Genius and eccentricity often go hand-in-hand. Here’s a sampling of strange habits practiced by some of history’s most respected artists, writers, and inventors.
1. PYTHAGORAS HATED BEANS.
Dubbed “the father of vegetarianism,” Greek mathematician Pythagoras is credited with popularizing a meatless lifestyle. But although he subsisted solely on veggies, he had no love for legumes. Pythagoras refused to eat beans, and even forbade his followers from ingesting or touching them. While we don’t know whether this aversion stemmed from health or religious reasons, it may have it led to his death. According to legend, attackers ambushed Pythagoras, and he refused to escape by running through a bean field.
2. BEETHOVEN KEPT A TUB OF WATER HANDY.
Ludwig van Beethoven’s process was almost as dramatic as his compositions. Beethoven was fond of writing in between visits to his washstand. He’d pace around a bit, then pour water all over himself—and his floorboards.
3. DEMOSTHENES HID OUT UNDERGROUND.
Demosthenes, a revered ancient Greek statesman, took the maxim “Practice makes perfect” to a whole new level. The orator rehearsed in an underground hideout for extended periods of time, according to an account by the historian Plutarch. He’d run through his speeches with stones in his mouth, and would occasionally shave half of his head to discourage himself from facing an audience before he was ready.
4. BALZAC DRANK 50 CUPS OF COFFEE A DAY.
Balzac might have owed his productivity to the copious amounts of caffeine he consumed, but the habit also came with a price. He was plagued by stomach cramps, headaches, and high blood pressure.
5. ANTHONY TROLLOPE TIMED HIS WRITING.
For a man who wrote only three hours a day, Anthony Trollope was quite productive. He churned out 250 words every 15 minutes—meaning by the time he was done working each day, he had produced 3000 words. And if he finished the book he was working on before his daily time allotment was up, he wouldn’t stop writing. Instead, he’d immediately begin another book.