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Standing desks are incredibly popular today. They’re replacing the traditional office desks in all workplaces across the US and other parts of the world.
The catch? They offer multiple health benefits and help fight excessive sitting, which has been shown to cause serious health issues like diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and early death.
But have you ever paused and wondered who came up with the idea of these adjustable desks? What inspired his ideas? Or what did the first model look like?
Below, we dig deeper into the history of standing desks, from the first model ever to the modern standing desk as we know it, and some famous users of these desks.
Who invented the standup desk?
The standing desk was invented by Max Banfield, an Australian desk worker. He is credited with inventing the first standing computer desk known today. He published all his work in his book “The Posture Theory.”
He concluded that the cause of undetectable illness in office workers resulted from the workers leaning toward their desks all day, compressing everything in the abdomen and the chest.
However, it’s unclear who invented the first-ever standing computer desk or the exact time the first desk was ever used. But one thing we know is that the use of this type of workstation started many, many years ago, around 1400.
Around the 18th and 19th centuries, a standing desk was a status symbol and became more common than seated desks. They would mostly be found in the homes and offices of the rich people.
The rise of these desks being used around this period may have been influenced by the advice given by Job Orton, a Presbyterian minister, in 1797.
This is what he stated:
“A sedentary life may be injurious. It must therefore be your resolute care to keep your body as upright as possible when you read and write; never stoop your head nor bend your breast. To prevent this, you should get a standing desk.”
Following this statement, the standing workstation got its first public health recommendation.
Around the same time Job Orton released this statement, a Swiss physician named Samuel-Auguste Tissot wrote that sitting all day at your desk led to health risks such as hemorrhoids, poor circulation, and bad posture.
Fast forward to modern times, standing desks has become more popular than ever before.
This is mainly due to many studies linking sitting all day to serious health risks like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. You’ll even find these desks at Google, Facebook, and even Apple Computer Company in Silicon Valley!
Since the number of Americans who sit while working has increased to around 80% in recent years, a sedentary lifestyle is rife in the US. It has been recognized to be more lethal than smoking.
It’s, therefore, a wise decision to get a stand-up desk if you spend pronged periods sitting. The best standing desk will help you fight this sitting disease while enjoying the physical and physiological benefits it offers.
Who are some famous standing desk users?
Da Vinci. Thomas Jefferson. Sir Winston Churchill. Ernest Hemingway. These are some famous figures from the past who have used standing desks.
This section gives you a snapshot of important people who have benefited from standing desks in the past and made significant success in their respective areas.
Leonardo Da Vinci
Although we mentioned that the investor of these desks is not known and the exact time they started being used isn’t known, the famous painter is probably one of the earliest known users of this desk.
There’s no known record of the painter attributing the use of standing worktops to his success.
But his finished products are, no doubt, living proof!
He even painted Mona Lisa (his most popular painting) while standing on an easel.
Not just that, this painter was also standing at his desk when he sketched new inventions such as parachutes, armored vehicles, and flying machines.
The 3rd president of the USA and one of our nation’s founding fathers, is no stranger to standing desks. This makes one of the most prominent people in America have used these desks long before.
From the period of writing the declaration of independence to serve as the 3rd chief of state, Jefferson found time to order a height-adjustable desk from the famous Williamsburg cabinetmaker.
He requested that his “tall desk” be made with up to six legs to help boost its stability.
This yellow pine and mahogany desk had a flat-lined writing surface that he used for drawing and reading. Its height would be adjustable with the help of a ratchet stand.
It is said that most of his famous writings occurred while he worked at this desk. This includes penning down one of the most important documents in the history of humanity.
Perhaps, he should’ve patented creating the first-ever adjustable height workstation?
The famous novelist and a Nobel Prize winner also had a thing for standing workplaces. In his interview published in Paris Review, the interview explains that he (Hemingway) stands when he writes.
He describes that he stands in a pair of oversized loafers on worn skin of Lesser kudu, with his typewriter and reading board chest height opposite him.
Hemingway even said that he likes standing up while working to help reduce old belly and because you’ve got more vitality on your feet.
He posed the question, “Whoever went ten rounds sitting on his ass?”
Legend has it that Hemingway started standing while working due to a minor leg injury in WWI. It is also said that he learned about this standup workstation from one of his editors.
Donald Henry Rumsfeld was an American secretary of defense who served between 1975 and 1977. He said that Thomas Jefferson’s height adjustable standing desk still lies in the State Department.
He decided to carry on with Jefferson’s legacy of standing workplaces by working without an office chair in his office.
After he heard that terrorism detainees were standing for up to 4 hours, he responded by saying that he stood 8-10 hours a day and wondered why standing would be limited to only 4 hours.
A spokeswoman confirms that Donald Rumsfeld would stand all day long, except when he was having lunch with other people.
Other famous people who used standing desks:
- Stan Lee: a photo from the 1950s, the Marvel Comics creator, shows him standing at his desk in his garden. It has a caption: “Always wrote standing up – good for the figure – and always faced the sun – good for the suntan!”
- Otto von Bismarck: Yes, the Prussia’s Minister-President was also a fan of stand-up desks. His case is unique because he never preferred working while sitting. Instead, he’d stand or lie but not sit. It is said that Bismarck would be at his standing desk by 5.
- Cambridge University: Standing worktops also found their way into the Cambridge university library in 1826. This shows that this furniture was also used as a school desk back then.
- Napoléon Bonaparte: In the 18th century, France’s Napoleon found using a stand-up desk worked magic in heightening his quick thinking. It gave him an edge while working through his battle strategies.
- Tim Cook: he’s credited with coining the phrase “sitting is new cancer,” which clearly indicates that he never spent his time in an office chair while working.
- Virginia Woolf: Queen Bell, Virginia Woolf’s nephew, and biographer, explains that Woolf had a desk that stood around 3ft. 6 inches high and featured a sloping top. “It was so high that she had to stand to do her work.”
Other notable figures who stood while working include Charles Dickens, Rita Dove, Friedrich Nietchze, and Søren Kierkegaard.
Also read: Standing desk dimensions – What Size is right for you?
If you think that standing workstations are a recent invention, you’re absolutely wrong! Folks started working while standing back in the 1400s.
It’s not clear who made the standing desk method from those many years ago. But the first computer standing desk we know today was invented by Max Banfield of Australia.
Standing desks became more popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were mainly available in the homes and offices of the rich.