Whatever happened to crazy / eccentric inventors? Who can forget Caractacus Pott from Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang or the inventor of the bathroom buddy in the film Gremlins or the inimitable Doc Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy [to name but a very few]. Of course these literary/filmic boffins are there merely to advance the plot not to shape the world.
The Victorians in particular seem to have enjoyed an unprecedented period of invention [and patenting] everything from Bowler hat lifting devices to side saddle tandems. Most of it sheer ‘lunacy’; impractical and dangerous. But from the wealth of inventive false starts many useful items have appeared: Cornflakes, Post It notes, Microwave ovens. Perhaps this gentleman scientist / amateur sleuth angle is the key to the ingenuity evidenced? Certainly there are many ridiculous ideas that have made the inventor very rich.
A very curious inspired absurdity is present in the Japanese notion of chindogu; a kind of purposefully useless object. Arguably though the greatest benefit of crazy inventions is the process by which they appear; requiring a lateral thinking approach that broadens the mind.