11 Famous People Who Kept Journals
Some of the most famous people who Journal throughout history are truly remarkable.
The history of Journaling dates back centuries and has appealed to people from different walks of life.
Scientists, leaders, authors, dreamers – all have their name etched in the history books for eternity, and we can peek inside their brilliant minds, all thanks to their daily routine of Journaling.
So let’s take a closer look at the 11 most famous Journal keepers in history and see how these different people made such an impact, all using the same powerful tool.
1. Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian painter, who was born in Anchiano, Italy on 15th April 1452.
Throughout his life, he captured his ideas and thoughts on paper, which were then all collected together and compiled after his death in France, in 1519.
These historic pages are a captivating window into the personal thoughts of one of the most brilliant minds of the 15th Century.
Astronomy, mechanics, designs and architectural sketches can all be found in Da Vinci’s notebooks, an incredible testament to a world-renowned genius and the longstanding art of journaling.
Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks can be read via the British library.
2. Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein is widely regarded as one the greatest physicists of all time, and undoubtedly best known for developing the theory of relativity.
Einstein had a brilliant and busy mind, which required him to capture a vast amount of his thoughts and ideas on paper, allowing him to dive deeper into the detail of his scientific theories.
Thousands of Journal pages were captured by Albert Einstein throughout his life, not only on his ground-breaking works as a theoretical physicist, but also more personal Journal entries in a series of travel Journals.
Einstein was awarded the Nobel prize in physics in 1921, and over a Century later his diary entries provide us with a great way to step inside the amazing mind of one of the most famous men to have ever lived.
3. Mark Twain
One of the most famous writers in American history, Mark Twain (real name Samuel Langhorne Clemens) is celebrated for having written numerous famous novels, including ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ and ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’.
With writing forming the backbone of Twain’s professional life, it is perhaps unsurprising that Mark Twain also kept personal pocket notebooks, packed with his thoughts on politics, religion and many other daily musings.
Twain kept over 50 of these private Journals throughout his life, which capture the memories and personal information of his time.
Mark Twain’s numerous notebooks can be sifted through and enjoyed here.
4. Marie Curie
Marie Curie is affectionately referred to as ‘The Mother of Modern Physics’.
She lived from 1867 – 1934 and was the first ever woman to win a Nobel Prize, in 1903 for Physics. Curie later went on to win a second Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911!
She is potentially one of the most famous people who kept a Journal.
Curie made numerous Journal entries and writings around her pioneering work on radioactivity and due to the nature of her research, Marie Curie’s own life was sadly impacted with poor health.
Due to the nature of Curie’s work on radioactivity, her notebooks are to this day, stored at the Bibliotheque Nationale in led-lined boxes to protect the public from potential dangers when they are viewed.
5. Barack Obama
Barack Obama is a more modern example of how people in positions of power clarify their thoughts.
Elected as the 44th President of the United States in 2008, he was the first ever African American to hold the office, without doubt making him one of the most notable people of the 21st Century.
Obama’s journey was a difficult one and he would often share ideas and capture visions through a continuous habit of self-reflection and Journaling.
He kept Journals before and during his time in the White House, offering him clarity of thought and focus.
“In my life, writing has been an important exercise to clarify what I believe, what I see, what I care about, what my deepest values are.” – Barack Obama.
6. Anne Frank
This is possibly one of the most heart-felt and somber, famous diary collections of our time.
Anne Frank spent 761 days hiding from the Nazis in a secret room of a house in Holland, until she was eventually captured.
Anne started her Journal entries on her 13th birthday, stating that she hoped that she would be able to entrust everything to her diary and that it would be a great support.
Frank’s diary is marked with humor, insight and sadness before her final entry was made on 1st August 1944, just three days before she was captured and shipped off to Jewish concentration camps.
Anne died of Typhus in a German concentration camp in February 1945.
Anne Frank’s diary was an instant best-seller and translated to over 70 languages.
7. Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill was the British Prime Minister during World War II, captivating a nation with his famous speeches and later in life turning to professional writing and painting.
Churchill kept notes and ideas daily in the form of Journal writing, helping him navigate the incredibly hard times he would face during the war.
Later he would use the daily thoughts from his personal Journal to create books on his time as Prime Minister.
8. Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway was an American novelist and short story writer who developed a famous reputation for his use of pocket notebooks.
Hemingway kept a Journal from as young as 9 years old, where he took his first steps as a famous writer.
His early entries were of his favorite authors and sports, concluding the Journal entry with “I intend to travel and write”, a great example of the power held in capturing our goals on paper.
He was quoted as saying, “I belong to this notebook and this pencil” which captures the sheer love he had for his Journal entries throughout his life, as he went on to become one of the most famous writers of the 20th Century.
9. Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, who helped draft the Declaration of Independence and was one of its signers.
Many modern Journalists focus on positive affirmations and inspiration, but Franklin’s Journal use was for quite the opposite.
He would list all of his wrong doings and moral failings and opposite this list, he would write the actions he had taken to make up for them.
Among his famous writings, Franklin captured ‘The Thirteen Necessary Virtues’:
Benjamin Franklin’s papers are available online here.
10. Lewis and Clark
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were explorers who were tasked by then President Thomas Jefferson, to map the land received in the Louisiana purchase – one of the most historical events in United States history.
They set out on the 31st of August 1803 and were instructed by Jefferson to keep field Journals of their voyage.
These Journals were a vital, yet simple way for the voyagers to keep records and map the land on their journey.
Their entries detailed practical routes across the country, along with records of plant and animal life and notes of any trading that took place with Native American Tribes.
The pair returned on the 25th of September 1806 with a total of 18 Journals that were passed back to the American Presidency.
A fascinating example of how Journaling can be a powerful tool.
11. Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin was an English geologist and biologist, famous for his publications and theory of evolution.
Darwin set off on HMS beagle in 1831 on what was supposed to be a two year expedition, but instead lasted nearly five.
He spent his time exploring on land, keeping a vivid record of his travels, along with scientific field Journals, detailing his findings in geology, biology and anthropology.
Biologist Charles Darwin realized the power of his Journal records and used them to compile Voyage of the Beagle in 1839.
Writing For Immortality
Keeping personal diaries is a great habit for achieving goals, clearing your mind and developing your ideas, all leading to our personal growth.
Many of these famous people who kept a Journal, could not possibly have known the impact their personal documents would have later in life, or long after their death.
It is impossible to know what impact our actions will have over the course of time.
So regardless of how famous you may become down the line, you are already set to benefit from keeping a physical Journal.
And who knows, maybe one day it will be your Journal on display at the National museum!