27 Temporarily Banned Episodes of Popular TV Shows

Image credit: Sony Pictures Television

Over the years, a number of TV series have removed specific episodes from their rerun schedules. Some eventually return to the airwaves, while others may be serving a lifetime ban.

1. SEINFELD, “THE PUERTO RICAN DAY”
Controversies: Flag burning, negative portrayal of Puerto Ricans

In this 1998 Seinfeld episode, an early escape from a Mets game leaves the troupe trapped in traffic among the celebrants of the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade. After accidentally lighting a Puerto Rican flag on fire with a sparkler, Kramer stomps on the blazing flag before being attacked by a mob of Puerto Ricans, who eventually throw Jerry's empty car down a stairwell.

The National Puerto Rican Coalition didn't think it was appropriate that the flag was used as a prop at all, and Bronx Borough president Fernando Ferrer, who is Puerto Rican, objected both to the vandalizing of a car and Kramer's comment that it "happens every day in Puerto Rico." NBC apologized for the episode, and though it was only trumped in ratings by the series finale, "The Puerto Rican Day" wasn't included in initial syndication packages. By 2002, however, the episode had begun to appear in syndication on some networks.

2. THE X-FILES, “HOME”
Controversies: Deformities, incest

Though The X-Files has never shied away from disturbing subject matter, there is something especially cringeworthy about the incestuous, deformed family in this episode. One sentence summary: quadruple amputee mother is caught breeding with her disfigured sons, thereby creating more disfigured children. Yup.

“Home” was viewed by 21 percent of households tuned to the tube when it aired in 1996. It was also the only episode of The X-Files banned from repetition on Fox. The fans wouldn’t let the decision stand, though, and in 1997, “Home” was voted the number one episode in a marathon on FX. Today, the episode is commonly regarded as one of the best of the series.

3. PEPPA PIG, “MISTER SKINNYLEGS”
Controversy: Interspecies friendship

Peppa Pig may seem like an innocent British children’s cartoon. But one episode featured the family befriending a spider, during which Peppa learns that “spiders are very small and they can’t hurt you.” This was a fine message in the U.K., but in Australia — where there have been 27 deaths from spider bites in the past hundred years — it was more problematic. The Australian broadcaster, ABC, was concerned that this cartoon would create a generation of children trying to befriend some of the most venomous creatures on Earth. It was deemed “unsuitable for broadcast” and prohibited from ever being aired.

4., 5., AND 6. BOY MEETS WORLD, “PROM-ISES, PROM-ISES,” “THE TRUTH ABOUT HONESTY,” AND “IF YOU CAN’T BE WITH THE ONE YOU LOVE…”
Controversies: Teenagers talking sex, underage drinking

Boy Meets World tackled a number of serious issues and had plenty of hard-hitting moments (Shawn’s dad!). But three particular episodes — two involving sex — were singled out and never replayed on the Disney Channel after the show’s initial run. In “Prom-ises, Prom-ises,” Cory and Topanga contemplate losing their virginity on prom night; sex is also the culprit in “The Truth About Honesty,” and in “If You Can’t Be With the One You Love…” Cory and Shawn’s underage drinking earned the story the ax. All three episodes were included in re-runs on ABC Family and MTV2.

7. MARRIED…WITH CHILDREN, “I’LL SEE YOU IN COURT”
Controversy: Too much sex

This Married…With Children episode aired for the first time in the United States a full 13 years after it was originally taped. In it, Peggy and Al Bundy find a sex tape of Steve and Marcy Rhoades at a nearby motel — and, knowing they could be taped too, decide to have relations anyway. Both couples set out to sue the motel for recording them without their knowledge. The Rhoades are awarded $10,000, but the jury finds there is not enough proof that the Bundys actually had sex. (Their video is much shorter than that of the Rhoades.) When they find themselves alone in the courtroom, the Bundys proceed to have sex in the courthouse … without realizing that they are, again, caught on film.

Fox’s censors pulled “I’ll See You In Court” before it could ever air, though the episode did premiere in the rest of the world. In 2002, FX ran it for the first time in the U.S.—though still not in its entirety, as the network redacted four especially raunchy lines.

8. TALESPIN, “FLYING DUPES”
Controversy: Terrorism

Also the last episode in the series, “Flying Dupes” was immediately pulled after its initial airing. The main plot surrounds Baloo, who is unknowingly transporting a bomb on the instruction of an arms factory that wishes to create a war between two countries, Thembria and Cape Suzette. The episode was shown again on independent stations (and once on Toon Disney in 1999, presumably by accident).

