please sir I want some more

Oliver Heaviside has been described as a sad misunderstood genius.  He was a self taught mathematician, physicist, inventor and engineer. You can read about his admirable achievements here – they are way too complicated for me to explain adequately anyway.

image found here

Like many brilliant men, he had his unorthodox side too.

His neighbours related stories of Heaviside as a strange and embittered hermit who replaced his furniture with granite blocks which stood about in the bare rooms like the furnishings of some Neolithic giant. Through those fantastic rooms he wandered, growing dirtier and dirtier, and more and more unkempt – with one exception. His nails were always exquisitely manicured, and painted a glistening cherry pink.

Mario nails found here

His diet was also rather unusual

“When I get home at 1:00 pm I put on the potatoes, then eat a first course of a slice of cake and a glass of milk. Read paper. Eat second course of potatoes and butter. Butter essential. Sometimes I have a treat. A cauliflower.”

cosmic cauliflower found here

His long suffering housekeeper, Mary Way, had a lot to put up with too. She was kept a virtual prisoner in her own home and even had to sign a contract stating she would not marry a (?expletive deleted?), would always wear warm underclothing, not go out without his permission and not give anything away without asking him first. He wrote this about her in a letter to a friend:

“The middle aged virgin has had a stroke! Pretty piece of work. But she is getting over it nicely, and I think will be fit for work again.”

Her nieces eventually took poor Mary away and Oliver began cooking for himself again

“Quite independent, and have made whatever I like for dinner. Stone broth, ditchwater soup. Made several discoveries. Parsnips cook easily. Carrots don’t.”

image found here

Other interesting aspects of his behaviour included a love of working in an overheated atmosphere (thermophilia), a great affinity with birds and the strange habit of adding the appendage W.O.R.M. to his signature.

Heaviside was not the only genius who formed a deep attachment to a feathered friend. Nikola Tesla even developed his own special feed

recipe found here

Tesla had been feeding pigeons for years. Among them, there was a very beautiful female white pigeon with light gray tips on its wings that seemed to follow him everywhere. A great deal of rapport developed between them. As Tesla confessed, he loved that pigeon: “Yes, I loved that pigeon, I loved her as a man loves a woman, and she loved me.” If the pigeon became ill, he would nurse her back to health and as long as she needed him and he could have her, nothing else mattered and there was purpose in his life.

Published in: on February 2, 2010 at 7:33 am  Comments (47)  
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47 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Oh I love the Flaming Carrot – what a surprise to see him turnip here.

    Sorry about that.

  2. I’ve read and re-read this post …… I don’t see anything particularly peculiar about such behaviour ….. only the lack of gingernuts in his diet …..

    • He knew the possible consequences of the uncertainty of life and so ate dessert first.

  3. @mothboy You should be ashamed of yourself. Is there a naughty step in here? …… *looks around forlornly*

  4. True story, the one and only time that I got shat upon by a pigeon was at Disneyland of all places. More Tesla please.

  5. How did you come cross Oliver?

    Whatever, cherry pink nails get the thumbs up from me!

    • Yeah, cherry pink is better than Mario

      • Though to be fair, Super Mario Bros. 3 is one of the greatest games of all time.

  6. enjoyed the Heaviside link! i shall cease to refer to “Deriving Maxwell’s Equations”, and henceforth call them “Workin’ Out with the Heaviside”… Word.

  7. the only thing that comes to mind looking at the carrot comic is a pic I saw of Carrot Top all ‘roided out… he’s flaming, he’s a carrot head, but the only thing comedic about him are his looks.

  8. Me and my friend were just commenting the other day about how these geniuses are always so eccentric and weird. I am really so very curious to know why this is….any help Nurse dear?

    • I’m not a genius but crazy. IMO The reason “geniuses are always so eccentric” is because when someone is very smart they see can everything considered normal as/is just bullshit. Everyone is insane, the sane people are under an illusion THEY are the sane ones. We are all in (a) heaven or all in (a) hell together depending on how we treat one another.

