It’s one of the most famous stories in mathematical biography – Rene Descartes was summoned by Queen Christina of Sweden to teach her philosophy and the history of Catholicism. His habit was to stay in bed until, oh, noon, every day, but Queen Christina insisted that he meet her at five in the morning in her cold-as-vengeance library for their tutoring sessions, head uncovered in spite of the fierce January weather, and, between the strain of waking up way too early and the cold dampness of the tutoring room, Descartes was struck down with influenza.
He might have still been saved, but he had no opinion whatsoever of Swedish physicians, and decided to treat himself. By drinking pots and pots of brewed tobacco. Oddly enough, that did NOT improve his condition, and he died on February 1, 1650.
Incidentally, if you’re looking for a good Queen Christina book, Veronica Buckley’s is incredibly fun, and completely in tune with some of the more outrageous bits of Christina’s character while still being respectful and truthful. The Margaret Goldsmith one is more staid and classic, if you go in for that sort of thing!
Oh, outbursts of Sapphism, we’ll get to you next time!
– Count Dolby von Luckner