9. THE SIMPSONS, “THE CITY OF NEW YORK VS. HOMER SIMPSON”
Controversy: Taking place near Ground Zero

After Barney gets the Simpsons' car stranded in New York City, Homer and family must travel there to retrieve it. There are horrible drivers, a wonderful khlav kalash street vendor, and a hilariously frustrating attempt by Homer to find a bathroom within the World Trade Center. But its inclusion of the WTC meant that, four years after its original airing in 1997, the episode would be removed from rotation for years to come. Only recently has the episode worked its way back into syndication.

10. THE TWILIGHT ZONE, “THE ENCOUNTER”
Controversy: Racism

11. REN & STIMPY, “MAN’S BEST FRIEND”
Controversy: Dog-on-man violence

Ren & Stimpy is, as a general rule, pretty gross. Though boogers and idiocy never seemed to be a problem with the censors, Ren beating up his new owner with an oar was apparently enough to get this episode yanked off the air for 11 years.

12. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, “EARSHOT”
Controversy: School violence

Sometimes, television shows are guilty of nothing more than bad timing. In this episode of Buffy, a student is seen loading a gun. Keep watching, and you realize that the student, Jonathan, is not loading his rifle to shoot other students, but to kill himself. “Earshot” was originally scheduled to air a week after the shooting at Columbine High School took place, but in the aftermath, the WB decided instead to run an old episode, “Bad Girls.” “Earshot” did not air on American television until five months later.

13. TINY TOON ADVENTURES, “ONE BEER”
Controversies: Underage drinking, driving while under the influence, death

In this episode, the three main characters—all of whom are underage—somehow manage to get more drunk off one beer than most adults ever have in their entire drinking lives. Buster, Plucky, and Hamton proceed to steal a police car and drive off a cliff while running from the cops. After landing in a cemetery, the souls of the newly deceased boys are shown rising up to heaven.

In the last seconds of the episode, the boys come out to say they are alive and well, explaining that they put viewers through the horror of the episode to demonstrate exactly why drinking is uncool. The episode was too much for the U.S., but has re-aired in Canada.

14. AND 15. POKÉMON, “BEAUTY AND THE BEACH", "ELECTRIC SOLDIER PORYGON”
Controversies: Male with artificial breasts, alleged public health crisis

In “Beauty and the Beach,” Team Rocket enters a female beauty contest, during which James dons a suit with inflatable breasts—then teases Misty by blowing up his chest to twice its original size and showing it off. Unaired during the original American broadcast of the Pokémon series, “Beauty and the Beach” was promoted as a lost episode when it ran on Kids’ WB! in 2000. It was not included in the original American box set. When the episode aired in 2000, all scenes of James in a bikini—about 40 seconds total—were edited out.

“Electric Soldier Porygon” was broadcast once in Japan on December 16, 1997. In this episode, Ash is required to go inside the poké ball machination to fix an error. When Pikachu shoots missiles with his thunderbolt attack, a huge explosion creates red and blue lights that flash in a strobe light-like manner. Over 600 children were rushed to the hospital with “Pokémon Shock,” complaining of symptoms that included blurred vision, headaches, and dizziness; some even reported seizures and blindness (150 kids were admitted; the others recovered en route). After the airing of “Electric Soldier Porygon,” the show immediately went on a four-month hiatus.

16. GARGOYLES, “DEADLY FORCE”
Controversy: Gun violence

While pretending to use a gun in “Deadly Force,” Broadway accidentally shoots Elisa and attempts to cover up his crime. Although this episode was initially pulled from the rerun cycle thanks to objections by advisory groups, it was eventually re-aired after editors removed some of the blood from Elisa’s shooting. It has since been added to the DVD collection.

17. DUDLEY DO-RIGHT, “STOKEY THE BEAR”
Controversy: Copyright infringement

In one 1959 episode, the dastardly Snidely Whiplash hypnotizes a Mountie hat-wearing Stokey the Bear, convincing him to start setting things on fire — including the city of Chicago. The Forest Service was not happy with what they viewed as an illegal use of the likeness of Smokey Bear, threatening the animators with prison time for copyright infringement. But the ultimate blow came when the show’s sponsor in Minneapolis demanded that the episode’s prints be destroyed. Somehow, the cartoon survived, and can be viewed today. A few years later, all was forgiven; Bullwinkle even did a PSA for the real Smokey.

