EDITOR'S COMMENT: Inventor eccentricities

Robert Hutchins

By Robert Hutchins

August 6th 2015 at 12:55PM
UPDATED August 7th 2015 at 5:30PM
EDITOR'S COMMENT: Inventor eccentricities

This week, Robert Hutchins takes a look at some of the famed foibles of history's greatest inventors and draws parallels with today's toy creators.

Everytime board game inventor and jazz club entertainer Jack Jaffe creates a new board game, he writes and performs a song about it.

To date, some of his top hits are centered on the themes of protecting the US president from assassination (Save the President) and trying to shed an opponent's clothing (Libido).

Meanwhile, Behrooz Shahriari – the creator of the body contorting party game, In a Bind – has previously created a YouTube rap video inspired by his game.

Elsewhere, it has been documented that one of history’s greatest thinkers, Albert Einstein once asked his chauffeur to stop his car so he could pluck a grasshopper off of the ground and eat it.

Benjamin Franklin on the other hand, would start his day standing naked in front of an open window, to read, write and get his mental juices flowing.

The point being that often, those blessed with the power of creative thinking very often enjoy their own little foibles and quirks, too.

It all begs the question: is an inventor’s genius a result of their personality quirks, or do they simply arrive eccentric?

Whatever the answer, these eccentricities should be celebrated – because without them not only would life be a little less colourful, but filled with a lot less innovation, too.

If you ever find yourself stuck in a creative rut, we have compiled a list of the top five creative foibles cited to help get those brain cells fizzing again.

But fair warning – they’re not at all for the faint hearted.

Dr. Yoshiro Nakamutsu – Near death experiences


If you have ever smirked at the term 'three and a half inch floppy', then you have Dr. Yoshiro Nakamutsu to thank. He did afterall patent the floppy disk in 1952 and a whopping 3,300 inventions during his 74 years on earth.

Where do all these ideas come from? Nakamutsu – who prefers to be called Sir Dr. Nakamats – claims that his best inventions come to him when he is on the verge of drowning.  

“To starve the brain of oxygen you must dive deep and allow the water pressure to deprive the brain of blood,” he says. “Zero point five seconds before death, I visualise an invention.”

Well, whatever works for you, Doc.

Albert Einstein – Grasshoppers and violins

The grasshopper-eating brainiac is often cited as one of history’s greatest minds. But this genius started off life as a slow to speak youngster who struggle to use language as a child. He later claimed that the slowed development gave him more time to think about life’s basic elements. A skill that lead to his breakthrough theory of relativity.

But the bloke also had his own quirks, too. His chauffeur’s claim that Einstein once stopped the car to pluck a grasshopper from the ground and eat it is well documented, as well as Einstein’s passion for taking his violin out for long birdwatching walks.

Nikola Tesla – Pigeons


Famed as one of the most important contributors to commercial electricity, and known for his revolutionary developments in electromagnetism, Tesla also filed for more than 300 patents for inventions like the radio and AC motor.

He was also widely regarded by contemporaries as the ‘mad scientist,’ for his many peculiarities, including extreme OCD and a fear of pearl earrings.

But nothing was more noted than his love affair with a pigeon, despite his celibacy.


Thomas Edison – Soup scrutiny

One of the world’s most celebrated inventors and businessmen, America’s Thomas Edison is famed for developing the phonograph, the motion picture camera and the long-lasting light bulb.

Named ‘The Wizard of Menlo Park’ Edison was a prolific inventor with 1,093 patents to his name.

He also had a peculiar habit of scrutinising the way in which any potential research associate consumed a bowl of soup. His soup scrutiny checked whether any wannabe employees seasoned their food before tasting.

Any one who immediately assumed it needed seasoning, was dismissed.

The inventor also had a tendency to skip on sleep, adopting a polyphasic sleep cycle that freed him up to get on with more inventing.

Benjamin Franklin – Air baths


As well as being a prolific inventor and all-round dab hand at most things he attempted, the man was also quite a fan of nudity.

As well as inventing the bifocals and making revolutionary advancements in the filed of electricity, Franklin was a firm believer that being nude was good for the human condition.

For this reason, the man would take regular ‘air baths’ during which he would spend half an hour stood naked before an open window, where he would work and get his brain juices flowing.

And you thought you had strange colleagues…