Nikola Tesla was a notable vegetarian, though his dietary restrictions did not end there. He swore off tea and coffee, and made up for this abstinence with booze and milk. One article outlined his diet thus:
"[Tesla's] menu includes onions, spinach, celery, carrots, lettuce, with potatoes occasionally. Whites of eggs and milk complete the diet. There is no meat on his vegetable plate. He never smokes or tastes tea, coffee, alcoholic beverages or any other stimulant."
The consummate polymath da Vinci was so empathetic towards animals that the eating of their flesh utterly sickened him. And though there is only circumstantial, but no conclusive, evidence of da Vinci's vegetarianism comes in the form of hearsay from those who knew of da Vinci. Da Vinci was compared by his contemporaries to a race of vegetarian peoples, while da Vinci himself disparaged those who would "make [themselves] a tomb for all the animals" ”” i.e. by eating them.
The world's favorite genius suffered paralyzing health failures in the later years of his life, and all records indicate that his transition to a vegetarian lifestyle came only in that final year. However, he is quoted as having said that "Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." Go Einstein.
Srinivasa Ramanujan of India was one of the most prodigious and prolific mathematicians in history, and contributed nearly 4,000 equations, identities and proofs to the fields of number theory and mathematical analysis. Ramanujan was also a rigorous vegetarian, and even suffered ill-health during World War I when vegetarian fare was in short supply.
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." So said Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of the Indian Independence movement from British empiric rule. In addition to his frugal vegetarian diet, Ghandi also subjected himself to long fasts as a show of civil disobedience and protest.
An iconoclast painter and tortured soul, van Gogh did his best to abstain from meat. As one of his hosts remarked, "the three of us would eat with the appetite of famished wolves; not [van Gogh], he would not eat meat, only a little morsel on Sundays."
Thomas Edison once said that vegetarianism has "powerful influence upon the mind and its action, as well as upon the health and vigor of the body. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages." This no doubt was true for him, as he filed over 1,000 successful patents as early as age 21.
The Greek philosopher Pythagoras, when not proving paramount theorems like A-squared plus B-squared equals C-squared, was busy not eating meat. He is credited as being the first prominent vegetarian, and spawned the Pythagorean diet, which caught on amongst his sect of followers. His philosophy very strictly enjoined against the harm of animals.
The great thinker and aphorist Confucius, living around 500 BCE, was a vegetarian ”” thus making him one of the earliest on record. He is also said to have recommended the use of chopsticks instead of a knife for eating, as it was less violent.
The author of one of the cornerstones of 20th century Western Literature and dystopian classic Brave New World, British-born Aldous Huxley was introduced to many Eastern practices by his American friend Gerald Heard. Huxley later took up the teachings of the Upanishads, Hindi teachings, and them practiced assiduously.
One of the most daring and courageous composers and conductors of his day, Mahler was very explicit with his choice to become a vegetarian. He wrote to a friend of his that the new diet conferred a number of both bodily and mental benefits, and also helped him overcome his more petty desires.
Franz Kafka once said to his friend and eventual executor Max Brod that "Now at least I can look at you in peace. I don't eat you anymore," after watching fish swim in a pond in zoo. Kafka was a prolific author as well, but his vegetarian diet was not able to stave off his fatal dance with tuberculosis.
Primary English Romantic Poet Shelley went so far as to draft up a manifesto for vegetarianism and animal rights in his essay "A Vindication of Natural Diet." While studying at Oxford University, Shelley first tried the vegetarian diet on for size, and over the course of his short life it had become his way.
French writer Voltaire expounded to no end on the merits of vegetarianism, though there is no hard evidence that he himself practiced such a diet. But judging by his vehement speech ”” "Men fed upon carnage, and drinking strong drinks, have all an impoisoned and acrid blood which drives them mad in a hundred different ways." ”” one could make the leap...