Famous Teetotalers 08: Those who are good at what they do

March 1983, Los Angeles, California, USA --- Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman stands in front of a blackboard strewn with notation in his lab in Los Angeles, Californina. --- Image by © Kevin Fleming/CORBIS
Richard Feynman. Photo taken in 1983.

Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman (1918-1988) was the only famous scientist I could find that was teetotal by repuation. Einstein was a moderate drinker, and a heavier smoker. Feynman reportedly used to be a moderate drinker also, no reason why not, but on a trip in Brazil he felt a compulsion to drink alcohol in the middle of the afternoon where there was no social reason to drink. He thought about it, and reportedly never drank again for any reason.

Eric Clapton

If there was a Nobel Prize for music, Eric Clapton would deserve it. At age 25 he was already hailed as the world’s greatest living blues guitarist. He was inducted three times into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once as a member of The Yardbirds, once as a member of Cream, and once as a soloist. He had a weakness for alcohol and was a long-time alcoholic, but has been a non-drinker since at least 1988.

Cambridge Diary I

11:45 AM, Aug 15

  • I came out of the Boston subway system after taking the long way around to get to the Kendall/MIT stop. It’s raining, and I enter a building where I can get my first full meal, which is connected to a bookstore called the MIT co-op. There is a food court in the same building, and enter from out of the rain and I order a slice of pizza from an S’Barro.
  • I’m wondering what buses would connect me with the hotel I’m staying at, but all I have in my travelogues are the subway routes. However, one of them does have a map where I can at least try to walk to the hotel. Except it’s raining.
  • After finishing my meal, I am about to clear everything into the garbage receptacle, when I notice a rather large umbrella with the MIT insignia emblazoned on it, in the trash. I pull it out of the trash, and I notice that it has duct tape covered over a tear near the top. I take it anyway. It’s better than nothing, I say to myself, and I head for the bookstore.
  • The Co-op bookstore is a place for some good books, but does not appear to be the place to go for course books. I noticed a range of titles by Richard Feynman, the MIT’s infamous “Algorithms” text, and numerous calculus texts that were either outside my area or of the “for dummies” variety. Someone forgot to tell them that “Android” is an operating system, not a computer language. But there were many actual languages there, as well as UNIX sysadmin guides, and guides on other operating systems. I left with an MIT T-shirt and a Deitel book on JavaScript.
  • Prices were a bit strange to me. The Deitel book was cheaper than in Canada, but it is a common title. When you get into the less common, or more specialized titles, prices start to waver unpredictably.
  • After getting my bearings, I head toward Memorial Drive with my baggage and my umbrella deployed, and when I reach Memorial, a taxicab stops in front of me, parking at the nearest intersection, and the guy asks me if I need a lift. I didn’t flag this guy down or anything. Was I that conspicuous? I figured it was going to be a short ride to the hotel, so I said “Yes”, and loaded my stuff in his trunk and rode with him. It cost six bucks.

3:40 PM, Aug 15

  • It was time for a meal, so I thought I would try the Zephyr once. It was a delightful place, reasonable prices, located inside the Hyatt Regency. It is still raining.
  • The waitress guides me to a leather armchair in front of a table. Soft jazz is playing in the background. This is my first square meal in the States. I notice that out of their copious varieties of different coffees, they don’t seem to have Americano. I point this out to the waitress, and she laughed at the irony. I order a “single” cappuccino, which turns out to be 70% foam, 30% coffee.
  • The table I am sitting at was directly in front of a window viewing east along the Charles River. Downtown Boston can be seen faintly behind the downpour.
  • I looked at the menu, and I asked myself, “what would an MIT student order for a main course at a place like the Hyatt Regency?” So, I ordered nachos. Hold the olives.