13 Interesting Discoveries That Originated in Dreams

Dreams are more than just mere fantasies and weird nightmares. Researchers believe that they serve several purposes such as strengthening memory and processing emotions. Dreams can also promote creativity and problem-solving.

All throughout history, people have used dreams to prompt inventions and discoveries that have shaped our world. It is suspected that parts of the brain that deal with imagery are more active when dreaming. This results in vivid visualization that may offer clarity for a problem or spark a creative idea.

In this article, we’ll delve into 13 amazing discoveries that originated in dreams. From groundbreaking scientific and medical discoveries to classic books and poems, you’ll be surprised to learn what works and discoveries were dreamt into existence.

13 Incredible Discoveries Made in Dreams

Scientific Inventions Inspired by Dreams

It is well known that some of the greatest inventors in history used some form of the dream state to come up with ideas. This includes Thomas Edison, the famous light bulb inventor. Here are some scientific discoveries made in dreams.

1. The Periodic Table by Dmitri Mendeleev

Dmitri Mendeleev is sometimes referred to as the father of the periodic table. He invented the periodic table, a widely used arrangement of chemical elements into rows and columns.

In 1869, the Russian chemist was struggling to find a systematic way to organize the known elements. Exhausted, he fell asleep at his desk and dreamt of the elements arranged in rows and columns according to their atomic weights.

When he woke up, he quickly sketched out the arrangement he had seen in his dream, thus laying the foundation for one of the most important tools in chemistry.

2. The Bohr Atomic Model by Niels Bohr

Niels Bohr, the Danish physicist and Nobel laureate, made significant contributions to our understanding of atomic structure, particularly with his model of the atom.

In 1913, Bohr struggled to reconcile classical physics with the emerging field of quantum mechanics. One time, he fell asleep and dreamt of electrons orbiting the nucleus of an atom much like planets orbiting the sun.

This dream-inspired insight led Bohr to develop his groundbreaking atomic model, which laid the groundwork for quantum theory. It revolutionized our understanding of the microscopic world. Although the model is now obsolete, it is still widely taught and the basic principles are valid.  

3. Benzene Ring Structure by Friedrich August Kekulé

August Kekulé was a German scientist, famous for his tremendous contribution to the area of theoretical chemistry.

He is widely known for his work on the structure of benzene, an organic chemical compound. Its polyunsaturated structure was hard to determine, despite its empirical formula already being known.  

In 1865, Kekulé published a French paper in which he proposed a hexagonal ring to explain the structure of benzene. This discovery was so significant that he was honored by the German Chemical Society in 1890. It was during this celebration that he talked about how this discovery was inspired by a daydream about a snake eating its own tail.

4. Theory of Relativity by Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein has been hailed as one of the greatest scientists of all time. One of his most famous works is the theory of relativity, updating Isaac Newton’s theory of mechanics.

This theory, which transformed our understanding of space, time, and gravity, was partially conceived through insights gained during dream-like visions. In the early 20th century, Einstein grappled with the concept of time dilation and the nature of the universe.

Einstein's dreams often involved thought experiments and visualizations of riding beams of light through space. These dream-induced reflections contributed to his formulation of the special theory of relativity in 1905 and the general theory of relativity in 1915, reshaping the landscape of modern physics.

Biology and Medicine Discoveries That Came From Dreams

The field of biology and medicine has also benefited from discoveries that were birthed from dreams. Here are two remarkable examples.

5. DNA's Double Helix Structure by James Watson and Francis Crick

The double helix describes the DNA structure that features two spiral chains that resemble a spiral staircase or twisted ladder.

There are several people involved in the discovery of the double helix: Rosalind Franklin, Maurice Wilkins, Francis Crick, and James Watson. Wilkins, Crick, and Watson were awarded a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for this work in 1962.

While they all played a part, it was Watson’s dream that finally helped them come up with a stable structure. In the dream, Watson saw a spiral staircase which sparked the idea of the DNA double helix spiral structure.

6. Insulin by Frederick Banting

By 1920, researchers had already figured out that type 1 diabetes destroys cells that produce insulin. This knowledge had given them an idea of how to treat patients with the conditions. However, up to that point, their efforts to extract insulin had borne no fruit.