18. HAWAII FIVE-0, “BORED, SHE HUNG HERSELF”
Controversy: Off-screen death

Some shows are banned for being risqué. Some for inappropriate humor. But episode 16 of the original Hawaii Five-0’s second season is banned because it allegedly killed someone. The episode featured yoga practitioners who hang themselves for alleged health benefits. A viewer attempted to duplicate this technique and supposedly ended up dying from it. Since then, the episode has never been released again, even in the “Complete Hawaii Five-0” DVD packs, where CBS was forced to add the disclaimer: "Due to viewer reaction following the original telecast of the episode 'Bored, She Hung Herself' (Season 2, episode 16), that episode has not been re-broadcast or released in any manner since its original airing and is not included in this collection."

19.-24. STAR TREK and STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, “MIRI,” “PLATO’S STEPCHILDREN,” “THE EMPATH,” “WHOM GODS DESTROY,” “THE HIGH GROUND,” “PATTERNS OF FORCE”
Controversy: Terrorism, Nazis

The BBC took issue with the Star Trek: TNG episode “The High Ground.” In it, Data comments that, following a successful terrorist campaign, Ireland will be reunified in 2024. Because of his prediction, the episode remained unaired in Britain (except for a heavily-edited version on a minor network) until 2007. It still hasn’t been broadcast in Ireland.

The Germans also had problems with Kirk and Spock’s adventures in “Patterns of Force,” from the original series. That episode featured people wearing Nazi-inspired uniforms persecuting people from the planet Zeon. After more than 40 years of not showing it, German broadcaster ZDF ultimately aired it in 2011 — after 10 o’clock — with the proviso that no one under 16 could watch.

25. BUGS BUNNY, “ANY BONDS TODAY?” (AND 11 OTHER CARTOONS)
Controversies: Negative portrayals of … everybody

It sounded so simple. In 2001, Cartoon Network decided to have a 49-hour marathon called “June Bugs,” dedicated to showing every single Bugs Bunny cartoon ever made. After a dozen of the 'toons were deemed controversial, Cartoon Network made plans to air them at 3 a.m. with a disclaimer running across the screen — then, ultimately, decided to ditch them (perhaps under pressure from Warner Brothers executives hoping to protect Bugs’ reputation). What, exactly, was so offensive? In “Any Bonds Today,” Bugs Bunny dresses up in blackface and takes part in a minstrel show. “Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips” and “Herr Meets Hare” has Bugs fighting Japanese and German caricatures, respectively. Other plotlines insult Native Americans; one even made fun of Australian Aborigines.

26. SESAME STREET (22 DAYS WORTH OF EPISODES)
Controversy: Integration

In May 1970, the Mississippi Commission for Educational Television voted 3-2 against letting Mississippi’s public education channel air Sesame Street. The reason for the vote? According to an article at the time, an unnamed member explained that “[s]ome of the members of the commission were very much opposed to showing the series because it uses a highly integrated cast of children,” and that committee members had objected because “we are not ready for it.” It took a ton of negative national press coverage for the Commission to decide, on May 25, that they were, in fact, "ready for it." But for those few weeks, Sesame Street was effectively banned in Mississippi.

27. LAW AND ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT, “THE GLORY THAT WAS...”
Controversy: Being harsh on Brazil

Buy the season eight Law and Order: Criminal Intent DVD and you’ll be informed that this episode is not included because of “content issues.” Try and download it off Amazon and you’ll be told “Our agreements with the content provider don’t allow purchases of 'The Glory That Was...' at this time.” How did one episode get such a reaction? No one is quite sure, but it’s probably because it offended Brazilian leaders … and/or the Olympics committee. The storyline involves the murder and blackmail of diplomats in order to get the Olympics staged in Rio de Janeiro.

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Zach Hyman, HBO
10 Bizarre Sesame Street Fan Theories
Zach Hyman, HBO
Zach Hyman, HBO

Sesame Street has been on the air for almost 50 years, but there’s still so much we don’t know about this beloved children’s show. What kind of bird is Big Bird? What’s the deal with Mr. Noodle? And how do you actually get to Sesame Street? Fans have filled in these gaps with frequently amusing—and sometimes bizarre—theories about how the cheerful neighborhood ticks. Read them at your own risk, because they’ll probably ruin the Count for you.