      • I think Mark has a good point there

      • Me too.

  9. That sweater looks a lot more practical than the snuggie.

  10. I just finished a fantastic book about the correlation between genius/success/achievement and mental illness. You would not believe the number of famous achievers who were either depressive, OCD, or Bi-Polar. It usually boils down to piss poor parenting and lack of attention which causes these personality types to work themselves into a mental illness.

    So if you’re a good parent; your kid will most likely be average….

    • There’s also a possible connection with temporal lobe epilepsy to consider

    • Good parenting would not necessarily produce ‘average’ offspring, but probably less ‘driven’ offspring.

    • Has anyone considered that smart people have to encounter so much resentment from childhood on that it makes them anti-social, cranky and prone to nervous breakdown?

      When I think of the scorn I had to put up with for merely “using big words” I can barely imagine what might have been heaped on a Tesla or a Heaviside. I’d have turned my back on mankind and married a pigeon too.

  11. It never ceases to amaze me at the oddities to be found out there..
    Great accompanying images as usual.. I love the pink sweater.

    • deli flo, i’m pretty sure that sweater is really a thnead. truffula trees be damned.

      uncle keithy, you can be a millionaire or be enormously hung but you can’t be both. you’ll just have to take my word for it.

      also, i just won two free passes to the local film festival! gets me and the paramour into eight artsy fartsy flicks each. and so nevermind what i said about the dallas cowboy cheerleaders.

      • Any Aussie flicks in the film festival? I think Samson and Delilah is doing the rounds – it’s excellent!

  12. I wish I wear an eccentric genius…No, wait…I wish I were a millionaire with an enormous penis.

  13. As pedestrian I don’t have any trouble with birds, but my car yes!

  14. Pigeons are correctly called “Feral Rock Doves” and two members of the band “The Happy Mondays” once poisoned thousands of them in an ill-conceived practical joke.

  15. I think the Steorn mob could do with an employee like Heaviside. He’d clean up their act. Plus he’d cook them potatoes for supper.

  16. I miss my cat companion Jack. Animals can offer a very special friendship. Anyone seeing that as maudlin nonsense just doesn’t know what they are missing.

  17. Being a mad genius allows you t get away with so much.

    Poor Tuesday

  18. The accompanying photos are haunting and hilarious. What a character he was! I wonder if you’d get sick from eating that cosmic cauliflower. The pink sweatered/hooded woman looked like the barbaloots in the Lorax by Dr. Suess.

  19. Ahh the Flaming Carrot one of the best comics of all time!

  20. This is the strangest thing I’ve read but oooh so interesting

    • Happy birthday souldose

  21. That Oliver H photographs well. Must be the ditchwater soup.
    Also, I’ve enjoyed the neuro nerdy discussion in these comments. Very cool. Very absorbing.

  22. My husband is a Tesla freak, tells me something about him almost every day. Then my daughter always chimes in, “Tesla was in love with a pigeon, Dad.”

    Damn that pigeon graphic is hilarious.

  23. most interesting, as are the comments as well, you’ve got a great blog!!!

  24. “Flaming Carrots” would be a good name for my rock band…you know who the lead will be.

  25. I’m going to have nightmares over about that pink sweater.

  26. I’m willing to bet that cauliflower doesn’t taste as good as it looks…

  27. It looks like a fractal cauliflower. Maybe someone is trying to make a point?

  28. hey, i always say, everyone’s got to have a purpose and if it’s pigeons- so be it! cool cosmic cauliflower! i wonder if you see the walls breathe or colors after eating it?

  29. I so agree with Nessa …

    but those granite blocks must have been a bugger to move when hoovering!!

  30. Anther classic – and I so want that pink jumper!

  31. Nurse, talking about flaming carrots, this poor chap has an awful problem.

    Can you help ?

    http://iamtheclient.blogspot.com/2010/02/it-wont-even-go-when-i-hit-it-with.html

    • haha… he’s pretty funny. Thanks for the link


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