This picture of Albert Einstein's desk was taken on April 18, 1955 ”” just a few hours after the great physicist died.
The desk is disheveled and unorganized ”” similar to Einstein's own outward appearance ”” but the chalkboard is covered in equations that attempt to explain the mysteries of the universe, revealing that which Einstein truly cared about in his life.
By observing the workspaces of geniuses, we're given a glimpse into their everyday surroundings, and can perhaps gain some insight into what makes them tick. So, where did other influential people do their world-changing work?
The Emily Dickinson Museum features two historic houses in Amherst, Massachusetts. One of them is The Homestead, and it houses the bedroom where she wrote almost 1,800 poems. The museum completed its restoration of this historically significant bedroom in August of 2015. The room is bright with natural light, cheerful wallpaper and simple furniture. It's easy to imagine the poet sitting at her humble writing table, writing about how the sun rose.
George Washington Carver's workplace was primarily in a lab at Tuskegee Institute (now known as Tuskegee University). While teaching agriculture there, Carver also did a number of experiments to find additional uses for common crops like peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes. He discovered hundreds of uses for these crops, including mayonnaise, mock oysters, laundry soap and substitute asparagus!
Marie and Pierre Curie performed their first experiments with polonium and radium in a "hangar" at the school of industrial chemistry and physics. Shortly thereafter, the University of Paris and Institut Pasteur decided to build a lab specifically for the Curies just a few streets away. It was called the Institut du Radium, and was divided into two main parts: the Curie lab and the Pasteur lab. It was in this lab that Marie devoted her life to physics and chemistry research. It was also here that Frédéric and Iréne Joliot-Curie discovered artificial radioactivity in January 1934.
Bletchley Park was the workplace of some of the world's greatest codebreakers. Chief among them was Alan Turing, who created the Bombe ”” an electro-mechanical codebreaking machine responsible for cracking the Enigma codes used during WWII. This picture features Alan Turing's office in Hut 8 of Bletchley Park. If you look closely, you can see a coffee mug chained to the radiator. Turing put it there after becoming frustrated with people borrowing it without asking.
Jane Austen's sloped writing desk is currently on display at the British Library. It remained hidden for years until 1999, when the great-granddaughter of Jane Austen's biographer donated it to the Library. The writing surface is embossed in leather, and the box itself features compartments for storing paper, pens, ink, stamps and sealing wax.
In 1875, Thomas Edison purchased 34 acres of land in Menlo Park. In 1876, Edison moved his operations into the large lab on the property that his father had built. It was in this historic lab ”” the first research and development lab of its kind ”” that Edison invented the phonograph. Visitors came from all around the world to Menlo Park to see Edison's invention in action. While working at this "Invention Factory," Edison applied for approximately 400 patents. Today you can see the reconstructed lab in Greenfield Village, part of the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
In 1945, after years of negotiations with the local Catholic Diocese, Georgia O'Keeffe purchased a traditional adobe home in Abiquiu, New Mexico. The house is filled with natural light and surrounded by the beautiful landscapes that are so often reflected in her work.
Roald Dahl is one of the most beloved children's authors of all time. Many of his magical stories were written inside a small garden shed which he called his Writing Hut. He sat in an old wingback chair that had previously belonged to his mother with a green writing board placed across his lap. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, children were not allowed in the hut, although there is a replica hut at the Roald Dahl Museum ”” as well as a replica of his favorite chair!
Scientists do their work in labs and authors at their desks, but Julia Child's workplace was, of course, a kitchen. In 2001, Julia donated the kitchen from her Cambridge, Massachusetts home to the Smithsonian Institution. It features poles on the ceiling which held the TV lights that were used during show tapings in the '90s. The kitchen also contains the tools that Julia used from the 1940s through the early 2000s.
Long before "tiny houses" became a fad, author and philosopher Henry David Thoreau moved into a tiny cabin near Walden Pond in Massachusetts. Although the original cabin (built in 1845) no longer exists, a recreation of the small living space was built near the original site. It was during his two year, two month and two day stay in this small cabin that Thoreau wrote Walden, or Life in the Woods.
The three Brontà« sisters wrote many of their classic books while sitting at the table pictured above. The table, which is on display at the Brontà« family's home in Yorkshire, features ink blots, a large candle burn and a small letter "E" carved into its surface.
The Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut is the site of what Twain would call the happiest and most productive years of his life. The entire top floor of the three-story house was reserved for Twain and his gentlemen friends only ”” no one else was permitted except for cleaning staff. It was in this mansion that he penned both The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. When he wasn't writing, he entertained his friends with games of billiards, whisky and cigars.
Virginia Woolf and her husband lived in a cottage in England called Monk's House. In the garden, Woolf had a hidden retreat known as her writing lodge where she did a lot of her work. Woolf's desk is covered in many scratches and stains, which is apparently because she often spilled drinks all over her working surface. Woolf spent at least three hours each day in the writing lodge, even sleeping inside it on nice summer evenings.
Charles and Ray Eames are some of the most important designers of the 20th century, and their home office has become something of a Mecca for people interested in architecture and design. It is located inside the Pacific Palisades, California house which they designed and built themselves in 1949. The walls of the office are covered in inspirational materials which no doubt led to many of the couple's groundbreaking designs.