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Countdown to his death
December 28, 2007 11:48 AM   Subscribe

I remember a story about a scientist or mathematician who noticed he slept increasingly more each night. The increase followed some kind of mathematical progression. When the amount reached 24 hours, he died. Who was he?
posted by 999 to Science & Nature (11 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Abraham de Moivre.
posted by futility closet at 12:14 PM on December 28, 2007 [4 favorites]


I remember reading this as well..I want to say on infinityplus.co.uk, but a 5 minute search didn't find anything.
posted by niles at 12:17 PM on December 28, 2007


Ok, so mine is science fiction, and I'm pretty sure he (and his colleges) were the last people alive, but I know it's out there
posted by niles at 12:18 PM on December 28, 2007


This is really, really weird.
posted by Mikey-San at 12:36 PM on December 28, 2007


Thank you!
posted by 999 at 12:40 PM on December 28, 2007


Needtoknowmore. Please.
posted by greytape at 4:12 PM on December 28, 2007


People truly convinced they will die on a certain date often do so. It seems possible to "think oneself to death."
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:26 PM on December 28, 2007


Off topic, but I wanted to point out how delighted I am to discover that futility closet is a MeFite. He curates one of the better strange-but-true websites out there. I read it often.

And just to justify the existence of this comment, I'll note that de Moivre's work with probability inspired Halley's work with probability tables and mortality statistics, creating the mathematical foundation for annuities and actuarial analysis -- fitting for a guy who correctly predicted his own death.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:28 PM on December 28, 2007


People truly convinced they will die on a certain date often do so. It seems possible to "think oneself to death."

Any chance of a reference on that? Have heard it before, but never seen the documentation.

posted by kisch mokusch at 9:41 PM on January 1, 2008


The first place I encountered it was Karl Menninger's 1937 book, Man Against Himself. His examples aren't particularly rigorous, but then again I don't see how you could study this phenomenon experimentally.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:18 AM on January 3, 2008


Thank you, it looks like my university library has it :-)

I can't see any great way to study it either, I was wanted to see examples that had been put into writing by (objective) people who had actually observed the phenomenon.
posted by kisch mokusch at 1:10 PM on January 4, 2008


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