That's right. He managed to write Lolita and to establish himself as an authority on butterflies. Obviously, being really good at two things is greedy and unnecessary, and I'd be consumed by distaste and embarrassed on his behalf if I weren't still quivering with an intense (and, obviously, unconsummated) passion for Pale Fire.
"...in a speculative moment in 1945," writes Carl Zimmer in The New York Times, "[Nabokov] came up with a sweeping hypothesis for the evolution of the butterflies he studied, a group known as the Polyommatus blues. He envisioned them coming to the New World from Asia over millions of years in a series of waves."
"Few professional lepidopterists," Zimmer continues, "took these ideas seriously during Nabokov’s lifetime. But in the years since his death in 1977, his scientific reputation has grown. And over the past 10 years, a team of scientists has been applying gene-sequencing technology to his hypothesis about how Polyommatus blues evolved. On Tuesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, they reported that Nabokov was absolutely right."
He has now impressive literary and scientific reputations. Most people will never have either, and are forced to be content with being able to a) occasionally finish a crossword puzzle in one of those newspapers you get free on the subway and b) remember five of the 118 (had to look that up) elements in the periodic table.
However, it's worthwhile noting that Nabokov's theory about the Polyommatus blues was only tested because a Harvard biology professor (Dr. Pierce - let's give her her due) began reviewing his work while preparing an exhibit in honour of his 100th birthday. So even if you do, say, manage to be an inspired lepidopterist, it's entirely possible your claims will never be validated during your lifetime and that you'll never be famous enough in any other discipline for Harvard professors to reevaluate those claims after you're dead.
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