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9 Inventions Inspired by Dreams

Some of the world’s most celebrated artists, scientists and inventors had their eureka moments mid-sleep…

2nd November, 2016
by Carl Walsh

Some of the world’s most celebrated artists, scientists and inventors had their eureka moments mid-sleep…

The world would probably be a different place had these 9 people not slept properly, because their greatest ideas came to them in a dream – from Google to the humble sewing machine. So if you’re stuck on a problem, sleep on it – you’ll have a deeper kip on a decent bed and mattress, and who knows where that will lead you…

1. Google

As a student, Larry Page had an irrational fear that he’d been accepted into Stamford University by mistake – which trigged an anxiety dream. He imagined that he could download the entire web onto some old computers lying around, so he got up in the middle of the night to do some maths. When he realised it was plausible, he took two years out of studying to create what became Google. Imagine how different your daily life, indeed the modern world, would be if he hadn’t had that dream.

2. The Sewing Machine

A violent muder nightmare led to the humble sewing machine. In 1845, Elias Howe dreamt that he’d been captured by cannibals who gave him an ultimatum – he had to invent a sewing machine within 24 hours or suffer a painful death. He failed, so they stabbed him to repeatedly with spears that had a hole in the tip. Howe realised that he had to put an eye in the needle to create the lock-stiche sewing machine he’d always struggled to invent.

3. DNA

Until Dr James Watson saw a spiral staircase in a dream in 1953, no one had developed the idea of a double helix spiral structure for our DNA. In fact, thanks to sleeping that fateful night, Watson went on to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962.

4. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity

One of history’s most famous physicists, Albert Einstien deamt that he was walking through a farm where he found a herd of cows huddled up against an electric fence. When the farmer suddenly switched the electric fence on, he saw the cows jump back at the same time – although the farmer saw them jump one by one in a Mexican wave.

That’s what inspired Einstein’s Theory of Relativity – that events look different depending on where you’re standing, because of the time it takes the light to reach your eyes.

5. Frankenstein

In summer 1816, teenager Mary Shelly visited the poet Lord Byron in Geneva. One night, she had a nightmare of a ‘hideous phantasm of a man, stretched out, and then, on working of some powerful machine, show signs of life and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion’. The next morning, she began writing the story you know as Frankenstien – the world’s first sci-fi novel. Thanks to that dream, she became one of the most famous gothic writers of all time.

6. The Periodic Table

Pioneering chemist Dimitry Mendeleev spent 10 years trying to create a pattern that connected the chemical elements together. One Februrary night, just as he was on the verge of a major breakthrough, he fell asleep and dreamt up the idea he’d been searching for.

Writing in his diary, Mendeleev said, “I saw in a dream a table where all the elements fell into place as required. Awakening, I immediately wrote it down on a piece of paper.”

7. The Structure of The Atom

In a dream, Niels Boher saw the nucleus of the atom with electrons spinning around it – like planets going around the sun. He had a gut feeling that it was accurate, so dedicate his research to proving his theory. Low and behold, he was spot on and won the Nobel Prize for Physics for his breakthrough.

8. Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Memory

The surrealist master Salvador Dali described his paintings as ‘hand-painted dream photographs’, including his most famous piece ‘Persistence of Memory’ full of melted clocks. It's one thing to invent whole world's in your sleep, but quite another to capture them on the canvas. 

9. The Terminator

Yes, one of the most successful films in history was inspired by a fever dream. Director James Cameron imagined an explosion, and coming out of it was a robot cut in half, clutching kitchen knives and crawling towards him. He sketched ‘The Terminator’ down when he woke up, and ultimately, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger made the character his own. 

Think this all sounds a little far-fetched? Remember, dreams organise and consolidate ideas, images, memories and bits of information that you gather up when you’re awake throughout the day. Letting your mind wander during sleep can lead to greater creativity.

Now, you probably won’t win a Nobel prize or hit upon a historic breakthrough during your dreams, but good sleep is still crucial if you’re to stay at your best – so invest in a good bed and mattress, to give you the best possible night’s sleep. 

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