1. THE THEME SONG CONTAINS SECRET INSTRUCTIONS.

According to a Reddit theory, the Sesame Street theme song isn’t just catchy—it’s code. The lyrics spell out how to get to Sesame Street quite literally, giving listeners clues on how to access this fantasy land. It must be a sunny day (as the repeated line goes), you must bring a broom (“sweeping the clouds away”), and you have to give Oscar the Grouch the password (“everything’s a-ok”) to gain entrance. Make sure to memorize all the steps before you attempt.

2. SESAME STREET IS A REHAB CENTER FOR MONSTERS.

Sesame Street is populated with the stuff of nightmares. There’s a gigantic bird, a mean green guy who hides in the trash, and an actual vampire. These things should be scary, and some fans contend that they used to be. But then the creatures moved to Sesame Street, a rehabilitation area for formerly frightening monsters. In this community, monsters can’t roam outside the perimeters (“neighborhood”) as they recover. They must learn to educate children instead of eating them—and find a more harmless snack to fuel their hunger. Hence Cookie Monster’s fixation with baked goods.

3. BIG BIRD IS AN EXTINCT MOA.

Big Bird is a rare breed. He’s eight feet tall and while he can’t really fly, he can rollerskate. So what kind of bird is he? Big Bird’s species has been a matter of contention since Sesame Street began: Big Bird insists he’s a lark, while Oscar thinks he’s more of a homing pigeon. But there’s convincing evidence that Big Bird is an extinct moa. The moa were 10 species of flightless birds who lived in New Zealand. They had long necks and stout torsos, and reached up to 12 feet in height. Scientists claim they died off hundreds of years ago, but could one be living on Sesame Street? It makes sense, especially considering his best friend looks a lot like a woolly mammoth.

4. OSCAR’S TRASH CAN IS A TARDIS.

Oscar’s home doesn’t seem very big. But as The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland revealed, his trash can holds much more than moldy banana peels. The Grouch has chandeliers and even an interdimensional portal down there! There’s only one logical explanation for this outrageously spacious trash can: It’s a Doctor Who-style TARDIS.

5. IT’S ALL A RIFF ON PLATO.

Dust off your copy of The Republic, because this is about to get philosophical. Plato has a famous allegory about a cave, one that explains enlightenment through actual sunlight. He describes a prisoner who steps out of the cave and into the sun, realizing his entire understanding of the world is wrong. When he returns to the cave to educate his fellow prisoners, they don’t believe him, because the information is too overwhelming and contradictory to what they know. The lesson is that education is a gradual learning process, one where pupils must move through the cave themselves, putting pieces together along the way. And what better guide is there than a merry kids’ show?

According to one Reddit theory, Sesame Street builds on Plato’s teachings by presenting a utopia where all kinds of creatures live together in harmony. There’s no racism or suffocating gender roles, just another sunny (see what they did there?) day in the neighborhood. Sesame Street shows the audience what an enlightened society looks like through simple songs and silly jokes, spoon-feeding Plato’s “cave dwellers” knowledge at an early age.

6. MR. NOODLE IS IN HELL.

Can a grown man really enjoy taking orders from a squeaky red puppet? And why does Mr. Noodle live outside a window in Elmo’s house anyway? According to this hilariously bleak theory, no, Mr. Noodle does not like dancing for Elmo, but he has to, because he’s in hell. Think about it: He’s seemingly trapped in a surreal place where he can’t talk, but he has to do whatever a fuzzy monster named Elmo says. Definitely sounds like hell.

7. ELMO IS ANIMAL’S SON.

Okay, so remember when Animal chases a shrieking woman out of the college auditorium in The Muppets Take Manhattan? (If you don't, see above.) One fan thinks Animal had a fling with this lady, which produced Elmo. While the two might have similar coloring, this theory completely ignores Elmo’s dad Louie, who appears in many Sesame Street episodes. But maybe Animal is a distant cousin.

8. COOKIE MONSTER HAS AN EATING DISORDER.

Cookie Monster loves to cram chocolate chip treats into his mouth. But as eagle-eyed viewers have observed, he doesn’t really eat the cookies so much as chew them into messy crumbs that fly in every direction. This could indicate Cookie Monster has a chewing and spitting eating disorder, meaning he doesn’t actually consume food—he just chews and spits it out. There’s a more detailed (and dark) diagnosis of Cookie Monster’s symptoms here.