Sir Frederick Grant Banting, a Canadian surgeon, claimed to have had a dream about inventing insulin. When he woke up from the dream, he had a eureka moment. He crafted a hypothesis which, not long after, led to this amazing discovery.

Banting’s work has saved millions of lives globally. It also made him the youngest person to ever receive a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine at 32 years of age.

Technological and Artistic Innovations Made in Dreams

The following technological innovations and artistic masterpieces came from dreams.

7. The Sewing Machine by Elias Howe

Elias Howe worked in the textile industry before becoming a mechanic apprentice. It was while he was apprenticing at a master mechanic’s shop that he came up with the idea of the sewing machine.  

Elias Howe had a dream that provided the solution to a mechanical problem that had eluded him while awake. In the mid-19th century, Howe was attempting to invent the sewing machine but couldn't figure out how to design the needle.

According to his family's history records, he dreamt he was taken prisoner by a group of cannibals who brandished spears with holes in the tips. Upon waking, Howe realized that the hole at the tip of the spear was the key to his sewing machine needle design, leading to a significant advancement in textile manufacturing.

8. PageRank Google Algorithm by Larry Page

PageRank (PR) is a Google Search algorithm for ranking web pages when displaying search results. It does this by measuring the quantity and quality of links to a webpage. This was the company’s first algorithm and some consider it the best to date.

Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page developed PageRank in 1996 at Stanford University. Brin first came up with the idea of arranging information on the internet in some kind of hierarchy.

Larry Page had a vivid dream one night when he was 23 about downloading the web and keeping the links. He woke up and started noting down the details. Later, the method of ranking pages was born.

Books and Literature Inspired by Dreams

Some of the most beloved and influential works in literature were directly inspired by the dreams of their authors.

9. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

One of the most iconic works of literature, Frankenstein, emerged from the depths of Mary Shelley's imagination, partly fueled by a vivid dream. In 1816, Shelley, then 18 years old, was vacationing in Switzerland with her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lord Byron. One stormy night, the group engaged in a conversation about the nature of life and the possibility of reanimating the dead.

That night, Mary Shelley experienced a haunting dream in which she saw a scientist animatedly creating a creature from lifeless matter. This dream became the inspiration for her novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, which explores themes of ambition, responsibility, and the consequences of playing god.

10. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

This novel, written in 1886, is considered one of the most important works of English literature. It’s the story of a lawyer who investigates a string of weird incidents between Dr Henry Jekyl and Edward Hyde.

Stevenson was trying hard to come up with an idea for a story. One night he had a terrible nightmare that made him toss and turn, forcing his wife to wake him up. He wasn’t too happy about her waking him up because he was in the middle of a scene for the story when she did.  

11. Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Kubla Khan: or A Vision in a Dream is a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, an English poet and philosopher.

Coleridge made tremendous contributions to philosophy and literature, especially to the English-speaking world. Kubla Khan is one of his greatest works and the idea came to him in a drug-induced dream. When he woke up he started writing all the lines he could remember from the dream.

The poet was unhealthy, mentally and physically. The drugs he used for his condition made him develop a serious opium addiction.

Other Discoveries That Came From Dreams

12. Jack Nicklaus's Career-Defining Golf Swings

Jack Nicklaus is considered to be one of the best golfers of all time. He has won many championships and earned himself the nickname “the Golden Bear”.

The golf legend once struggled with his golf swing, unable to find the perfect technique. However, one night he dreamt of a swing adjustment that transformed his game.

Nicklaus recalled the dream vividly and immediately applied the newfound technique on the golf course. The adjustment proved to be highly effective, contributing to Nicklaus' legendary career and numerous victories in the sport.

13. Yesterday by Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney was a founding member of the famous band The Beatles. Yesterday, one of their most popular songs, earned the title of the best song of the 20th century.

McCartney woke up one morning with the melody fully formed in his mind. Believing it to be a song he had heard before, he scrambled to his piano to play the tune, only to realize it was entirely original. That is how Yesterday was born.

The song went on to become one of the most covered songs in history, showcasing the power of dreams to ignite creative genius.


Dreams have proven to be a reliable source of inspiration, and have led to some of history's most significant discoveries and creative masterpieces.

From the examples above–scientific breakthroughs, literary classics, and technological innovations–you now know how powerful the subconscious mind can be. Sometimes a dream is not just a dream. It could be the world’s next biggest discovery, or a transformative insight for your life.

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