25 Rich Facts About Beverly Hills, 90210

If you were alive during the 1990s, you probably watched at least one episode of Beverly Hills, 90210. A precursor to Gossip Girl, The O.C., and, well, 90210, the series—which ran for 10 seasons—depicted the not-always-so-fabulous lives of mostly fabulous teens living in the world’s most fabulous zip code. Throw on your babydoll dress, rev up your Bimmer, and take a ride behind-the-scenes of the definitive 1990s teen drama.

1. THE WALSHES DIDN'T LIVE IN BEVERLY HILLS.

Contrary to the show’s title, and its storyline, the Walsh family doesn’t move from Minneapolis to Beverly Hills—at least not judging by the exterior shots of their home. That house is located at 1675 East Altadena Drive in Altadena, California, about 30 miles away from Beverly Hills. But Altadena, 91001 just doesn’t have the same panache.

2. IT WAS INSPIRED BY JOHN HUGHES, AND THIRTYSOMETHING.

Beverly Hills, 90210 creator Darren Star was just 27 years old when Fox came to him and told him they wanted to create a series about teenagers in Beverly Hills, and already had Aaron Spelling signed on as producer. Star was interested, particularly if the series could focus on real issues facing teenagers. “The one show I really liked was Thirtysomething,” Star told The New York Times. “The issues were so small and particular to that group, and I wanted teenagers to examine their own navels, in a sense. It would be their point of view, like the John Hughes movies that were very popular at the time, like The Breakfast Club."

3. IAN ZIERING THOUGHT IT WAS ALL PRETTY SUPERFICIAL.

George De Sota/ Newsmakers/Getty Images

Ian Ziering had moved back to his home state of New Jersey when he got the call about 90210—and had a very specific reaction to the script. “When I read the script for 90210, I thought, ‘Boy, this is very superficial,’ and it was,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “I mean, the pilot was all about the glitz and the glamour of Beverly Hills, the obnoxious kids, and the fish-out-of-water story of Brenda and Brandon Walsh. I couldn’t discern from that first script that the show would become very issue-oriented.”

4. SHANNEN DOHERTY’S AUDITION WAS “HORRIBLE.” (IT DIDN’T SEEM TO MATTER.)

It didn’t take Shannen Doherty long to determine that, after reading for the part of Brenda Walsh, there was no way she’d be landing the role. “My audition was horrible,” she told The New York Times. “I actually remember walking out and saying: ‘I lost that job. I blew it.’ And the casting director came out and sort of winked at me and said, ‘I wouldn’t count yourself out yet, kiddo.’ And I was like, ‘O.K., whatever.’”

5. BRANDON WALSH WAS THE LAST ROLE CAST, AND JASON PRIESTLEY HAD A WEEKEND TO PREPARE.

If Jason Priestley seemed like a natural fit for the role of Brandon Walsh, it’s not because he had a lot of time to discover his character. “Everybody had been cast except for Brandon,” Priestley told The New York Times. “I read for Aaron on Thursday. I got the job Friday afternoon, and on Monday we started production.”

6. DYLAN MCKAY WASN’T INTENDED TO BE A RECURRING CHARACTER.

Newsmakers/Getty Images

Dylan McKay was originally written as a bit player with a story arc that would last just a few episodes. But Aaron Spelling was so pleased with Luke Perry’s performance that he decided to expand the part. “I was a guest star, and Aaron wanted to make me a regular,” Perry told The Hollywood Reporter. “The studio didn't want to pick up the deal, and he used that instance to illustrate an important principle: He gets to pick who's on the show. He didn't want me to have to go in the room with the network, but he calmly looked at me and said, ‘Go get 'em, kid.’” (It’s also worth noting that Perry initially auditioned for the role of Steve Sanders, which went to Ziering.)

