Are there any examples of high-achieving individuals who routinely performed all-nighters, or spent 36+ hours awake routinely?
closed as not a real question by Artem Kaznatcheev, Chuck Sherrington, Ben Brocka, Josh Gitlin♦ Aug 16 '12 at 21:37
It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, see the FAQ.
I am not a doctor. I am not a pharmacist. Take this at face value and talk to your GP.
While your question seems to be pointing towards case studies of un-assisted spans of wakefullness, I'm going to go in a slightly different direction with the answer and suggest looking into the research on assisted spans of wakefullness.
While it's never a good idea to use drugs to stay up for longer periods of time (whether it's caffeine, nicotine, amphetamine-derivatives or look-alikes), it's also unlikely that you'll go through life without having to resort to chemical assistance at some point.
As a person with narcolepsy (due to delayed sleep-phase syndrome and an 8-5 desk job), I know first hand the benefits of using chemical assistance to stay awake. On the other hand, because I have a long-term problem, I need assistance that won't leave me a hopeless mess (as amphetamines and even caffeine will do).
These(1) two studies(2) show the effects of the drug Modafinil on cognitive and motor decline due to lack of sleep. Anecdotal reports suggest that individuals using Modafinil can stay awake for up to 90 (!) hours at a time. Also it does not change your ability to sleep. If you're tired, you can take a nap on Modafinil. It's useful for other purposes as well: this study shows Modafinil's potential for use in cases of Major Depression.
Modafinil is lacking many of the side effects of traditional stimulants (none that result in having to stop taking the drug), as well as lacking the 'high' or euphoria that accompanies such drugs. This makes its potential for abuse far lower.
To show you that this isn't just a BigPharma advert though, I will say that Modafinil isn't perfect. How it works still isn't known, and while the side effects are minimal, they do exist. Furthermore, Modafinil is a scheduled drug in many countries, meaning there's a lot of oversight as to where it's used.
On that note, however, there is the pro-drug Adrafinil (it's unscheduled and is metabolized into Modafinil by your liver). However, it does have an effect on the liver similar to having a few drinks.