How You Can Help
Support Dreamtime

Famous Dreamers

Dreams are one of the primary sources of human creativity and problem solving. Indeed, virtually all cultures throughout time have honored the wisdom and guidance available from dreams. Yet, in our own society, few of us realize the many dream-inspired discoveries, inventions and works of art that have shaped our culture.

To follow are interesting stories about the scientist Albert Einstein, novelist Robert Louis Stevenson, composers Frederic Handel, Richard Wagner and Paul McCartney, Russian academic Dmitri Mendeleyev and pro golfer Jack Nicklaus.

Albert Einstein

While still an awkward adolescent headed for a boring job at the patent office young Albert Einstein dreamed a dream that changed the course of human history.

Einstein said that it was night in the dream and he was with friends sledding down a hill, having a grand time. However on one trip down, he became aware that he was traveling faster and faster. Realizing that the sled was approaching the speed of light, he looked up and saw the twinkling starry light of the night refracted into a brilliant spectrum of unearthly colors he had never before seen. Filled with a numinous sense of awe, wonder and reverence, he intuitively understood he was witnessing an event that contained his calling in life - all the answers as well as questions he would need to ask." I knew I had to understand that dream", he said, "and you could say and I would say, that my entire scientific career has been a meditation on that dream.”

Back to Top

Robert Louis Stevenson

In speaking of his literary classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, novelist Robert Louis Stevenson attributed its plot to the “little people” or “Brownies” who populated his dreams and assisted him with the creative process: “They share plainly in (my) training. They have learned like (me) to build the scene of a considerate story and to arrange emotions in progressive order, only I think they have more talent.”

Back to Top

Frederic Handel

Did you know that the last movements of The Messiah came to Frederic Handel full-blown in a dream?

Back to Top

Richard Wagner

While writing about his great opera Tristan, composer Richard Wagner exclaimed to a friend, "For once you are going to hear a dream. I dreamed all this. Never could my poor head have invented such a thing purposely."

Back to Top

Paul McCartney

The popular Beatles tune Yesterday performed over seven million times in the 20th century, came to Paul McCartney in a dream. McCartney one morning, awoke to the memory of a classical string ensemble playing the melody.

"I woke up with a lovely tune in my head. I thought, 'That's great, I wonder what that is?' There was an upright piano next to me, to the right of the bed by the window. I got out of bed, sat at the piano, found G, found F sharp minor 7th -- and that leads you through then to B to E minor, and finally back to E. It all leads forward logically. I liked the melody a lot, but because I'd dreamed it, I couldn't believe I'd written it. I thought, 'No, I've never written anything like this before.' But I had the tune, which was the most magic thing!"

Back to Top

Dmitri Mendeleyev

Aristocrat and Russian academic, Dmitri Mendeleyev was investigating the basic elements or building blocks of the universe that combine in various forms to make up all physical matter. He was completely stumped and virtually unable to explain their seemingly random properties.

One day while on vacation with his family, he became tired and excused himself from the room in which his family was playing chamber music. Hearing the strains of their music as he fell off to sleep, Dmitri dreamed that he "saw" the basic elements of the physical universe arrange themselves in an orderly and beautiful pattern like repeating phrases of music. He woke up and outlined from his dream every element in its correct order - what is now known in chemistry texts as the Periodic Table of Elements.

Back to Top

Jack Nicklaus

In 1964, pro golfer Jack Nicklaus was in a demoralizing slump, routinely scoring in the high 70s. However, he hadn’t planned on help with his game from his dreams. Later he wrote:

"Wednesday night I had a dream and it was about my golf swing. I was hitting them pretty good in the dream and all at once I realized I wasn't holding the club the way I've actually been holding it lately. I've been having trouble collapsing my right arm taking the club head away from the ball, but I was doing it perfectly in my sleep. So when I came to the course yesterday morning I tried it the way I did in my dream and it worked. I shot a 68 yesterday and a 65 today."

Back to Top

Are you a famous dreamer in the making? Learn how you can support DREAMTIME to share the benefits of our dreams with PBS viewers.

Back to Top