While we have a tendency to impose a boundary between science and the arts, some famous scientists weren’t only brilliant, but also musically inclined. At his mother’s urging, Einstein started violin at the age of six. While he initially loathed playing the violin, he became enamored with it when he listened to music composed by Mozart. Einstein continued to play the violin throughout his life, stopping only a couple of years before his death. He would often pick up the bow when he was stuck on a research question.

Other scientists were also known to have a great love of classical instruments. For instance, Benjamin Franklin several instruments including violin, harp, and the guitar. Thomas Edison, George Washington Carver, and Alexander Graham Bell all played the piano.

Yet the most quirkiest instrument played by a notable scientist was arguably the bongo drum, played by Richard Feynman, the American theoretical physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 for the development of quantum electrodynamics. At a lecture at Cornell in the mid 1960s, his introduction included the statement that he played the bongo drums, to which Feynman quipped, “On the infrequent occasions when I have been called upon in a formal place to play the bongo drums, the introducer never seems to find it necessary to mention that I also do theoretical physics.”

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