6 Famous People in History Who Write a Journal

famous journal keepers

The act of journaling dates back when famous men in history wrote down their daily thoughts, musings, and insights in a diary or journal. Research shows that there are many benefits to keeping a journal. Even more, there are many famous journal keepers who acknowledged and accepted writing everything down as a way to improve. Some journaling benefits include having better organization, treating depression, improving memory, and offering a platform where one can transfer their thoughts and feelings into a paper.

It is also helpful in keeping track of places you have visited, along with your travel adventures. It is because of such benefits that journaling is considered a good exercise that makes better leaders. In fact, it is no surprise that even the most famous visionaries like Albert Einstein kept a journal.

If you wonder which famous journal keepers used this method in the past, below is a list of historically relevant entities who benefited from this practice.

6 Famous Journal Keepers through History
  • Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein is one of the most famous journal keepers of his day. Einstein, who wrote notes from 1921-1933, offers insights into his travel experience in places like the United States, Japan, and Israel. For the next decades of his life, he filled notebooks with musings on lecture notes, popular writings, and drafts.

Today, the notebooks are located at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, established in 1925. Also, you can inspect over 5000 documents of Einstein’s papers online.

  • Mark Twain

Mark Twain, also known as Sam Clemens, purchased his first journal in 1857 at the age of 21. His love for pocket notebooks began when he was training to become a steamboat pilot in Mississippi river. All these began when he could not remember his teacher’s instructions. His teacher, Horace Bixby, then advised him to note down what he learned. This led to a long-time relationship with notebooks.

Other than Bixby instructions, Twain also filled 40-50 notebooks with a variety of topics. Such were matters of politics, religion, personal life, jokes, people, sketches, inventions, and more. Each page in the journal had a tab. Once he had filled out each page, he would tear the tab.

In 1961, 12000 letters and 600 unpublished literary manuscripts ended up in the Bancroft Library in California.

  • Charles Darwin

While sailing for five years as a naturalist, Charles became one of the most famous journal keepers. His journals, marked with alphabets, contained his observations, as well as personal thoughts of family, friends, and financial information. About 15 of his notebooks contained observations on archaeology, zoology, temperature, barometer readings, maps, and sketches.

The notebooks helped him become better in his field as a naturalist. He was able to record books he wanted to read. He also had a clear idea on things to research further. The notebooks also greatly contributed to Darwin’s theory on the transformation of species.

  • Benjamin Franklin

When it comes to famous journal keepers, some started the practice quite young. At only 20, Benjamin Franklin introduced pocket notes to help him accomplish his goal of moral perfection. This included adhering to his goal of personal improvement program that contained living 13 virtues. His main goal was to live a life free of vice.

Hence, in his notebook, he came up with 13 charts consisting of a column for each day of the week. The charts also had 13 rows, marked with the first letters of the 13 virtues. At the end of the day, he would evaluate himself by placing a dot at the virtue he violated. The purpose was to minimize the number of marks.

Although the project did not enable him to achieve moral perfection, at the age of 79 years, Ben admits that thanks to journaling, he became a better man. “I am indebted to my notebook for the happiness of my whole life,’’ he said.

  • George S. Patton

While in his freshman year at West Point, Patton struggled with mathematics because he was suffering from dyslexia. In 1905, he decided to go back to school with the mindset of success. This is when his habit of pocket notebook began. He purchased a small black leather notebook to record principles that would guide him towards achieving his goal.

He also used the notebook to write down the daily happenings, leadership ideas, as well as love poetry. As he was pursuing his military career in 1921, Patton started recording his thoughts on everything. This included ar strategies and the attributes of successful soldiers, too.

Despite being an accomplished World War II leader, General Patton also made political errors, thus causing controversies. It was during such moments that he wrote in his pocket notebook.

  • Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway was so passionate about his pocket notebook that he one day declared, “I belong to this notebook and pencil.” Hemingway made his first notebook in 1908 when he was in elementary school. Since then, he kept notebooks to record all of his travel adventures. Being a keen observer, he would pen down story ideas as he sat down in the cafes of Paris.

He would also extensively write notes when he was on the bus, train, or bullfight. And just like the other famous journal keepers, he used to write down a list of things to bring from his travel, as well as his expenses. What’s more, he used the notebook to keep track of the menstrual cycles of his first wife. Unfortunately, he committed suicide at the age of 61 after battling alcoholism and mental illness.


The famous act of journaling has had many benefits to the lives of the famous journal keepers listed above. According to people who journal, the act of writing down your daily musings and thoughts is good for the memory and helps to recollect events that would have otherwise been lost. The journaling benefits cannot be emphasized enough.

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