After digging through biographies of great scientists, Colin Hunter, senior scientific writer at the Waterloo, Ont.-based theoretical physics research institute has compiled an infographic called "What great scientists did when they weren't doing great science" that reveals some surprising facts about what famous physicists did in their spare time.
For example, a friend of Enrico Fermi reported that the Italian physicist "played tennis with considerable ferocity."
"I love the idea that a quantum physicist who is regarded as one of the greatest minds in 20th-century science was a beast on the tennis court," Hunter said.
But he was most interested to learn that quantum physicist Edwin Schrodinger, famous for a thought experiment involving a cat who was dead and alive at the same time, made miniature dollhouse furniture and wove the upholstery on a tiny loom.
"That one in particular stood out," Hunter recalled.
The series was originally inspired by the Perimeter Institute's own scientists, many of whom are professional calibre musicians, artists, dancers and even skateboarders, Hunter said.
"Seeing that these scientists all have creative, imaginative outlets got me thinking about the great scientists, the biggest names in science history," he added. "Surely they had their own outlets, their own ways to get their creative juices flowing."
He thinks knowing a bit about the hobbies of famous scientists makes them seem more human against the backdrop of their extraordinary discoveries.
"They were people too and they were driven by some of the same inspiration and curiosity that everybody was."
The graphic is part of a public outreach series called Slices of Pi that are released monthly by the Perimeter Institute.