The first life logger

The moment a journalist calls Samuel Pepys “the world’s first blogger” is about the first moment I roll my eyes. But in the same vein of shallow scrabbling for a glittering phrase maybe Gerolamo Cardano was the world’s first life logger.

Hmm, “life logger” is a bit too specific, as it seems to refer to people recording their lives with wearable apparatus, but I’m not sure what the more general noun is for people who record many aspects of their lives. Anyway, I’m reading Theodore Zeldin’s An Intimate History of Humanity at the moment, which isn’t entirely whelming me so far, but did include this passage:

Just how different individuals are from each other was demonstrated by a physician, Girolamo Cardano (1501-76), who wrote both an autobiography to show it in his own case, and large scientific works to apply the idea to the whole of nature. Studying himself as though he was his own patient, he examined all his peculiarities, physical and mental, in minute detail. He recorded all his ailments, his haemorrhoids, the exact amount of urine he produced each day, his troubles with his genitals, “so that from my twenty-first to my thirty-first year I was unable to lie with women”. “I have fourteen good teeth and one which is rather weak.” He explained what his precise tastes were at each meal, “my manner of walking and thinking: because I think as I walk, my gait is uneven; how I walk depends on how I feel”. He described the odd shape of his feet, “so that I can scarcely find shoes”. He was careful to include a chapter on “Things in which I have failed”. Minute details, for him, made all the difference in life and he thought they ought to be “analysed into their infinitely minute components”.

All of which endears me to the chap. Never mind all the other impressive things he achieved and invented. He wrote encyclopedias, invented the combination lock and earned a living from gambling? Yes, yes, whatever: he recorded how much he pissed every day!

I’d like to know more about what he recorded but a quick search online, the only form of research one is required to perform since the late nineties, reveals little. I’d probably have to plod through his entire biography to find out more, far too much like hard work. Although a search SEARCH INSIDE the book on Amazon reveals only seven mentions of “urine” so it’s possible he either had olympian bladder control or Mr Zeldin is exaggerating a little.

Despite Pepys managing to write a diary every day for nearly a decade, his only claim to being a life logger or quantified self or, shall we say, anal self-obsessed geek is recording his monetary worth at the end of every month. Not quite in the same league.

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Tuesday 2 September 2008, 4:28pm

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2 Sep 2008 at Twitter

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