"The early sense of self-similarity as an organizing principle came from the limitations on the human experience of scale. How else to imagine the very great and the very small, the very fast and the very slow, but as extensions of the known?"
For all his notoriety the image of the Mad Scientist has long been respected - if not reviled, revered, abused and antagonized, among other things. The Mad Scientist is not a simple figure suffering from megalomaniacal derangements or psychopathy of a sordid sort. The Mad Scientist is a pioneer broken by the weight of his discoveries.
On some level it could be seen that this image of a man driven to the brink of sanity by the force of intellectual advancement and endeavor is not only looked upon with a sense of fear and trepidation, but also with wonder and awe. It takes genuine courage to forge ahead into realms beyond (behind?) current understanding - especially if the price seems to be a sane mind.
You see, we need the Mad Scientist. He may conceptually antagonize the populace outside himself, but he does so (wittingly or otherwise) with a force to push minds through preconception. The Mad Scientist is not merely some evil or demented figure manipulating power structures to bring others to their knees (of course, that may instantially be a part of the endeavor). He is a man driven by insight and discovery past states of mind readily understood by whatever popular paradigm he happens to have found himself in. Because few would be willing enough on their own, the Mad Scientist explores dark regions of potential. He places his own psyche on the line to draw a map of the abyss, running the risk that he could be crushed and undone by the pressures without. And so he returns to the world a changed or broken man, potentially ranting of things or in ways that few others are prepared or willing to accept. Because the world has not been where he has been, the world cannot understand. Thus the man who knows too much is feared, for knowledge is power and the Mad Scientist wields power that no one else can yet manage.
We need the Mad Scientist, for whether or not we can say that we are ready, he can show us a newer, brighter path (like an atomic flash, keke) that we could not have realized ourselves. He pushes our mental fabric to the stretching point to tell us just what it is that we might see if only we stopped to look. Still, when the mind refuses to comprehend it typically villainizes. So we make the man enemy and call him mad.
The Mad Scientist is a necessary explorer, returning with the substance potentially capable of destroying the very mateial that the popular but dated paradigm has been crafted of. He may not bring enough, but just seeing it can open the door for others to go themselves and return with more. We will strive to kill the Mad Scientist, but when all is said and done, observed and measured, he may have saved us.