The Incredible History of Standing Desk

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The ergonomic office furniture has been a hot trend in the recent years as the studies show that sitting for a long period of time can result in many health problems, including cervical vertebra disease, obesity, heart disease and even premature death. However, the history of standing desk may surprise you.

Leonardo Da Vinci

Tracing back to the early 1400s, the standing desks have already made a historical mark. It is said that the leading figure of the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci who is well known for his masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, painted while using the standing desk. Furthermore, many of his great ideas like the flying machines and the armored vehicles were also came up while using the standing desk.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Moving to the 1700s, the benefits of using standing desk while working were spread to France, where the emperor Napoleon Bonaparte started to using it while mapping tactics. It helped him to think and strategize quicker for the battle.

Thomas Jefferson

Still, in the 1700s, the American Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, who was the third president of the USA and the author of the Declaration of Independence, is perhaps the first famous user of the standing desk in the United States. It is said that he used the “tall desk” [1] with six legs and adjustable angles of the desktop which ordered from the Williamsburg cabinetmaker George Donald to draw up brilliant architectural blueprints.

Charles Dickens

Moving to the 18th century, the author Charles Dickens was also in favor of standing desk. The 19th-century novelist Elizabeth Gaskell described him as “…books all round, up to the ceiling and down to the ground; a standing desk at which he writes; and all manner of comfortable easy chairs.” [3]

Winston Churchill

During the World War II, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was often seen writing at his standing desk, and many world-changing political decisions were drafted at his stand up desk.

Ernest Hemingway

The Nobel Prize winning novelist Ernest Hemingway was probably the best-known standing desk user, he was often seen by using a stand-up desk while writing, especially during his old age [4]. It is said he learned standing desk method from one of his editors. And as he said “Writing and travel broaden your ass if not your mind and I like to write standing up.”

Donald Rumsfeld

In the 1970s, reported by the Washington Post, the former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld also enjoyed standing desk by working without a chair, and he was used to standing for 8 to 10 hours a day as standing helped him feel better while working.

Tim Cook

In modern times, with a lot of studies show that sedentary behavior impacts physical and mental problems, more and more companies or individuals are paying attention to the ergonomic office and investing in the standing desks. Apple CEO Tim Cook who believes sitting is the new cancer recently disclosed a new detail about the workplace in the Apple Park: Everyone gets a standing desk [5]. And he also encouraged the billionaire financier to stand with him.



[1] Tall Desk, Thomas Jefferson Foundation Inc.,
[2] Richard Leiby, Donald Rumsfeld, A Real Stand-Up Guy, Thursday, June 24, 2004; Page C03
[3] Dominic Smith, The Literature of the Standing Desk, The Millions, May 15, 2014,
[4] George Plimpton, Ernest Hemingway, The Art of Fiction No. 21, The Paris Review
Issue 18, Spring 1958
[5] Kif Leswing , All Apple staff now get standing desks as Tim Cook thinks sitting is like cancer, Financial Review, Jun 15 2018 at 8:44 AM,