Dreams are an ongoing thought process of human beings that just happens to occur while they are asleep. They are often used by us as a source of creativity and ideas, and in some rare cases, the ideas that came from dreams changed the world. May be this is the reason the phrase “it came to me in a dream” is so popular in pop culture.

Here are 16 dreams of some of the world’s most prominent people whose moments of dream insight went down on record and shaped the world.

1. Downloading World Wide Web-

The idea which was significant for Google came from dreams. Larry page, Founder of Google, was so excited about his work on the world wide web he even dreamed about it. “What if we could download the whole web and just keep the links and make huge business…?” When he woke up, he wrote down his dream and the idea of downloading the web. He shared this idea with co-founder of Google Sergey Brin.

Larry page

2. Periodic table of elements-

The idea of the periodic table came in a dream of Dmitry Mendeleyev while working on the second volume of his ground breaking book the Principles of Chemistry, he was unable to figure out how to arrange the elements. As he recalled his experience- “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.”

Periodic table of elements

3. Benzene-

Benzene which is an important foundation in chemistry, and is partly responsible for cars, and leather. The discovery of the six-sided benzene was led by the dream seen by the Chemist August Kekule of atoms dancing. And gradually the atoms changed their shape and turned into group of snakes swallowing their tails. After waking up, he discovered seemingly impossible chemical structure of benzene (C6H6) when it struck him that benzene might be a ‘ring’.


4. DNA’s double helix-

The discovery of DNA’s structure is one of the greatest discoveries of all time. James Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA reportedly dreamed of two snakes intertwined with heads at the opposite ends. It led him to consider the structure as double helix.


5. The Terminator-

Director James Cameron with a soaring fever spiking had a vivid dream, more like a nightmare, which inspired him for the titular character in The Terminator. He saw a metallic gleaming figure with a rictus smile and piercing burning red eyes, pulling itself up from the fire and dragging across the floor with kitchen knives. It was not usual dream we see and certainly not a kind of dream we’d like to see anytime soon. He quoted, “I was sick and dead broke in Rome, Italy, with a fever of 102, doing the final cut of Piranha II. That’s when I thought of Terminator. I guess it was a fever dream.”


6. The Twilight vampire-

The Twilight has changed the way pop culture see vampires. Stephenie Meyer has quoted that the idea for Twilight came from her dream. As she described her dream, “I woke up from a very vivid dream. In my dream, two people were having an intense conversation in a meadow in the woods. One of these people was just your average girl. The other person was fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire. They were discussing the difficulties inherent in the facts that they were falling in love with each other while the vampire was particularly attracted to the scent of her blood, and was having a difficult time restraining himself from killing her immediately.”


7. Hand-painted dream photographs by Salvador Dali-

Surrealist painter Salvador Dali was fascinated by the images he saw between sleeping and waking states, and he loved to experiment with numerous methods to conjure up the images he is known for.

One of the trick he used to practice was the following-

Dali rested on a chair holding a metal key between the thumb and forefinger and placed a plate on the floor just below the hand with the key. Images used to appear in his creative mind, and while doing so he falls asleep. And as and when the key fell on the floor creating a loud noise, he used to wake up and immediately capture what he saw.


8. The Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde-

Robert Louis Stevenson’s source of inspiration for the plot of The Strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was dream he saw while he was recovering from an illness. This plot is an important breakthrough in Literature as it has set a new genre of the struggle between the good and the evil sides of an individual.


9. Nervous system communication-

In the early 20th century, scientists believed that our nerves transmitted information electrically. Otto Loewi also known as the “Father of Neuroscience” had the idea for the “frog heart experiment” in a dream which he wrote and performed in the laboratory in the middle of the night.


10. The Scientific method-

The concept for The Science Method, followed by scientists till today, was inspired by a dream of Rene Descartes. The dream was of ghosts, storms, a room full of sparks and thunder sounds and then there was a peaceful room, with a book that had one line written on it: ‘What path shall I take?’

Rene interpreted the dream as a calling to find out how man should think and analyse about the universe they are living in and came up with The Scientific Method.

scientific method

11. Frankenstein-

Author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley is considered as the mother of science fiction and the world’s first science fiction novel, Frankenstein, is believed to have come from a dream, or in this case a nightmare.

One day, Shelley visited to a fellow poet Lord Byron where Byron challenged all the guests to compose a ghost story. After Shelley spent several days thinking to write a story one night she had a dream which she has described as, “I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the World.”

After waking up, Shelley wrote it down, with the hope that what has scared her will definitely be scary for the readers.


12. Srinivasa Ramanujan-

Mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan who has solved more than over 3000 theorems states that the insight for his work came from his dreams. He said,

“While asleep I had an unusual experience. There was a red screen formed by flowing blood as it were. I was observing it. Suddenly a hand began to write on the screen. I became all attention. That hand wrote a number of results in elliptic integrals. They stuck to my mind. As soon as I woke up, I committed them to writing…”

It is also believed that Ramanujan claimed Hindu Goddess Namagiri appeared in his dreams and told him new formulas.


13. Invention of the sewing machine by Elias Howe-

Elias Howe has an idea of a machine with a needle which can go through cloth but was not able to figure out it will work. Then one night he had a dream in which he saw he was taken to prison by a group of natives who were dancing around him with spears. On closely noticing them he saw they all had spears with holes at the tips. After waking up he realized he has found out the missing link. He immediately experimented by locating a hole at the tip of that needle and happy to find that the thread could be caught after it went through the cloth.


14. Theory of Relativity-

The most famous scientist who made discoveries in the field of science through dream is Albert Einstein who came up with his famous Theory of Relativity.

It is believed that Einstein saw in the dream that he was sledding down a mountain in a ever increasing speed until he noticed the stars looked different because of his speed. And it is also believed by many people that he saw in his dream that a farmer had an electric fence where cows were standing and as soon as the farmer turned it on, the cows jumped away from the fence one by one in a wave motion. From this dream, he realized that things appear differently to different people depending on the place they are standing and due to the time it takes for light to reach them.


15. The structure of the atom-

The discovery of the structure of the atom was followed by an inspirational dream. Neil Bohr, the father of quantum mechanics, saw in his dream the nucleus of the atom with electrons spinning around it. It was for him same as planets revolve around the sun. After waking up, he realized his vision was correct but it still needs to be proven. He rushed to the lab immediately to find out evidences to support his vision. He proved and turned it into one of the greatest breakthroughs of his day.

Atom Structure

16. Yesterday by Paul McCartney-

Paul McCartney composed the massively popular Yesterday song in his dream. After waking up, he replicated the song on his piano. He was worried of Cryptomnesia (coping others work).

“For about a month I went round to people in the music business and asked them whether they had ever heard it before. Eventually it became like handing something in to the police. I thought if no-one claimed it after a few weeks then I could have it.” This song has over 2200 cover versions by other artists including Katy Perry.



About the Author

Sneha Lodha is media student who loves to write and interact with people.  Sneha Lodha



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