7. ALLEGEDLY, NO ONE KNEW THAT TORI SPELLING WAS AARON’S DAUGHTER.

It’s long been rumored that the casting directors had no idea that Tori Spelling, who auditioned under another name, was Aaron’s daughter. But even Tori has admitted that there may have been some nepotism at play. I heard about the show from my agent,” the actress told Entertainment Weekly. “She said, ‘Your dad is doing it.’ I was like, ‘I haven’t heard anything about it.’ I popped into his briefcase when he got home, and I was like, cool. I really wanted to play Andrea. I went in under a different name, then I got the part of Donna—which I’m sure had something to do with my dad.”

8. AARON SPELLING KEPT A CLOSE EYE ON DONNA’S STORYLINES.

It’s probably no coincidence that Aaron Spelling’s daughter was the most naïve character in the crew, and that her commitment to abstinence was a major plot point throughout the series. “The thing that was always at play in the Donna story was that Donna was played by the daughter of Aaron Spelling,” writer/executive producer Larry Mollin told Vulture. “The minute we’d go in to pitch stories about an episode, he’d ask, ‘What’s Donna doing this week?’ Even though Donna wasn’t one of the main characters in the inner-circle—she was a supporting character, really, in the beginning—you always had to start what the episode was about with, ‘What was Donna doing?’ That’s what the old man wanted to hear. It was sweet. It was actually very endearing, his admiration for her. Tori was really out there. She was just enjoying herself. So even though the old man couldn’t control her, he could control Donna Martin.”

“Maybe at first [he was being protective],” Spelling said of Donna's virginity storyline. “I’m not sure. When I was first cast, Donna was a just a smaller side character. She was a friend of Kelly and Brenda’s. So there was never a discussion about her character staying a virgin. I think she stayed a virgin because once we established that she was a fan favorite, people really started relating to her. Teens constantly would approach me and tell me that they were virgins and they had times where they were scared that being a virgin would make them seem uncool, but then Donna made it okay.”

9. GABRIELLE CARTERIS LIED ABOUT HER AGE TO PLAY ANDREA.

Not many of the “teens” at the center of 90210 were actual teenagers. Gabrielle Carteris was the oldest cast member; she was 29 years old when she was cast as 16-year-old Andrea Zuckerman. Worried that she would be considered too old, she lied about her age. “They didn’t know, I lied,” Carteris later admitted. “I actually talked to a lawyer about how could I sign these contracts and lie about my age and still be able to do the show. ‘Is it OK?’ And, ‘Yes it is, as long as you just say you’re over 21.’” It was the press that eventually outed her. “Then a magazine—that I won’t say—did an interview on the show with somebody else and they went and asked my agent [my age], I said, ‘I don’t talk about my age,’ or whatever, they found it in the DMV, illegally. So, then they were printing it and I thought, ‘This is it! I’m gonna lose the job, there’s no way.’ By that time, the show had been on long enough, so it was OK.”

Ziering was just one year younger than Carteris; “I was 28 years old playing a 16-year-old,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “I just kept my mouth shut. I never talked about it. And I wasn’t the oldest in the cast either. I just thought, if they’re going to buy, I’m going to sell it."

10. IT WASN’T AN IMMEDIATE HIT, BUT SUMMER EPISODES CHANGED THAT.

Beverly Hills, 90210 made its debut on October 4, 1990, but it was far from an overnight success. All that changed thanks to two key moves: a season one finale that saw Brenda lose her virginity to Dylan, and the decision to begin airing the show’s second season in the summer. “By the end of season two,” according to Entertainment Weekly, “90210 nearly double[d] its audience (from 9.5 to 17.4 million viewers), and [was] pulling in an astonishing 52 share of teen TV-watchers. Then came the hysterical fans, the mall riots, the action figures …”

11. THE SEASON ONE FINALE DIDN’T SIT WELL WITH FOX’S AFFILIATES.

About “Spring Dance,” that season one finale that saw Brenda and Dylan consummate their relationship? Well, it didn’t make everyone happy. “The affiliates were scandalized,” Star recalled to The New York Times. “Not because they had sex, but because Brenda was happy about it, and it didn’t have any dire consequences. I was strongly advised to write a show that would address the consequences of that sexual experience. So the first episode of the second season Brenda broke up with Dylan because their relationship had gotten too mature.”

