FAMOUS DREAMERS: The Scientists

 “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Albert Einstein

In this My Dream Life series “Famous Dreamers,” you’ll read a few famous examples of incredible creativity and success inspired by dreams in the lives of entrepreneurs, athletes, musicians, authors and filmmakers. Here are how dreams have inspired a number of famous scientists including Einstein and Descartes.

E=mc2 came to Einstein in a dream. Possibly the most famous scientist of all time, Albert Einstein produced one of the most acclaimed scientific theories of all time after he experienced a revelation inspired by a dream.painting of Einstein

The famous E=mc2, Einstein’s equation for the Theory of Relativity, is now synonymous with his name. This theory, among other things, asserts that time travel is possible when energy and mass are equivalent and transmutable. Einstein said his theory was inspired by a dream. In his dream Einstein was hurling down a mountainside. He gazed up at the starlit sky. That’s when he noticed that as he sped faster and faster, approaching the speed of light, the appearance of the stars changed. This dream offered Einstein a unique insight into the nature of the universe and inspired his Theory of Relativity.

Several hundred years earlier, the Scientific Method was developed from Rene Descartes’ philosophy of rationalism and the work of philosopher and scientist Francis Bacon. It’s been reported that Rene Descartes credited revelations from dreams for his contributions to the Scientific Method.

“Most so called intuitive discoveries are such associations made in the subconscious.”    

Otto Loewi

In the 1930s Otto Loewi won the Nobel Prize in medicine for his work on the chemical transmission of nerve impulses. Loewi credited a dream with giving him the design for the experiments that proved his theories.

Fellow Nobel Winner Niels Bohr claimed a dream inspired his discovery of atoms. Bohr reported that one night in a dream he saw the nucleus of the atom with electrons spinning around it like the planets do around the sun. Bohr’s tests soon confirmed the vision he’d received in a dream.

JAMES WATSON, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, said the image for the DNA chain, the double helix, was inspired by his dream of a spiral staircase.

images-2 copy 2The classic symbol of science, the Table of Elements, was inspired by Russian academic Dmitri Mendeleev’s dream. Mendeleev could not understand or explain the seemingly random properties of the universe and how they elegantly combine to form the building blocks of all matter. Until one day while napping Mendeleev dreamed a vision of the basic elements of the universe flowing together in a manner similar to the progression of a musical sequence, orderly and beautiful. After awakening Mendeleev outlined in order every element from his dream. This sequence became known in chemistry texts as the Periodic Table of Elements.

“Let us learn to dream!” 

Friedrich A. Kekule Von Stradonitz

“Let us learn to dream!”  exclaimed Friedrich August Kekule Von Stradonitz to his colleagues. Kekule, a remarkable figure in organic chemistry, credited dreams with the details of his most famous scientific discoveries in structure theory and benzene structure. Kekule had the theory that the carbon atoms in benzene were linked to form a hexagon. Where did he get this idea? Kekule’s theory came from a dream image of two snakes coming together to form a ring by each taking into its mouth the tail of the other.


In dreams a Hindu Goddess inspired mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan, the subject of the recent film “THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY.” Ramanujan made substantial contributions to the analytical theory of numbers and worked on elliptical functions, continued fractions, the prime number theorem and infinite series. In 1914 the English mathematician G.H. Hardy recognized his unconventional genius and invited him to Cambridge University where Ramanujan worked for five years producing startling results. In his life time he proved over 3,000 theorems.

Painting of Hindu Goddess NAMAGIRI

According to Ramanujan, inspiration and insight for his work came many times in dreams starring a colorful Hindu goddess named Namagiri. The goddess would present mathematical formulas to Ramanujan that he would verify after waking. Ramanujan describes one instance of Namagiri‘s assistance:
 “While asleep, I had an unusual experience. There was a red screen formed by flowing blood, as it were. Suddenly a hand began to write on the screen. That hand wrote a number of elliptic integrals. They stuck to my mind. As soon as I woke up, I committed them to writing.”  Such dreams often repeated themselves and Ramanujan claimed the connection between his life’s work and the dream world was constant throughout his life.

No doubt Ramanujan would agree with his fellow scientist Kekule on the other side of the world…

“Let us learn to dream!” 

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Check out more FAMOUS DREAMERS:

The Musicians

Dreaming from Google to Golf

Dreaming from Frankenstein to Avatar

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