From Darwin To Einstein: How Did Brilliant Minds Spend Their Everyday Lives?
Mason Currey is a typical reporter. As most reporters – who don’t cover everyday news – do, Currey finds it difficult to get his articles ready in time. “On July of 2007, I was sitting alone during a Sunday afternoon trying to compose an article for the journal I was working for. However, instead of doing what I had to do to finish the article, I was reading New York Times, cleaning my desk without a reason and wasting my time in general. It was a usual, but sad situation. I’m the typical “morning person” who can focus early in the morning, but becomes almost useless after lunch. This particular afternoon I decided to feel better by searching information about work schedules of other authors. It was easy to find them and they were really fun. I thought that someone should write about these stories…”
That’s how Currey wrote the book “Daily Rituals” that hundreds of creatives practiced in order to carve out time, every day, to work their craft. Some kept to the same disciplined regimen for decades while others locked in patterns only while working on specific works.
There are enough data to visualize a portion of the hundreds of creative lifestyles. Click the poster to discover:
Gustave Flaubert, Ludwig Van Beethoven, W.A. Mozart, Thomas Mann, Sigmund Freud, Immanuel Kant, Maya Angelou, John Milton, Honore de Balzac, Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, W.H. Auden, Charles Darwin, P.I. Tchaikovsky, Le Corbusier, Benjamin Franklin
Representing each day as a continuous 24 hour cycle invokes the ever spinning wheel of time, and more simply the face of a clock with midnight placed in the “12 o’clock” position and noon at “6 o’clock.” Colors mark major categories of activity – work, sleep, exercise, etc.
“Daily Rituals” include around 150 everyday stories. Let’s see 5 of the most brilliant minds ever lived and their everyday schedule.
Einstein emigrated to the US in 1933, where he worked as a professor in Princeton until his retirement in 1945. His everyday life was simple. He took breakfast around 9:00 and 10:00 while reading morning newspapers. At 10:30 he went to his office in Princeton. He went there walking when the weather was good or he took the University bus. He returned home for lunch around 1:00. He took a nap and then had a cup of tea. He spent the rest of his afternoon at home, working and arranging his correspondence. His dinner was at 6:30.
Despite his simple way of living, Einstein was a prominent figure in Princeton, known not only for his scientific achievements, but also for his abstraction and his careless look (he had long hair to avoid visiting the barber and he didn’t wear socks because he found them useless).
While he was walking to his office, many people stopped him, because they wanted to meet the great scientist. As a fellow of his stated, Einstein posed with his fans and their families and chatted with them. Later he continued walking and murmured: “The old elephant did his job again”.
Alexander Graham Bell
When he was young, Bell used to work all the time. He only slept for 3 or 4 hours every night. However, after his marriage and his wife’s pregnancy, Bell was convinced to work less and relax more. His wife, Meibel, made him wake up for breakfast at 8:30 every morning and also made him relax after their dinner at 7:00.
When he got used to that, Bell understood that his new schedule was better for him and his family. However his passion for his job didn’t let him follow this schedule everyday. Everytime he had a new idea, he begged his wife to let him work and to release him from his family obligations.
In such cases, he could work for even twenty two hours in a row, sleepless. Meibel finally accepted his undistracted concentration on his work, but not without some disapproval of hers. According to her diary, Meibel was proud for her husband’s job, but she was jealous at the same time.
Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven got up really early to start working. His breakfast was a cup of coffee. He considered that each cup of coffee required sixty coffee beans. That’s why he often counted them one by one!
Then, he started working until 2:00 or 3:00. He took a break to walk in the countryside.
At nights, he usually went to the theatre or stayed at home to read. His dinner was simple, such as a soup. He enjoyed drinking wine with his dinner and after that he wanted to drink a glass of beer and smoke his pipe. He didn’t usually play the music at night – he went to sleep around 10:00.
Beethoven’s unusual bathing habits are worth noting here. According to his pupil and secretary Anton Schindler: “Washing and bathing were among the most pressing necessities of Beethoven’s life. In this respect he was indeed an Oriental: to his way of thinking Mohammed did not exaggerate a whit in the number of ablutions he prescribed. If he did not dress to go out during the morning working hours, he would stand in great de?shabille? at his washstand and pour large pitchers of water over his hands, bellowing up and down the scale or sometimes humming loudly to himself. Then he would stride around his room with rolling or staring eyes, jot something down, then resume his pouring of water and loud singing. These were moments of deep meditation, to which no one could have objected but for two unfortunate consequences. First of all, the servants would often burst out laughing. This made the master angry and he would sometimes assault them in language that made him cut an even more ridiculous figure. Or, secondly, he would come into conflict with the landlord, for all too often so much water was spilled that it went right through the floor. This was one of the main reasons for Beethoven’s unpopularity as a tenant. The floor of his living room would have had to be covered with asphalt to prevent all that water from seeping through. And the master was totally unaware of the excess of inspiration under his feet!”
Marx arrived at London as a political refugee in 1849, thinking that he would only stay there for some months. However, he spent the rest of his life in this city.
According to Isaiah Berlin, Marx also had his daily habits, though not quite so well-balanced:“His mode of living consisted of daily visits to the British Museum reading-room, where he normally remained from nine in the morning until it closed at seven; this was followed by long hours of work at night, accompanied by ceaseless smoking, which from a luxury had become an indispensable anodyne; this affected his health permanently and he became liable to frequent attacks of a disease of the liver sometimes accompanied by boils and an inflammation of the eyes, which interfered with his work, exhausted and irritated him, and interrupted his never certain means of livelihood. “I am plagued like Job, though not so God-fearing,” he wrote in 1858.”
“I wish I was normal in writing” Miller stated in an interview in 1999. “I wake up in the morning, go to my office and write. Then I rip what I wrote! That’s my routine in reality.
Check out these brilliant minds’ daily routines too:
Perhaps most fascinating, is reflecting on how you spend your days compared to these creative masters. Do you have a routine that helps you be productive every day?
Info We Trust is a data adventure exploring how to better humanize information. To learn more read the opening post here. The creator, RJ Andrews, is an engineer and proud Northeastern University and MIT graduate. Please reach out through facebook, twitter@infowetrust, or the contact page.
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