American First Lady Bess Truman with Girl Scouts and their volunteer leaders

An avocation is an activity that someone engages in as a hobby outside their main occupation. There are many examples of people whose professions were the ways that they made their livings, but for whom their activities outside their workplaces were their true passions in life.[1][2] Occasionally, as with Lord Baden-Powell and others, people who pursue an avocation are more remembered by history for their avocation than for their professional career.

Many times, a person's regular vocation may lead to an avocation. Many forms of humanitarian campaigning, such as work for organizations like Amnesty International and Greenpeace, may be done by people involved in the law or human rights issues as part of their work.[3]

Many people involved with youth work pursue this as an avocation.[4]

People whose avocations were not their vocations


August Wilhelm Ambros
Person Avocation Vocation
Adams, Frederick Luthier Physician
Allen, Woody Jazz musician Filmmaker
Alston, Joseph Cameron Badminton player Federal agent
Ambros, August Wilhelm Musical archaeologist Austrian civil service


Baden-Powell, Robert
Person Avocation Vocation
Baden-Powell, Robert Scouting Military officer
Balzary, Michael Non-profit management Musician
Barr, William Bagpiper Attorney
Benedetto, Anthony Painter Singer
Bennett, William Clarinetist Physicist
Billroth, Theodor Pianist Surgeon
Blades, Rubén Activist Musician
Blom, Gertrude Social anthropologist Journalist
Borodin, Alexander Composer Chemist
Brontë, Charlotte Author Governess
Butchart, Harvey Grand Canyon explorer Mathematics professor


Person Avocation Vocation
Carpenter, Charles Naturalist Minister
Chekhov, Anton Writer, playwright Physician
Copeland, Johnny Boxer Blues guitarist
Copernicus, Nicolaus Astronomer Roman Catholic cleric
Cervantes, Miguel Writer Marine


Olivia d'Abo
Person Avocation Vocation
d'Abo, Olivia Singer-songwriter Actress
Darger, Henry Author, illustrator Custodian
Derleth, August Naturalist Novelist
Duncan, Watson Actor Professor


Johannes Scotus Eriugena
Person Avocation Vocation
Eriugena, Johannes Scotus Theologian Courtier
Ekimyan, Alexey Composer Senior police official


Veronica Franco
Person Avocation Vocation
Fermat, Pierre de Mathematician Lawyer
Foecke, Tim Whittler, wooden toy maker Metallurgist
Franco, Veronica Poet Courtesan
Ford, Harrison Carpenter, pilot Actor
Feynman, Richard[5] Drummer Physicist


J. Paul Getty
Person Avocation Vocation
Getty, J. Paul Art collector Oilman
Gilbert, William Natural philosopher Physician
Goldblum, Jeff Jazz musician Actor
Grahame, Kenneth Writer Bank of England executive


Hilda Hewlett
Person Avocation Vocation
Hass, Rudolph Botany Letter carrier
Hewlett, Hilda Woodwork, metalwork Aviatrice
Hillary, Sir Edmund Mountaineer Beekeeper
Hohlbaum, Robert Writer Librarian
Houston, Charles Mountaineer Physician


Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
Person Avocation Vocation
Ingres, Jean Auguste Dominique Violinist Painter
Ives, Charles Composer Insurance agent


Brian Jacques
Person Avocation Vocation
Jacques, Brian Author Milkman
Jędruch, Jacek Historian Nuclear engineer


Ada Lovelace
Person Avocation Vocation
Kaleeba, Noerine Activist Physiotherapist
Kafka, Franz Writer Insurance assessor
Kent, Corita Artist, printmaker Roman Catholic nun
King, Augusta Ada Mathematician Courtier
Kogan, Richard, M.D. Pianist Psychiatrist
Krakauer, Jon Mountaineer Journalist/writer
Kruger, Barbara Artist Graphic designer


Hedy Lamarr
Person Avocation Vocation
Lamarr, Hedy Inventor Actress
Lehrer, Tom Singer/songwriter Mathematician
Lifton, Robert Jay Cartoonist Psychiatrist
Lluberas, Gerónimo Musician Physician
Luna, James Artist Counselor


