The science that explains why baths are for geniuses
There’s nothing like stepping into a hot bath to spark a little creativity. And none has done so with such clear success as Mr Archimedes, the Ancient Greek mathematician and inventor. As he stepped into his bath one day, he saw the water level rise and cried “Eureka!” (“I’ve got it!”); he had realised that the displacement of the water would allow an irregular object’s volume to be accurately measured, a task hitherto impossible.
This theory of displacement is not to be confused with Archimedes’ principle (he was a busy chap, was Archimedes), which says that the upward force on a body immersed in fluid is equal to the weight of the fluid that the body displaces. Yes, that one’s a bit trickier.
We digress. So pleased with himself was Archimedes that, word has it, having yelled “Eureka!” he ran naked into the streets of Syracuse to tell others of his findings. We imagine a damp, naked men shouting about physics received much the same response in Ancient times as it would now, namely a fixed nodding smile and a slow backing away.
But he is not the first person to have had a great idea while in the bath. In our February issue, Suzanne Duckett celebrates the act of bathing in all its forms, as well as some of the great minds that have used the bath as a place in which to formulate great ideas…
Agatha Christie The crime novelist told her architect she wanted a big bath, with a ledge, so she could dream up new plots while eating apples and drinking tea.
Winston Churchill The former prime minister would take two daily hot baths to de-stress from the pressures of leading the country during the Second World War. He often dictated from his bath to his secretary who would sit outside the bathroom with a portable typewriter on her lap.
Freddie Mercury The lead singer of Queen wrote ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ while taking a bath in a hotel room in Munich.
Arianna Huffington The billionaire businesswoman takes a nightly bath before bed with Epsom salts and candles. “It’s my ritual to wash away the day,” she says.
You can read more on the art of bathing in the February issue, on sale now. The feature is taken from Bathe: Rediscover the Ancient Art of Relaxation by Suzanne Duckett. Photography by Sarah Maingot. (Bonnier Books)