9. THE COUNT EATS CHILDREN.

Can a vampire really get his kicks from counting to five? One of the craziest Sesame Street fan theories posits that the Count lures kids to their death with his number games. That’s why the cast of children on Sesame Street changes so frequently—the Count eats them all after teaching them to add. The adult cast, meanwhile, stays pretty much the same, implying the grown-ups are either under a vampiric spell or looking the other way as the Count does his thing.

10. THE COUNT IS ALSO A PIMP.

Alright, this is just a Dave Chappelle joke. But the Count does have a cape.

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17 Things to Know About René Descartes
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iStock

The French polymath René Descartes (1596-1650) lived after the Renaissance, but he personified that age's interest in mathematics, philosophy, art, and the nature of humanity. He made numerous discoveries and argued for ideas that people continue to grapple with. (His dualist distinction between mind and the brain, for example, continues to be debated by psychologists.) Get to know him better!

1. NOBODY CALLED HIM RENÉ.

Descartes went by a nickname and often introduced himself as “Poitevin” and signed letters as “du Perron.” Sometimes, he went so far to call himself the “Lord of Perron.” That’s because he had inherited a farm from his mother’s family in Poitou, in western France.

2. SCHOOL MADE HIM FEEL DUMBER.

From the age of 11 to 18, Descartes attended one of the best schools in Europe, the Jesuit College of Henry IV in La Flèche, France. In his later work Discourse on the Method, Descartes wrote that, upon leaving school, “I found myself involved in so many doubts and errors, that I was convinced I had advanced no farther in all my attempts at learning, than the discovery at every turn of my own ignorance."

3. HIS DAD WANTED HIM TO BE A LAWYER.

Descartes’s family was chock-full of lawyers, and the budding intellectual was expected to join them. He studied law at the University of Poitiers and even came home with a law degree in 1616. But he never entered the practice. In 1618, a 22-year-old Descartes enlisted as a mercenary in the Dutch States Army instead. There, he would study military engineering and become fascinated with math and physics.

4. HE CHANGED CAREER PATHS THANKS TO A SERIES OF DREAMS.

In 1618, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Ferdinand II, attempted to impose Catholicism on anybody living within his domain. The result of this policy would be the Thirty Years' War. It would also prompt Descartes, a Catholic, to switch allegiances to a Bavarian army fighting for the Catholic side. But on his travels, he stopped in the town of Ulm. There, on the night of November 10, he had three dreams that convinced him to change his life’s path. “Descartes took from them the message that he should set out to reform all knowledge,” philosopher Gary Hatfield writes in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

5. HE COULD BE EASILY DISTRACTED BY BRIGHT AND SHINY OBJECTS.

In 1628, Descartes moved to the Netherlands and spent nine months doggedly working on a theory of metaphysics. Then he got distracted. In 1629, a number of false suns—called parhelia, or “sun dogs”—were seen near Rome. Descartes put his beloved metaphysics treatise on the back burner and devoted his time to explaining the phenomenon. It was a lucky distraction: It led to his work The World, or Treatise on Light.

6. HE LAID THE GROUNDWORK FOR ANALYTIC GEOMETRY ...

In 1637, Descartes published his groundbreaking Discourse on the Method, where he took the revolutionary step of describing lines through mathematical equations. According to Hatfield, “[Descartes] considered his algebraic techniques to provide a powerful alternative to actual compass-and-ruler constructions when the latter became too intricate.” You might have encountered his system in high school algebra: They’re called Cartesian coordinates.

7. ... AND THE REST OF WESTERN PHILOSOPHY.

Everybody knows Descartes for his phrase Cogito, ergo sum (which originally appeared in French as "Je pense, donc je suis"), or "I think, therefore I am." The concept appeared in many of his texts. To understand what it means, some context is helpful: At the time, many philosophers claimed that truth was acquired through sense impressions. Descartes disagreed. He argued that our senses are unreliable. An ill person can hallucinate. An amputee can feel phantom limb pain. People are regularly deceived by their own eyes, dreams, and imaginations. Descartes, however, realized that his argument opened a door for "radical doubt": That is, what was stopping people from doubting the existence of, well, everything? The cogito argument is his remedy: Even if you doubt the existence of everything, you cannot doubt the existence of your own mind—because doubting indicates thinking, and thinking indicates existing. Descartes argued that self-evident truths like this—and not the senses—must be the foundation of philosophical investigations.

8. HE'S THE REASON YOUR MATH TEACHER MAKES YOU CHECK YOUR WORK.

Descartes was obsessed with certainty. In his book Rules for the Direction of the Mind, “he sought to generalize the methods of mathematics so as to provide a route to clear knowledge of everything that human beings can know,” Hatfield writes. His advice included this classic chestnut: To solve a big problem, break it up into small, easy-to-understand parts—and check each step often.

