Mendeleyev's Dream


     I hope it is common knowledge by now that there have been many problems solved and insights gained by people having dreams. Most know the example of Kékulé who came upon the structure of the benzene via promptings from his unconscious. There seems to be some confusion, though, about whether it was due to a nap-dream of a snake biting its tail (Van de Castle, 1994, p. 35) or a vision of dancing couples (Jung, CW 16a, par. 353).

     I was intrigued to learn, for example, that Mendeleyev in 1869 was able to devise the periodic table of the elements as the result of a dream and that Elias Howe arrived at the idea of putting the hole at the pointed end of the needle, the crucial idea which made the sewing machine possible, as the result of a nightmare in which he was almost eaten by cannibals (Van de Castle, 1994, p. 37). Those wishing to discover other ways in which dreams have helped mankind will find a wealth of further material in the chapter "Dreams That Have Changed the World" in Our Dreaming Mind (Van de Castle, 1994).

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