The path to greatness is a long winding one, paved with a thousand minute rituals and in some cases, a fair bit of substance abuse. You may have admired the famous personalities we’ve listed here since your childhood for their genius and stupendous work. But, did you know about their reltaively hidden darker side?
No? Then read on!
10 Strange Habits of Famous Personalities that Will Baffle You
1. ALBERT EINSTEIN
This man wasn’t just an ordinary genius. He struggled to speak as a child, causing his parents and doctors great concern. Coupled with a stubborn, precocious rejection of authority, Einstein said his slow development gave him more opportunities to think about life’s basic elements, like space and time. His sense of wonder at these concepts made him pose curious questions, eventually leading to such breakthroughs as his theory of relativity.
Having said that, Einstein had a few weird habits that he never grew out of. His chauffeur reports that he once plucked a grasshopper off the ground and ate it. He would take his violin on bird watching treks and play it with tears streaming down his face.
2. THOMAS EDISON
Edison is another great that doesn’t need an introduction. His shocking habit? He eschewed basic necessities such as sleeping, adopting a nap-oriented sleep pattern that aimed at freeing up more waking time. He slept only for two hours a day, utilizing the rest of the time in productive tasks.
The other strange ritual he would follow was his tough interview process. Any new research associates had to pass a simple test, which included eating a bowl of soup under the famous inventor’s eye. Edison’s soup scrutiny checked whether potential employees seasoned food before tasting it. If they added salt to the soup before they had tried it, Edison automatically dismissed them. The test aimed to weed out those who started out with too many assumptions. That’s equal parts of cheeky and genius at the same time!
3. DR. YOSHIRO NAKAMATSU
This is the scientist that patented the floppy disk in 1952 and has over 3,300 inventions to his name. He believes that his greatest ideas hit him when he is close to drowning. Yes, you read that correctly.
Dr. Nakamatsu believes in the mental benefits of long, airless stints underwater. “To starve the brain of oxygen,” says the man, “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.” The Japanese inventor then jots his idea down on an underwater notepad and swims back to the surface. We think that could be a tad too extreme, even for a genius!
Another key to Nakamatsu’s success? Brainstorming in a “calm room.” That’s a bathroom tiled in 24-karat gold. Dr. Nakamatsu says the tiles block out television and radio waves that hinder the creative process. The room is also nail free as he believes that “nails reflect thinking.” We’d have to try this theory out to buy it.
4. RICHARD BUCKMINSTER FULLER
A famous scientist and architect, Fuller was known for creating a car in the 1930s called the Dymaxion. His lasting legacy was the diary he kept from 1915 until his death in 1983, which is now housed at Stanford University. The diary is a whopping 82 meters high, because Fuller believed in updating it every 15 minutes, without any exceptions. Called the Dymaxion Chronofile, it is a detailed log of his every activity.
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 such little rest.
5. NIKOLA TESLA
When you hear the word ‘Tesla’, your brain may conjure an image of a man pulling down a giant electric switch in a shower of fiery sparks. Well, hold on to that thought.
Nikola Tesla is credited with the invention of the wireless radio and the AC generator that kick-started the electrical age. He was also known as a manic genius that loved to put on a good show, often using his own body as a conductor in public demonstrations.
Tesla also slept very little. He would begin work each day at 3:00 AM and continue until 11:00 PM. These habits caused him to suffer a mental breakdown at the age of 25. He then pulled himself together and continued the same way well into old age, working as many as 38 years without a break.
The man was celibate, but got along well with pigeons. For all the genius, he did have a few deep-seated revulsions – he couldn’t stand overweight women or jewellery of any kind, especially pearls!
6. HONORE DE BALZAC
Think you’re addicted to coffee? Chances are your caffeine addiction doesn’t even come close to that of French novelist Honore de Balzac. This historical writer consumed as many as 50 cups of coffee each day, barely sleeping at all while composing his magnum opus, La Comedie Humaine.
In “The Pleasures and Pains of Coffee,” an article published in a French magazine in the 1830s, Balzac spoke about the drink in flamboyant prose. “This coffee falls into your stomach, and straightway there is a general commotion,” he wrote. “Ideas begin to move like the battalions of the Grand Army of the battlefield, and the battle takes place. Things remembered arrive at full gallop, ensuing to the wind.”
7. AGATHA CHRISTIE
You’d think a woman who wrote 66 detective novels and 14 collections of short stories had a big wooden sturdy writing desk overlooking a huge window for inspiration, but Agatha Christie didn’t write at a desk. As a matter of fact, she never even had an office; she wrote Murder on the Orient Express, for example, in a hotel room without any desk or support.
Christie’s writing process was often disjointed. She wrote wherever the mood struck, sometimes at a kitchen table or in her bedroom. Sometimes, she started writing long before she even had a plot for her stories and she generally began with the details of the murder scene before moving on.
8. LEONARDO DA VINCI
Da Vinci is one of the most talented people to have ever lived. Along with being a scientist, inventor, painter, architect, botanist and mathematician, he pursed numerous other fields of study.
Described as having a feverishly inventive imagination and an unquenchable curiosity, this legend was supposedly a fan of what is now known as polyphasic sleep. This involved taking 15-20 minute naps every four hours, adding up to a total of just two hours per day! Apparently, this was enough to sustain his creativity and he could work efficiently for close to 22 hours each day. Genius, or plain eccentricity? We don’t think you should experiment too much to find out.
9. EDGAR ALLAN POE
Legendary writer, editor and literary critic, Edgar Allan Poe is generally considered the inventor of detective fiction. He wrote himself into his stories, often representing the mad genius or tormented artist, and exploiting his personal struggles.
His little dark secret? Poe often wrote on thin strips of paper, which he glued together and rolled into scrolls for easier storage. He felt the medium better contributed to a work’s flow than a regular old manuscript and, presumably, looked spookier. We tend to agree about it looking a tad spookier!
10. EDWIN HUBBLE
Born in 1889, Edwin Hubble was a brilliant astronomer and 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. 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. Whoever said you need to be sane and smart at the same time?
These were some of the strangest habits of the most brilliant minds to have ever lived. You can read another piece on the maddest scientists in history here.