Gaston Means
Person Avocation Vocation
Maier, Vivian Photographer Au pair
Means, Gaston Con artist Salesman
Meschian, Arthur Singer & songwriter Architect
Morrison, Toni Author Editor
Moses, Anna Mary Robertson Painter Farmer


Emperor Norton
Person Avocation Vocation
Norton, Joshua A. Eccentric (self-declared "Emperor of these United States") Businessman
Nabokov, Vladimir Lepidopterist Novelist


Ottendorfer, Anna
Person Avocation Vocation
Obici, Amedeo Farmer Businessman
Ottendorfer, Anna Philanthropist Journalist


Michael Alfred Peszke
Person Avocation Vocation
Peszke, Michael Alfred Historian Psychiatrist
Pekar, Harvey Comic book writer File clerk


Person Avocation Vocation
Quirinus of Neuss Missionary Tribune


Jeri Ryan
Person Avocation Vocation
Radi, Akbar Playwright Teacher
Rodriguez, Sixto Folk musician Demolition worker
Roget, Peter Mark Lexicographer Physician
Rousseau, Henri Painter Tax collector
Ryan, Jeri Chef Actress


Shelley, Mary
Person Avocation Vocation
Santos, Reynaldo dos Art historian Physician
Saro-Wiwa, Ken Environmental activist Television producer
Shelley, Mary Political activist Author
Silva, Inocêncio Francisco da Bibliographer Clerk
Smith, Walter Parry Haskett Bouldering Lawyer
Stevens, Wallace Poet Insurance executive[6]


Tolkien, J. R. R.
Person Avocation Vocation
Thomas, Jean Folk festival promoter Stenographer
Tov, Baal Shem Arbitrator and mediator Rabbi
Tolkien, J. R. R. Novelist Philologist
Trollope, Anthony Novelist Royal Mail executive


Tracey Ullman
Person Avocation Vocation
Ullman, Tracey Knitter and author[7] Actress


Jean-Claude Van Damme
Person Avocation Vocation
Van Damme, Jean-Claude Martial artist Actor


Wells, Ida B.
Person Avocation Vocation
Weller, Peter Art historian Actor
Wells, Ida B. Suffragette Journalist
White, Henry Fox hunter Diplomat
White, Kate Author Editor-in-chief
Whorf, Benjamin Lee Linguist fire prevention engineer
Williams, William Carlos Poet Pediatrician[6]


Xenakis, Iannis
Person Avocation Vocation
Xenakis, Iannis Composer Architect


Person Avocation Vocation
Yada, Lena Surfer Model, actress

Fictional people whose avocations were not their vocations

Bruce Wayne as his alter ego Batman
Person Avocation Vocation
Kent, Clark / Kal-El (DC Comics) Superhero Reporter
Stark, Tony (Marvel Comics) Superhero Industrialist
Wayne, Bruce (DC Comics) Crime fighter Philanthropist/industrialist/heir
Quijano, Alonso (Don Quixote) Knight-errant Hidalgo
Schrute, Dwight (The Office) Beet farmer Paper salesman

See also


  1. ^ Saunders, Travis. "Avocation vs. Vocation". Dragon Intuitive. Retrieved 10 February 2011.
  2. ^ Miller, Robert (10 February 2010). "Your avocation may save your life". The News-Times. Hearst Corporation. Retrieved 10 February 2011.
  3. ^ Boyd, Brian (20 October 2006). "A secret history of the old Ball game". Irish Times. Retrieved 4 July 2007.
  4. ^ Giammona, Craig. "Avocation in Wood". Bowdoin. Archived from the original on 28 June 2011. Retrieved 10 February 2011.
  5. ^ Gleick, James (1992). Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman. Pantheon Books. p. 296. ISBN 978-0-679-40836-9. OCLC 243743850.
  6. ^ a b Neary, Lynn (6 September 2016). "Idea For 'Gentleman in Moscow' Came From Many Nights in Luxury Hotels". National Public Radio. No. Morning Edition. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  7. ^ Montagne, Renee (29 September 2006). "Tracey Ullman Takes on Knitting". NPR. Retrieved 14 September 2015.