9. HE LIKED TO HIDE.

Descartes had a motto, which he took from Ovid: “Who lives well hidden, lives well.” When he moved to the Netherlands, he regularly changed apartments and deliberately kept his address a secret. Some say it's because he simply desired privacy for his philosophical work, or that he was avoiding his disapproving family. In his book titled Descartes, philosopher A. C. Grayling makes another suggestion: "Descartes was a spy."

10. HE WASN'T AFRAID OF CRITICS. IN FACT, HE RE-PUBLISHED THEM.

When Descartes was revising his Meditations on First Philosophy [PDF], he planned to send the manuscript to “the 20 or 30 most learned theologians” for criticism—a sort of proto-peer review. He collected seven objections and published them in the work. (Descartes, of course, had the last word: He responded to each criticism.)

11. HE COULD THROW SHADE WITH THE BEST OF THEM.

In the 1640s, Descartes’s pupil and friend Henricus Regius published a broadsheet that distorted Descartes’s theory of the mind. (Which, put briefly, posits that the material body and immaterial mind are separate and distinct.) The two men had a falling out, and Descartes wrote a rebuttal with a barbed title that refused to even acknowledge Regius’s manifesto by name: It was simply called “Comments on a Certain Broadsheet.”

12. HE NEVER BELIEVED MONKEYS COULD TALK.

There’s a “fun fact” parading around that suggests Descartes believed monkeys and apes could talk. He believed no such thing. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Descartes denied that animals were even conscious, let alone capable of speech. The factoid comes from a misreading of a letter Descartes had written in 1646, in which he attributed the belief to “savages.”

13. HE TOTALLY HAD THE HOTS FOR CROSS-EYED WOMEN.

In a letter to Queen Christina of Sweden, Descartes explained that he had a cross-eyed playmate as a child. “I loved a girl of my own age ... who was slightly cross-eyed; by which means, the impression made in my brain when I looked at her wandering eyes was joined so much to that which also occurred when the passion of love moved me, that for a long time afterward, in seeing cross-eyed women, I felt more inclined to love them than others.”

14. WHEN HE MET BLAISE PASCAL, THEY GOT INTO AN ARGUMENT ... ABOUT VACUUMS.

In 1647, a 51-year-old Descartes visited the 24-year-old prodigy and physicist Blaise Pascal. Their meeting quickly devolved into a heated argument over the concept of a vacuum—that is, the idea that air pressure could ever be reduced to zero. (Descartes said it was impossible; Pascal disagreed.) Later, Descartes wrote a letter that, depending on your translation, said that Pascal had “too much vacuum in his head.”

15. HIS WORK WAS BANNED BY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.

Back in the late 1630s, the theologian Gisbert Voetius had convinced the academic senate of the University of Utrecht to condemn the philosopher’s work. (Descartes was Catholic, but his suggestion that the universe began as a “chaotic soup of particles in motion,” in Hatfield's words, was contrary to orthodox theology.) In the 1660s, his works were placed on the church’s Index of Prohibited Books.

16. HE REGULARLY SLEPT UNTIL NOON (AND TRYING TO BREAK THE HABIT MIGHT HAVE KILLED HIM).

Descartes was not a morning person. He often snoozed 12 hours a night, from midnight until lunchtime. In fact, he worked in bed. (Sleep, he wisely wrote, was a time of “nourishment for the brain.”) But according to the Journal of Historical Neuroscience, he may have had a sleep disorder that helped end his life. A year before his death, Descartes had moved to Stockholm to take a job tutoring Queen Christina, a devoted early-riser who forced Descartes to change his sleep schedule. Some believe the resulting sleep deprivation weakened his immune system and eventually killed him.

17. HIS SKELETON HAS TRAVELED FAR AND WIDE.

Descartes died in Stockholm in 1650 and was buried outside the city. Sixteen years later, his corpse was exhumed and taken to Paris. During the French Revolution, his bones were moved to an Egyptian sarcophagus at the Museum of French Monuments. Decades later, when plans were made to rebury Descartes in an abbey, officials discovered that most of his bones—including his skull—were missing. Shortly after, a Swedish scientist discovered a newspaper advertisement attempting to sell the polymath’s noggin [PDF]. Today, his head is in a collection at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris.

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