12. JENNIE GARTH KNEW THE SHOW HAD HIT THE BIG TIME WHEN THEY RECEIVED A BOMB THREAT.

When discussing the show’s huge bump in popularity, Jennie Garth recalled how, “We got a bomb threat once. While we were filming a graduation scene, someone hid a bomb underneath the bleachers. It was like, ‘Ooh! We hit it big!’”

13. BEVERLY HILLS HIGH SCHOOL WANTED NOTHING TO DO WITH THE SHOW.

West Beverly High School is a fictional place; the series takes place there because Beverly Hills High School would not allow the production to use its name. Filming for the school-set scenes took place at Torrance High School, about 20 miles away. If the school looks familiar to you beyond the 90210 gang, that’s because it has made lots of film and television appearances over the years; She’s All That, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the 90210 reboot all shot there as well.

14. DONNA MARTIN WAS ORIGINALLY DONNA MORGAN.

“Donna Morgan Graduates?” Though Donna’s role grew as the show continued, it seems as if she wasn’t always Donna Martin. In a season one episode where she auditions to be the school’s resident DJ, her name is given as Donna Morgan. It must run in the family: also in the first season, her mother’s name was Nancy and she was played by Jordana Capra; in season two, her name was Felice and Katherine Cannon took over the role.

15. THOSE STUDENTS WEREN’T YELLING “DONNA MARTIN GRADUATES.”

Beverly Hills, 90210/Facebook

In his 2014 memoir, Jason Priestley: A Memoir, Priestley let his readers in on a little secret: During that famous protest in which Donna’s West Bev classmates face off against the administration to make sure that she receives her diploma right alongside them, they’re not actually yelling, “Donna Martin Graduates.” At the urging of Priestley, they were yelling, “Donna Martin Masturbates.” “I knew they were going to go back and reloop this dialogue anyway," Priestley explained, "so it was pretty irresistible.”

16. THERE WAS A LOT OF TENSION BEHIND THE SCENES.

It was hardly a secret that not everyone was BFFs behind the scenes. “There were times when it was worse than high school,” Garth told The New York Times. “The environment there was like: Are you kidding me? There was a lot of tension and unnecessary drama on the set, a certain amount of competition, and a certain—probably—anger about different salaries as the years progressed. People would find out how much someone was making, and then they’d be angry and want that, or if you got days off in your contract, they’d want that. Nobody was brave enough to step in and set us straight, and have a serious talk with us about it.”

17. THERE WAS PLENTY OF ROMANCE BEHIND THE SCENES, TOO.

According to Priestley, not all of the backstage antics were anger-driven. “Various combinations of people slept with each other over the years," he wrote in his memoir, noting that his own “first full-fledged adult relationship”—with Christine Elise, who played bad girl Emily Valentine—began on the show.

18. TIFFANI THIESSEN AND BRIAN AUSTIN GREEN WERE A REAL-LIFE COUPLE WHEN SHE WAS CAST AS VALERIE MALONE.

Beverly Hills, 90210/Facebook

In the fifth season, Tiffani Thiessen joined the cast as Valerie Malone, ostensibly replacing Shannen Doherty. At the time, Thiessen and Brian Austin Green were a real-life couple, which led to some awkward moments. In her first episode, she shared a kiss with Luke Perry. “That was probably the more awkward thing," Thiessen said. "Literally having your boyfriend on the show and then literally kissing another man, 'I get paid for this, honey. I don't know what to tell you.'"

19. THIESSEN HAD TO HAVE A HAND DOUBLE IN HER FIRST EPISODE.

Valerie Malone was immediately painted as the show’s “bad girl,” which was illustrated by her smoking a joint at Casa de Walsh. The role didn’t come all that naturally to Thiessen. “They wanted me to roll a joint with one hand so I looked like some kind of pro,” the actress told Entertainment Weekly. “I couldn’t do it. The person you see is actually somebody else’s hand rolling a joint.”

