Life has come a complete circle since WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020. As the novel coronavirus that causes the disease has spread across the globe., offices have closed, public spaces have emptied, and officials have urged people to stay home as much as possible. Isolation or quarantine is a great time to prioritize your mental and physical well-being, but if you also want to use it to be productive, you have plenty of historical role models to choose from. Here is a list of 5 geniuses who were quarantined, way before the COVID 19 pandemic, and proved that quarantine time is the best time.
- Isaac Newton
- William Shakespeare
- Giovanni Boccacio
Young Newton in his early 20s had to face one of the last major outbreaks of the bubonic plague in England. Classes at Cambridge University were canceled, so Newton retreated to his family estate roughly 60 miles away to continue his studies there. He didn’t have to worry about responding to professors’ emails or video conferencing into classes, and with zero structure, he excelled. The young mathematician produced some of his best work during his year in quarantine, writing the papers that would become early calculus and developing his theories on optics while playing with prisms in his bedroom. This was also the time when his theory of gravity germinated. While an apple likely didn’t hit Newton on the head, there was an apple tree outside his window that may have inspired his revelation.
Shakespeare, one of the greatest minds of this age, was an exceptional actor, and a shareholder with The King’s Men theater troupe when the bubonic plague forced London theaters to close in the early 17th century. The official rule was that after weeks, when the death toll exceeded 30, public playhouses had to shut down. This meant that the theater industry was paralyzed for much of 1606 when the plague returned to the city. After suddenly finding himself without a steady job and lots of free time, Shakespeare got to writing. He composed King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra before the year was over. By this, Shakespeare proved that after all love does bloom when stayed in solitary confinement and creativity blossoms.
If you’re not a reading freak, you might not be familiar with this name. Worry not, we are here to help! Giovanni Bocaccio was a Florentine writer and like Shakespeare and Newton, he too was affected by the Bubonic Plague when it hit Florence in 1348. His father and his stepmother succumbed to the disease, post witnessing these drastic events of his lifes, he survived the outbreak by fleeing the city and hiding out in the Tuscan countryside. During this period, he wrote The Decameron, a collection of novellas framed as stories a group of friends tell each other while quarantined inside a villa during the plague (which is a must read, for fellow well-read folk).