Oliver Wendell Holmes, Senior, was a doctor. As such he was very interested in the use of ether. In order to know how his patients felt under its influence, he once had a dose administered to himself.
As he was going under, in a dreamy state, a profound thought came to him. He believed that he had suddenly grasped the key to all the mysteries of the universe. When he regained consciousness, however, he was unable to remember what the insight was.
Because of the great importance this thought would be to mankind, Holmes arranged to have himself given either again.
This time he had a stenographer present to take down the great thought. The either was administered, and sure enough, just before passing out the insight reappeared. He mumbled the words, the stenographer took them down, and he went to sleep confident in the knowledge that he had succeeded.
Upon awakening, he turned eagerly to the stenographer and asked her to read what he had uttered. This is what she read: “The entire universe is permeated with a strong odor of turpentine.”