(1728 - 1779)
Born to a samurai family in the Takamatsu domain, Hiraga Gennai renounced his hereditary rights in his twenties and became a ronin warrior serving no master. “To be free all your life,” he wrote, “is, at the least, better than not.” In 1756 he moved to Edo, where he conducted botanical research, worked as an engineer, and published many satirical works. Frustrated by a lack of recognition for his various inventions—he was known as the Japanese Da Vinci—Hiraga killed one of his disciples with a sword. He was jailed and died a month later of tetanus while in prison.