For most people a hobby is a way of passing the time, a facet of their personality that helps shape who they are as a person but is ultimately of little importance to the eventual impact they make on the world. For these 10 people though, their hobby not only defined who they were, but helped change the world. For example, consider…
10. Tolkien’s Hobby Changed Fantasy Forever
The list of things inspired by Lord of the Rings and, to a lesser extent, The Hobbit is so long that it literally has its own Wikipedia page. If you don’t have time to click that link, we’ll summarize by saying that virtually anything you’ve ever seen, heard, or read that features any reference to Orcs, Elves, Halflings, Dragons or Dwarves, was almost certainly inspired in some way, shape, or form by Tolkien’s work, meaning you can thank him for Skyrim, Dungeons and Dragons, World of Warcraft, and this Megadeth song. Speaking of music, dozens of metal bands have cited Tolkien’s work as an influence over the years, meaning along with every piece of fiction ever written about elves, Tolkien is also directly responsible for about 4000 guitar solos. Which is great.
But here’s the thing: Tolkien only wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as a vehicle for his awesomely nerdy hobby of making up languages. Hell, there’s even a quote from Tolkien himself where he basically says that he wrote The Lord of the Rings for no other reason than to “provide a world for the languages” he’d spent years creating so that it didn’t seem like he’d wasted his time making up words. In fact, Tolkien put so little stock in The Lord of the Rings as a serious work of fiction that he almost never published it, being content just to leave it as a story he could tell his grandkids, and was only inspired to finish it because his friend CS Lewis bugged him to. So we guess we should thank him, too, for being able to gut stab orcs in that Shadow of Mordor game.
9. One Guy’s Obsession with Bugs Gave Us Pokemon
Pokémon has had an almost immeasurable impact on pop culture, and the popularity of the series is such that, when an episode of the original anime literally caused kids to have a bunch of seizures, causing it to be temporarily removed from the airwaves, fans in Japan gathered in the country’s major cities and solemnly sang the show’s theme song because they were that worried it was going to be cancelled forever. And you know a show is popular when fans shrug off the fact an episode nearly killed a dozen of their peers. Weirdly, though, the franchise may never have existed if it wasn’t for one guy’s hobby of collecting bugs.
That guy was one Satoshi Tajiri, the creative mind behind the entire concept of Pokémon, and a man responsible for more fractured childhood friendships than yo-yo injuries and girls we liked. As a child Tajiri was obsessed with collecting insects to the point his childhood nickname was, get this, Dr. Bug. Along with collecting bugs, Tajiri would catalogue them and even trade them with his friends in an effort to, for lack of a better phrase, catch ‘em all. Tajiri found this hobby so satisfying and enjoyable that he endeavored to create a video game that centered around a similar concept, eventually molding this idea into the Pokémon series we all know and argue about today.
8. Disneyland was Inspired by Walt’s Miniatures Hobby
For a guy with a creepy looking mustache who was obsessed with princesses and anthropomorphic mice, Walt Disney was a terrifyingly powerful man, as evidenced by the fact the company bearing his name can technically tell Darth Vader what to do. The foothold of the Disney empire is arguably located in Disneyland, where Walt’s hobby of collecting miniatures helped enthrall a generation of children into buying enough of his company’s merchandise to buy out Iron Man.
Unsurprisingly for a man who used to measure how many steps people took before throwing their garbage on the floor as they walked around Disneyland, Walt Disney was a guy with a bunch of weird hobbies. One of the weirdest was his apparent obsession with tiny versions of things. According to those who knew him best, Disney would spend hours playing with miniature figurines, creating elaborate scenes and dioramas for his own amusement, and spending hundreds of his own dollars to expand his (ironically) ever-shrinking collection.
While this isn’t the only factor known to have influenced Walt’s eventual decision to create Disneyland, his hobby of collecting miniatures and, more specifically, creating magical worlds for people to explore is largely noted to have been one of the things that “ultimately led to its creation.”
7. Bo Jackson’s Pro Football Career was Basically a Hobby
Bo Jackson is widely regarded as one of the finest athletes of all-time, in part because he’s one of only a handful of people to become an All-Star in two sports (baseball and football), but mostly because his physical accomplishments are freaking insane. Able to run the 100 meter dash in just over 10 seconds, leap 20 feet through the air, and throw a rock hard enough to straight up kill a pig, Jackson was always destined for greatness as an athlete. However, the true extent of his skills may never have been known if he never decided to join the NFL, basically as a hobby.
When Jackson joined the LA Raiders in 1987, he did so almost purely because he was bored and wanted something to do during the baseball offseason. Obviously, he’d been a Heisman Trophy-winning football player in college a few years earlier, but baseball was his real passion. As a result of this off the cuff decision to dominate the NFL in his spare time, the true extent of Jackson’s natural ability and his sheer natural athleticism became apparent, leading to one of the most popular advertising campaigns of all-time, and this TV spot for an episode of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
6. Roget’s Obsession with Words Led to the Thesaurus
The thesaurus, for anyone who’s never right-clicked a word and searched for a smarter-sounding synonym while writing an essay, is one of the most influential pieces of literature ever created, next to the dictionary and possibly the Harry Potter series. The first thesaurus, unimaginatively titled, Dr Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases classified and arranged to facilitate the Expression of Ideas and assist in Literary Composition was only created, though, because its author, Peter Roget, had a quirky hobby of cataloguing words.