20. THERE WAS A NO SUNGLASSES RULE. AND HAIR COULD BE A PROBLEM FOR AARON SPELLING, TOO.

Apparently, few things ticked off Aaron Spelling more than a cast member coming back from a break with a new hairstyle. “If someone came back after hiatus with a completely different haircut, Aaron would go crazy,” Spelling’s publicist, Kevin Sasaki, told The Hollywood Reporter.

“Hair was very important to my dad,” Tori confirmed, adding, “And if you watch, there are never sunglasses on 90210. He'd always say, ‘Let them see it in your eyes before they hear it in your words.’ Luke Perry's famous squint was probably because my dad wouldn't let him wear sunglasses.”

21. HILARY SWANK WAS FIRED FROM THE SHOW.

Getty Images

Today, Hilary Swank is known as a two-time Oscar winner. But from 1997 to 1998, she was known as Carly Reynolds, a single mom and Steve Sanders’s love interest during 90210’s eighth season. Though she was originally contracted for two years, she was fired after just 16 episodes—and, in a 2014 interview with Conan O’Brien, she admitted that she was “devastated” when she was let go. Of course, things turned out pretty well for Swank; shortly after losing the gig, she was cast as Brandon Teena in 1999’s Boys Don’t Cry, the role that netted her her first Oscar statuette.

22. IAN ZIERING ONCE TRASHED HIS DRESSING ROOM.

During the show’s fourth season, Ziering had a bit of a rock star-style breakdown. In an episode that saw him wrongly accused of rape, Ziering was given some serious material to work with while attempting to clear his good name. “But, they edited out so much powerful stuff,” Ziering said. “That was like the first time I really got some great words to say and I workshopped them and I studied. I brought game, and it never even made it through the edit.”

Feeling betrayed, “I tore the dressing rooms apart," Ziering admitted. "We all work so hard for our characters and to not even get a heads up ... I’m not a volatile person, I have a very long fuse, but after working so hard on this particular episode, I just didn’t feel like they were with me on this one.”

23. WHEN PRIESTLEY LEFT THE SHOW, IT WAS WITH ZERO FANFARE.

In addition to his starring role, Priestley also served as a producer and director on the series. But when he made the decision to leave toward the end of the show’s run, no one really acknowledged his departure. In an interview with The Guardian, Priestley was asked about his most memorable experience from working on the show. “When I left the show, it was so anticlimactic, it just left a bad taste in my mouth,” he said. "It was the fourth episode of the ninth season. I did the first scene of the morning—literally with this actor who was brought in to replace me—and that was it. I hugged the crew, picked up my box of stuff, went to my car and drove away. There was no party, no nothing. I felt like I'd wasted nine years of my life."

24. LUKE PERRY WAS TEAM BRANDON.

Beverly Hills, 90210/Facebook

Though they were best friends, Brandon and Dylan spent much of the series battling for Kelly Taylor’s affections. And while the end of the series saw Kelly attempting to reignite her relationship with Dylan, Luke Perry thinks that Brandon was the smarter choice. "My guy was a lot of things, [but] stable wasn't one of them," Perry told Bill Simmons."If you're looking out for her in the long term, which is what you wanna do, then you gotta do that thing and fall on the sword and let your best friend have her and that's what my guy would do."

25. THROUGHOUT THE COURSE OF ITS 10-YEAR RUN, THE SHOW RECEIVED JUST ONE EMMY NOMINATION.

Firing a future Oscar winner may be one of Beverly Hills, 90210’s closest brushes with award recognition. Though it received four Golden Globe nominations during its run (two for Jason Priestley, two for Best Television Series – Drama), it only ever received one Emmy nomination: Milton Berle got a nod for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for the season five episode, “Sentenced To Life.”

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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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