The best books about mad scientists both real and fictional

Christopher Rankin Author Of Ann Marie's Asylum (Master and Apprentice Book 1)
By Christopher Rankin

Who am I?

Christopher Rankin is an author, the host of the Vanadium podcast on YouTube, and a scientist in the field of renewable materials. He was awarded a PhD in materials science from the University of Pennsylvania and holds several patents. A lifelong lover of science, Rankin hopes to encourage greater public interest and a broader understanding of technical subjects.


I wrote...

Ann Marie's Asylum (Master and Apprentice Book 1)

By Christopher Rankin,

Book cover of Ann Marie's Asylum (Master and Apprentice Book 1)

What is my book about?

Ann Marie has just earned her Ph.D. in chemistry at age sixteen when she receives a mysterious and lucrative job offer. The new position at the infamous Asylum Corporation takes the young chemist and her alcoholic mother from their working-class Philadelphia neighborhood to coastal California. 

She becomes fascinated with her new boss, Dade Harkenrider, a famed but reclusive scientist, labelled Dr. Death by internet conspiracy theorists and rumored to be involved in witchcraft and murder. As Ann Marie grows closer to her new mentor, a sinister plot by a secretive coven is unfolding in the city. This monstrous force is stealing pets and children in an effort to breathe life into an ancient and terrifying evil.

The Books I Picked & Why

Shepherd is readers supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Oryx and Crake

By Margaret Atwood,

Book cover of Oryx and Crake

Why this book?

One of the darkest portrayals of what can happen when science is divorced from all ethics, Margaret Atwood’s 2003 novel, Oryx and Crake shows just how much damage once mad scientist can do. Crake is a genius by every measure, excelling in math, science, and engineering but he has a troubled soul.


Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control

By Stephen Kinzer,

Book cover of Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control

Why this book?

The historical accounts of the rise and reign of chemist Sidney Gottlieb seem like deep YouTube conspiracy theory. How could a trusted government official, a scientist, be drugging unwitting subjects, civilians, even his own coworkers? This is one of the most bizarre and important tales from American cold war history.


Altered States: A Novel

By Paddy Chayefsky,

Book cover of Altered States: A Novel

Why this book?

This story of a scientist becoming obsessed with the psychedelic world was part of the inspiration for writing Ann Marie’s Asylum. The sensory deprivation tank, the electrodes to the head, and the hallucinogenic potion made from exotic jungle plants were bits that just had to make it into one of my books. 


The Boys from Brazil: A Novel

By Ira Levin,

Book cover of The Boys from Brazil: A Novel

Why this book?

Doctor Josef Mengele, the worst of the mad scientists, is in hiding after the war but planning a comeback, heading a secret project to genetically reincarnate Hitler. The most frightening part about his plan to bring back the Nazi Fuhrer is the degree of scientific rigor in the biology and psychology underlying the design.


The Scientist: A Metaphysical Autobiography

By John C. Lilly,

Book cover of The Scientist: A Metaphysical Autobiography

Why this book?

John Lilly, a Caltech and University of Pennsylvania trained doctor who also probed the murkiest waters of the psychedelic experience, was the inspiration for Dade Harkenrider in my book, Ann Marie’s Asylum. Lilly was a genius, who crossed over the edge more than once.


Closely Related Book Lists

Distantly Related Book Lists