We’ve looked at some of the greatest achievements of people who’ve had some of their brightest ideas in the bathroom. From writers Agatha Christie and Dalton Trumbo, who both physically wrote in the bathtub, to others like Taylor Swift, who has used airport washrooms as a creative space while travelling – these bathroom brainiacs are sure to inspire you to take note of some of your own brainwaves!
Here are 10 of our favourite findings:
1. Archimedes, Beethoven and the space craters
Archimedes shouting ‘Eureka!’ as he jumped from the bath tub may be the most famous bathroom brainwave in our collection. The catchphrase marked the ancient Greek scholar’s realisation that the rising water level as he entered the bath was equal in volume to the submerged part of his body. His discovery is now forever recognised by the Archimedes moon crater, so named by seventeenth-century Italian astronomer, Giovanni Riccioli.
But Archimedes isn’t the only one of our bathroom brainiacs to have his thoughts commemorated in space. The third largest crater on Mercury is named after fellow washroom thinker, Ludwig van Beethoven – and his musical genius can be partly attributed to his early morning bathing ritual.
2. The 25 UK Number One hits
Good news, shower singers. Next time you’re asked to pipe down with the vocals, simply point out that the likes of Ed Sheeran, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie are among the many to have penned a UK number one hit in the bathroom.
"It's sensory deprivation. Your ears are occupied by the constant sound of water, so it allows your mind to just sort of wander," says writer, producer and singer Pharrell Williams, whose work has soared to the top of the charts four times in the UK alone. Just think – you might never have been clapping along to the likes of “Happy” if it hadn’t been for a bathroom break.
3. Four of the last ten Pulitzer Prize-winning novels
Junot Diaz, Colson Whitehead, Viet Thanh Nguyen and Jennifer Egan have all dubbed the bathroom as the place which has incubated some of their award-winning ideas – that’s an astonishing 40% of Pulitzer Prize winners in the last ten years.
4. The prolific works of Yoshiro Nakamatsu
The 90-year-old Japanese inventor claims to hold 3,377 patents, including that of the floppy disk – though we were only able to confirm six of them. His thinking methods allegedly range from the unusual (relaxing in his specially designed 24-carat gold bathroom) to the extreme (holding his breath underwater for extended periods of time).
5. The Academy Awards of Aaron Sorkin and Dalton Trumbo
Aaron Sorkin claims to shower up to eight times a day to navigate writer’s block – and his Academy Award win for penning The Social Network (not forgetting two other nominations) is testament to the method’s success. Perhaps more famously, prolific screenwriter Dalton Trumbo wrote while physically in the bathtub, accompanied by a mug of coffee and the parrot gifted to him by Kirk Douglas. Of his 39 screenplays, two would go on to become Oscar winners: Roman Holiday and The Brave One.
6. The first self-made female millionaire
Having suffered with a scalp disorder for much of her life, Louisiana-born Sarah Breedlove, also known as Madam C.J. Walker, soon decided to take matters into her own hands. She started experimenting with different home remedies and medicines in her bathtub, and later developed a whole range of African-American haircare products. Walker’s brand took off in 1905 – and, according to Guinness World Records, within 14 years she’d become the world’s first self-made female millionaire.
7. And the other record breakers
Alongside Madam Walker, our bathroom thinkers have broken at least 21 world records with their creations. In literature, Agatha Christie wins the gong for best-selling novelist of all time. And in music, Ed Sheeran cleans up with a whopping seven world records to his name – including the “most simultaneous UK Top 20 singles”, previously held in succession by Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson – closely followed by Taylor Swift and Katy Perry with five and four respectively.
8. The seven-year-old patent holder
The variety of ideas we found was truly astounding. On one end of the scale are the SpaceX innovations of Elon Musk which shoot to the moon, while at the other: more practical solutions to everyday problems. Five-year-old Jeannie Low was frustrated at not being able to reach the bathroom sink without lugging over a heavy pedestal. One trip to the hardware store and two years later, Low’s creative fold-out mechanism to form a step would have its very own patent. Now that’s our kind of innovation.
9. The National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees
You may well be reading this on one of the devices that won Steve Jobs his place in the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Then there’s Marion Donovan, who made the world’s first disposable diaper out of a shower curtain, and, of course, the ceaseless appearance of Madam C.J. Walker. One of Dean Kamen’s most famous inventions was born from the instinct to draw his arms back to balance when he slipped in the shower one morning: welcome, the Segway.
10. The mysterious case of the writing awards
One curious finding was the sheer number of mystery writer awards that ended up on our list – no less than eight Edgars and 22 Bram Stoker Awards – the latter of which can all be claimed by Stephen King alone. Did we mention that three of our authors, King, Agatha Christie and Georges Simenon, are also Mystery Writers of America Grand Masters? It seems there’s no better place to weave a twisty plot than in the bathroom.
Please note – while we encourage bathroom brainwaves, we strongly warn thinkers to take care on wet surfaces. Take the danger out of your washroom wonderings with one of our specially designed non-slip shower trays.