Thanks to the brilliant minds of the world’s greatest scientists, mankind has the telephone, electric light, an understanding of the universe and great advances in the fields of medicine, astronomy, physics and mathematics, as well as many other areas. In many cases, however, it would seem that brilliance comes at a price, as many of the greatest scientists possessed numerous eccentric quirks, strange obsessions or plain weird habits.
The World’s Greatest Scientists with Interesting Quirks of Nature
So what is the correlation between brilliance and eccentricity? What inspires the enduring connection between genius and strangeness? No one really knows. But we’ve compiled a list of our top eight famous scientists with interesting quirks of nature.
Leonardo Da Vinci (Born in 1452)
Reportedly one of the most diversely talented people to have ever lived, Leonardo Da Vinci was a scientist, inventor, painter, architect, botanist and mathematician, as well as pursuing numerous other fields of study. Described as having a “feverishly inventive imagination” and an “unquenchable curiosity”, the legendary man was purportedly a fan of what is now known as polyphasic sleep. Basically, this involves taking 15-20 minute naps on a cycle of every four hours, adding up to a total of just two hours per day! Apparently the naps were enough to sustain his creativity so that he could work efficiently for close to 22 hours each day (perhaps how he found the time to pursue so many interests!).
Sir Isaac Newton (Born in 1642)
One of the greatest scientists in history, Sir Isaac Newton invented the entire field of what became known as calculus (sharing credit with Gottfried Leibniz), as well as discerning the classical laws of gravity and motion, which then allowed him to accurately predict the movement of the ocean tides and the trajectories of comets. Unfortunately, his interest in chemistry and alchemy were accompanied by an era where it was considered perfectly acceptable to identify substances by tasting them. This coincided with his increasing eccentricity, paranoia, delusions of being persecuted, memory loss and withdrawal from personal friendships. After his death, tests would show that he had been suffering from chronic mercury, arsenic and lead poisoning, the result no doubt of his alchemy taste tests.
Thomas Edison (Born in 1847)
The famous scientist responsible for the invention of the electric light bulb, as well as the phonograph and the motion picture camera, Thomas Edison was famously referred to as “The Wizard of Menlo Park”. Undoubtedly one of the greatest scientists, Edison had an unusual approach to interviewing prospective research associates: he would watch them eat a bowl of soup. Apparently, there was method in his madness; he would check to see who would add salt to their soup before they tasted it and immediately dismiss any who did. His reasoning was that those who seasoned without tasting made too many assumptions in life and would be useless as a research assistant.
Nikola Tesla (Born in 1856)
Nikola Tesla was a brilliant Serbian-American inventor, futurist and engineer, credited with advancing the human races’ understanding of electricity by many years. He filed over 300 different patents, including designs for the radio, the AC motor and electromagnets. He is also, however, reportedly responsible for the stereotypical image of the mad scientist. It began with his interesting quirk of beginning work at 3:00 in the morning, often continuing until almost 11:00 at night. After a breakdown at age 25, Tesla continued on his rigorous regime for another 38 years, adding other peculiarities as he went. For instance, he abhorred jewellery of all kinds, but particularly pearls, and felt a similar revulsion to the presence of overweight women.
Edwin Hubble (Born in 1889)
A brilliant astronomer, Edwin Hubble was a famous scientist who has been described as having revolutionized mankind’s understanding of the universe. His contributions to astronomy amounted to such importance that Hubble has had an asteroid, a moon crater and a space telescope named in his honour, in addition to a planetarium, a stretch of highway and a school. Hubble was, however, by most accounts, a somewhat strange man. Despite being raised in rural America, he decided he would rather be an aristocrat; after a stint at Oxford University in England he adopted a fake British accent and began to go about dressed in a cape and carrying a cane.
Richard Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller (Born in 1895)
A famous scientist and architect, Fuller was known for creating a car in the 1930’s called the Dymaxion, the geodesic dome and fantastical designs for high-tech cities. Always a touch eccentric, he would wear three watches when travelling across time zones and believed in sleeping only two hours per night. He was eventually forced to give up his theories on reduced sleep, as his colleagues complained they could not continue with so little rest. Nevertheless, his lasting legacy was the diary he kept from 1915 until his death in 1983, now housed in Stanford University. The diary is a whopping 82 meters high, because Fuller believed in updating it every 15 minutes, without fail. Called the Dymaxion chronofiles, it is a detailed log of his every activity.
Dr. Yoshiro Nakamatsu (Born in 1928)
One of the most productive inventors of modern history, Dr. Yoshiro Nakamatsu patented the floppy disc way back in 1952, plus 3,300 other inventions during his long and industrious career. But the secret to his many inventions is somewhat controversial: he believes the best ideas come at the moment a person is about to drown. Yes, Dr. Nakamatsu subscribes to a theory that oxygen deprivation is useful. As he describes it: “You must dive deep and allow the water pressure to deprive the brain of blood. Zero point five seconds before death, I visualize an invention.” Additionally, he worked in a “calm room”, a bathroom tiled in pure gold to block out television and radio waves. The room also has no nails, because they “reflect thinking”.
Kary Mullis (1944)
The man who revolutionized DNA sequencing, Kary Mullis was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1993 for his discovery of how to enhance and swiftly increase the growth of DNA. His technique, known as P.C.R., was described by The New York Times as "highly original and significant, virtually dividing biology into the two epochs of before P.C.R. and after P.C.R." However, many objected when he was awarded the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, due to his extremely controversial and vocal personal views, which include his belief that climate change and AIDS are just conspiracies (cooked up by environmentalists, scientists and government agencies) and his conviction that astrology is real, as are UFO’s.