Design thinking
3 min read

The 5 Most Famous Desks in the World

What does it look like to be at the top? We’re speaking literally, have you ever wanted to take a look at the workspace of some of the greats? We sure have! And, you might be surprised at what you see. One thing is for certain famous desks can certainly tell you a lot about a person. Read on to take a look at five of the greats.

1. Albert Einstein

“Albert Einstein desk” by samlevin is licensed under CC BY 2.0
There is definitely something to be said about a good old-fashioned messy desk. Take a look at Albert Einstein’s. Throughout his career there have been numerous snap shots like the one above showing piles of paper, countless books and of course a chalk board full of equations. In fact, life photographer Ralph Morse took a similar photo the day that Einstein died.
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2. Thomas Edison

“Edisons desk” by Vilseskogen is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

You’re looking at Thomas Edison’s desk. This picture shows the intricate details of the roll-top style with lots of nooks and crannies. According to, “Edison’s office also doubled as the complex’s main research library, and a place where the famous inventor could show off many of his trophies and other prized memorabilia.”

3. Walt Disney

Walt Disney worked in his office from 1940 until 1966 when he died. Back in 2015, Disney decided to renovate the space he previously occupied back to its original appearance. You can check out an entire article on the revival here. According to that article Disney’s furniture was designed “in a Streamline Moderne style by industrial designer and architect, Kem Weber, who was the supervising designer of the original animation building, along with several of the original studio lot buildings.” Some of the other highlights of his office include a huge display case for awards including the 1937 Oscar for Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, a great collection of miniature figurines, pencil drawings by Norman Rockwell, a giant bell that was given to Disney by the Coast Guard.

4. Ernest Hemingway

“Ernest Hemmingways Cuba Home” by izahorsky is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Ernest Hemingway was a fan of the standing desk. In a 1958 Paris Review article on Hemingway’s home office is described in great detail. One paragraph reading, “It is on the top of one of these cluttered bookcases—the one against the wall by the east window and three feet or so from his bed—that Hemingway has his “work-desk”—a square foot of cramped area hemmed in by books on one side and on the other by a newspaper-covered heap of papers, manuscripts, and pamphlets. There is just enough space left on top of the bookcase for a typewriter, surmounted by a wooden reading-board, five or six pencils, and a chunk of copper ore to weight down papers when the wind blows in from the east window.”

5. Stephen Hawking

“Scarfing Dr Stephen Hawking” for the Portland Timbers by Brett Bigham is licensed under CC-BY-SA-4.0
Stephen Hawking’s daughter has been quoted saying that her father’s famous Cambridge University desk should be preserved as a teaching tool. In some pictures you can see great detail of what was in his office including all sorts of trinkets including a plastic figurine with a helicopter on top. The blog noting one item in particular that stands out, “It’s the little crystal globe with a quote by Saint-Exupery that sums up the struggle and strife of any theoretical physicist: ‘What is essential is invisible to the eye.” Also, notable, Hawking’s office is full of pictures and lots and lots of books.

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Stefania Vatidis

Stefania Vatidis

Last updated January 13, 2021