes it easy to remember what he invented, since a popular tire brand still bears his name. Early on in life, he became obsessed with turning very brittle natural rubber into a more durable and therefore useful product. It took him until 1844, after more than a decade of attempts that included constant failure, near-death scrapes, friends deeming him delusional, extreme poverty and a brief stint in jail.
You could call it ... a particularly bad time of his life.
Finally Goodyear perfected the vulcanization process by, possibly accidentally, mixing sulfur with natural rubber. The process would prove revolutionary and go on to be used in everything from airplane wheels and life jackets to shoes and watches.
Before the 19th century, if you happened to get lucky with the opposite sex or were in desperate need of a toe warmer, you'd have probably found yourself grasping for the nearest piece of animal intestine, weasel testicles or, if you were lucky enough -- and Japanese enough -- a nice tortoise shell to prevent any unwanted STDs.
Bet the tortoise didn't see that coming.
Goodyear knew that with his rubber innovation, he had something better.
Goodyear's rubber condoms were not as sure-fitting as today's contraceptives. In fact, they only covered the head, but did have the bonus of being more cost effective and reusable ... which must have done wonders for 19th century venereal diseases.
That's right. It's a dick bag.
They were also not quite as flexible as would have been desired, so people had to go to their doctor to get measured, which is exactly what every man wants ... to have his dick rated for size by a man in a position of power.
Three nights is coincidentally the amount of time it takes to get an erection afterward.
Goodyear didn't just stop with condoms -- rubber diaphragms were also on the patent books, as was an early form of the douche bag.
Being an eccentric inventor and not a businessman, he profited little from his inventions and wound up back in prison in Paris in 1855 after getting himself into debt again. He did receive some recognition when the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company was named after him, and he was also inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1976 for his role as a visionary inventor. Doesn't appear that they mentioned the condom thing.