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1. Srinivasa Ramanujan was one of India's greatest mathematical geniuses. He made substantial contributions to analytical theory of numbers and worked on elliptical functions, continued fractions, and infinite series. Despite the lack of a university education, he became known in the Madras area in 1911 after the publication of a brilliant paper on Bernoulli numbers in 1911. In 1914, he was invited in to Cambridge University by the English mathematician GH Hardy who recognized his unconventional genius. He worked there for five years producing startling results. According to Ramanujan inspiration and insight for his work came to him in his dreams. A Hindu goddess, named Namakkal, would appear and present mathematical formulae which he would verify after waking. Such dreams often repeated themselves and the connection with the dream world as a source for his work was constant throughout his life.

Otto Loewi

Otto Loewi

2. Otto Loewi was a German born physiologist who won the Nobel prize in 1938 for his work on the chemical transmission of nerve impulses. In 1903, Loewi had the idea that there might be a chemical transmission of the nervous impulse rather than an electrical one -- which was the common held belief -- but he was at a loss on how to prove it. He let the idea slip to the back of his mind until 17 years later he had the following dream. According to Loewi:

The night before Easter Sunday of that year I awoke, turned on the light, and jotted down a few notes on a tiny slip of paper. Then I fell asleep again. It occurred to me at 6 o'clock in the morning that during the night I had written down something most important, but I was unable to decipher the scrawl. The next night, at 3 o'clock, the idea returned. It was the design of an experiment to determine whether or not the hypothesis of chemical transmission that I had uttered 17 years ago was correct. I got up immediately, went to the laboratory, and performed a single experiment on a frog's heart according to the nocturnal design.

The result of the experiment became the foundation for the theory of chemical transmission of the nervous impulse.

3. Louis Agassiz was a Swiss born naturalist, geologist, teacher who emigrated to the US in 1846. He made revolutionary contributions to natural science with landmark work on glacier activity and extinct fishes. He trained and influenced a generation of American zoologists and paleontologists and is one of the founding fathers of the modern American scientific tradition

While Agassiz was working on his vast work "Poissons Fossiles" a list of all know fossil fish, he came across a specimen which he was, at first, unable to figure out. He hesitated to classify it and extract it since an incorrect approach could ruin the specimen. At that time, Agassiz reports having a dream three nights in a row in which he saw the fish in perfect original condition. The first two nights -- being unprepared -- he did not record his image. By the third night he was ready with pen and paper, and when the fish appeared again in the dream he drew it in the dark, still half asleep. The next day he looked at his drawing which had remarkably different features from the ones he had been working out, hastened to his laboratory and extracting the fossil realized it corresponded exactly to his dream.

4. Elias Howe invented the sewing machine in 1845. Howe started working on his design for a sewing machine in 1840. He had the idea of a machine with a needle which would go through a piece of cloth but he couldn't figure out exactly how it would work. He first tried using a needle that was pointed at both ends, with an eye in the middle, but it was a failure. Then one night he had a nightmare. He dreamt he was a missionary taken prisoner by a group of natives. They were dancing around him with spears. As he saw them move around him, his attention was drawn to their spears. They all had holes near their tips. When he woke up he realized that the dream had brought the solution to his problem. By locating a hole at the tip of the needle, the thread could be caught after it went through cloth thus making his machine operable. He changed his design to incorporate the dream idea and found that it worked.

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