Kekulé, who discovered the chemical formula for benzene in 1865, claimed that he had guessed the ring formula with the alternating single and double bonds in a day-dream. Are there similar examples of significant scientific progress claimed to be caused by dreaming?

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure if this is a good question, because it is of course never for certain whether something came up in a dream or not. This makes this question nigh-impossible to really answer. $\endgroup$
    – Danu
    Oct 29, 2014 at 8:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Danu my question aims at examples of scientific intuition (or vision if you prefer), not at a strict verification of whether it really came up in a dream. I think it is a valuable question for the history of scientific thought. $\endgroup$
    – Felix
    Oct 29, 2014 at 9:38

4 Answers 4


Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan claimed and is often said to have come up with theorems and questions in his dreams.

For example: Ramanujan's Mock Modular Forms: Indian Mathematician's Dream Conjecture Finally Proven

While on his death bed, the brilliant Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan cryptically wrote down functions he said came to him in dreams, with a hunch about how they behaved. Now 100 years later, researchers say they've proved he was right.

"We've solved the problems from his last mysterious letters. For people who work in this area of math, the problem has been open for 90 years," Emory University mathematician Ken Ono said.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to verify such claims. But regardless I have always found Srinivasa Ramanujan's achievements amazing.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Ramanujan's mother was a deeply religious person and there is some debate if Ramanujan really discovered results in his dreams or he attributed them to supernatural deities out of reverence of his mother. $\endgroup$ Oct 29, 2014 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ My guess is that since Ramanujan was so engrossed in mathematics while awake that some of it got carried into his dreams. $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2021 at 3:29

FamousScientists.org has a thread titled, "7 Great Examples of Scientific Discoveries Made in Dreams."


The examples include those already discussed as well as:

  • Mendeleev and the Periodic Table
  • AR Wallace and natural selection
  • Descartes' scientific method
  • Loewi and synaptic nerve transmissions

Another article adds Watson's vision of the double helix structure of DNA


  • $\begingroup$ The first link doesn't have any sources... For all we know these could be myths. $\endgroup$
    – hjhjhj57
    Jul 29, 2015 at 7:39

I read just yesterday that the inventor or the sewing machine had worked on the problem of the needle for a long time. Then in a nightmare, screaming, sweating and all that that he got the answer. The savages that were stabbing him in the dream had the most unusual spears. One's that had a hole here and a hook there and...

The article, from one of the Pragmatic series, was about how the right half of the brain, the non verbal side, waits until pictures can be formed with the answer. Coaxing these out is where dreams and daydreams seem to do the job, if you let them.


It seems to be true. I dreamed of one myself. How to linearize hot wire measurements of shear stress (and only shear stress) in a turbulent flow? It is actually by squaring hot-wire signals.

It is in "Impossibility of Linearizing a hot-wire anemometer for measurements in turbulent flows"by S.P. Parthasarthy and D.J. Tritton, AIAA Journal, 1963, 1-5, p1210-1211.Indian Institute of science, Bangalore.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome on the site! I suspect, the OP would more like to see some well-known result. At least a verifiable link seems to be useful. I think your contributions about the ancient Indian knowledge are okay and welcomed, but you need to pass them to the site rules. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    May 6, 2019 at 3:43

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