William Safire considers the question of Who was the first blogger?
Hundreds of weblog pioneers will compete for that title, and it will be interesting to see who they will consense upon. (As a language columnist, I feel free to coin a neologism now and then; “consense” is a verb that can replace “form a consensus”. Not the opposite of “nonsense”.)
In the search for the Grand Originator, bloxicographers should not limit themselves to finding the first to use the Internet. “Blogging”, as it will be understood, is broader than “creating a weblog to express a personal opinion and/or to establish an information community.” Although the word “blogosphere” was coined in 1999 by Brad L. Graham “as a joke” and re-minted in all seriousness in 2002 by William Quick with his Daily Pundit, we ought to dig more deeply to place blogging in the great scheme of human communication. That means we should reach back in history to find the person who first popularized the idea of influencing the world by using some medium to get across his ideas to large groups.
I particularly like Safire's discussion of the history of columnists.
...Simeon Stylites the Elder. According to the OED, a stylite was “an ascetic who lived on the top of a pillar”. (Greek “stylos” means “pillar”.) The sainted Simeon the Elder took up residence atop a column in Syria in AD 423. He remained atop that column and others for 37 years, each loftier and narrower than the preceding; his final column was 66 feet high.
Simeon the Elder stood day and night, leaning on a rail, dependent for food on what his disciples (and presumably the Younger) brought him by ladder. He preached sermons to those gathered around his column, who then went out and spread his pastoral teachings. Other columnists took up his technique and were also called stylites. He was the subject of a poem by Tennyson, concluding with “I, Simeon, The watcher on the column till the end.”