Inventing in a dream (nothing to do with hair but focusing on how our brain works) – WRassman,M.D. BaldingBlog

As a former Vietnam Veteran, I thought I would share something personable about myself this Memorial Day.

Solving problems is a difficult problem for many people.  Sometimes we rack our brains for days, months, or years knowing that the problem we are trying to solve, is almost at our fingertips, but we never seem to reach it. Invention is often the end product of solving problems.  A most notable story, demonstrating the power of dreams, follows:

Proof that our Nerves Transmit Signals Chemically

Otto LoewiIn 1903 Otto Loewi had the thought that nerve signals were possibly transmitted using chemical instructions. He could not think of how he could prove his new idea.

In 1920 Loewi had a dream about the problem. He woke excitedly during the night and scribbled notes about the dream.

In the morning, he could not remember the dream, and he could not read his nocturnal notes either!

The following night, he dreamed about the problem again. The dream was about an experiment he could use to prove his idea, and this time he remembered it.

He carried out research based on his dream and published the work in 1921, establishing that signalling across synapses was indeed chemical, as he had suspected.

It’s ironic that it took 17 years for subconscious thoughts to come to the surface in the man often called the father of neuroscience!

Ironic or not, in 1936 the great man was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for work that came to him in a dream.

William Rassman’s note:  I have experienced this same process, holding over 60 patents to my name. Some of these were just inventions I participated in, while most of the others were exclusively my inventions.  Many came to me in my sleep, after racking my brain over a problem for a long time.  One particular problem for which I applied for a US Patent had nothing whatsoever to do with my problem, but the problems of others outside of my field of specialty.  I had taken a great interest in reading everything I could about alternative energy.  In the process of reading, I became aware that the United States had more oil in Oil Shale than the entire Middle East had oil. I was stimulated to think about the inefficient ways oil was extracted from Oil Shale (1980).

One night, at 3 am, I woke up having visualized a solution to extracting oil from Oil Shale. I remember going to my desk, writing up the solution along with some images, and then going back to sleep.  When I woke up at 6 am, I only remembered getting up at 3 am and writing something on my desk. I read what I wrote and realized that I had envisioned a solution for extracting oil from Oil Shale. I met with a patent attorney that day, submitting a patent on it that week. Three years later, my patent application got rejected because Exon had submitted the exact same patent, 3 weeks before I did.  I was proud that I had seen the solution for extracting oil from Oil Shale in my sleep, while Exon spent countless years developing their solution before submitting the same idea and then submitted a patent just 3 weeks before I did. 

If you are interested in reading similar happenings in other historical figures, read here (from Google):

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