The Longest and Most Bizarre Diary in the World

Robert Shields wrote his diary on several typewriters.

Robert Shields is the author of what is assumed to be the world's longest diary. It may also have the most words with an estimated 37 million of them. He kept this diary for roughly 25 years, writing in it every five minutes. There is nothing bizarre about the fact that this man kept a diary, though his diligence was rather strange. There is also nothing seedy, lurid or horrible in the diary. However, the contents of the diary are what make this diary so bizarre.

Every five minutes, for 25 years, Robert Shields wrote down everything he did, seriously, everything. He wrote about his shopping, his mail, his health and even about using the toilet. He kept track of his temperature, his blood pressure and even taped such strange things as nose hair into the diary. Slowly, but surely, his diary became what is very probably a very boring, very long tome. He thought, perhaps narcissistically, that his diary would somehow be useful to scientists. More on that in a minute.

Robert Shields started his diary in 1972. Ten years before his death in October of 2007, he was forced to stop by a stroke. For a while, he convinced his long-suffering wife to continue the odd habit for him. She kindly complied, but tired of it quickly. Spouses get enough of their significant others without having to write about them every five minutes. Seriously, imagine that you have to write about what your spouse is doing every five minutes. That is enough to ruin your marriage. It is bad enough having to watch someone do mundane things without having it then dictated to you while you write it down. Can you say purgatory?

So, back to the nose hair science. A few years before he died, Robert Shields donated his diary to the University of Washington. For some reason, they took it. However, there was a stipulation. The diary cannot be read or the words within counted for 50 years. He commented at one point that scientists in the future may want to do DNA tests on his nose hair. Washington University has received requests from scientists all over the world to be the first to test the nose hair, in case it reveals something about humans that was heretofore unknown. All right, that last bit was sarcasm.