This hobby was of such interest to Roget that he eventually spent three years of his retirement logging the different meanings of every word he could think of, culminating in the release of the thesaurus in 1952. It’s become a book so popular it has quite literally never been out of print since the first time it was published. Suck on that, JK Rowling.
5. A Toy Inspired the Wright Brothers to Achieve Flight
The Wright brothers are the reason we have powered flight, which means they’re also the reason we can do barrel rolls in 747s in Microsoft Flight Simulator as well as some other stuff that’s probably important. While the list of things that inspired the Wright brothers is probably, like, a thousand things long, there’s one thing above all that inspired them as children: a small toy helicopter.
Both Wilbur and Orville loved this stupid toy helicopter so much they played with it until it broke, prompting them to try and build their own version of the toy, which they of course did because we’re talking about the guys who invented the airplane. Orville would later state in interviews that this toy is what “sparked their interest in flight.”
4. Roosevelt’s Love of Reading Made Him a Great President
Listing the reasons the public loved Teddy Roosevelt is like listing the things a 10 year old boy wants to be when he grows up. He was a judo black belt, sheriff, cowboy, and explorer who personally shot half the animals in the Smithsonian. However, what endeared him to the politicians and big-wigs who sponsored his presidency was his eloquence and ability to speak knowledgeably about, well, everything. Anecdotes from those who knew Roosevelt speak of him being able to effortlessly converse with friends and strangers about everything from poetry to natural history with the kind of authority you’d expect from an expert on the subject, or Kelsey Grammer’s character from Frasier.
Roosevelt’s seemingly superhuman ability to retain knowledge is said to have stemmed from his time as a child. More specifically, all the time he spent cooped up in bed with nothing to do but read. You see, Roosevelt was a very sickly child who was frequently bedridden by illness, and as a result, he spent much of his time reading because the Gameboy hadn’t been invented yet. Reading would eventually became a lifelong passion of the pre-pubescent president to the point he was known to read three books every day of his adult life. This vast repository of brain knowledge unquestionably helped Roosevelt’s political career, as it allowed him to charm virtually anyone, from any background, by being able to speak with them about any interest they happened to hold.
3. Lemmy’s Obsession with Nazis Shaped his Worldview
Lemmy, former frontman of the heavy metal band Motörhead and current corpse, is a man about whom it is impossible to overstate how much ass he kicked. He was a hard-drinking, hard-partying, grizzled veteran of rock and roll who drank a bottle of whiskey every day for 30 years and reportedly slept with over 2,000 women. He was a mainstay of metal who inspired everyone from Guns N’ Roses to Metallica, who were such big fans of Lemmy that they once dressed up as him and played the song, Overkill, for his 50th birthday.
One of the things that made Lemmy such a legend within the rock and roll community was his irreverent wit and nonchalant, accepting attitude towards his own mortality, once being quoted as saying:
“Death is an inevitability, isn’t it? You become more aware of that when you get to my age. I don’t worry about it. I’m ready for it. When I go, I want to go doing what I do best. If I died tomorrow, I couldn’t complain. It’s been good.”
This blasé approach to life was apparently inspired by Lemmy’s obsession with Nazi paraphernalia, of which he was an avid collector. Along with collecting Nazi memorabilia, Lemmy was well versed in the history surrounding it, which shaped his anarchist world view and inspired much of his inimitable straight-talking advice. For anyone curious about why Lemmy collected Nazi memorbillia, according to the man himself, he simply liked the way it looked, saying:
A quote we very grudgingly censor, because we’re pretty sure censoring a Lemmy quote is, like, a crime or something.
2. Linus Tolvard Created Linux Out of Boredom
Linux is the operating system Wikipedia assures us about 1% of the people reading this currently have installed on their computer. In essence, Linux is an open source operating system similar in function to Windows and OS X, only better because you don’t have to pay for it. While not widely known amongst casual PC and laptop users, Linux’s ultra-streamlined and highly customizable nature has helped it become virtually the only operating system used in supercomputers, which, judging by the name, are way better than the computers most of us are reading this on.
Peculiarly, though, the only reason Linux even exists is because the original creator, Linus Tolvard, was bored and decided to make the operating system just to see if he could, describing the whole thing as “just a hobby,” adding that it wouldn’t be “big and professional.” A statement that’s kind of hilarious in retrospect, considering the operating system has been classified as being, quite literally, “the fastest of the fast operating systems” by the people making the computers that can calculate pi to a trillion places, and a lot of other really smart sounding stuff.
1. Amateur Astronomers Have Mapped Much of Our Galaxy
Given that the universe is infinite, there are technically an infinite number of things to learn about it, meaning there’s enough out there for any dumbass with a telescope or camera with a zoom lens to discover something. And boy, you had better believe that throughout history there have been a lot of dumbasses who’ve done exactly that.
The list of things in our universe discovered by “amateur astronomers” who considered what they were doing to be little more than a hobby is actually quite humbling, and includes things like comets, stars, and supernovas, as well as advances in telescope technology that have allowed ordinary people to see into God’s toilet, if they want to. The impact amateur astronomers have had on the field is so notable that there are even awards for amateurs to encourage them to keep looking to the stars and doing NASA’s job for them. Which we think is a lovely thought to end on. There are people out there taking pictures of the sky with big-ass cameras, who have accidentally discovered more about the universe than the people we pay to do it. Sort of like that episode of The Simpsons where Bart discovers a comet.