An amateur (/ˈæmətjər -tjʊər/; French: [amatœʁ]; lit. 'lover [of something]') is generally considered a person who pursues a particular activity or field of study independently from their source of income. Amateurs and their pursuits are also described as popular, informal, self-taught, user-generated, DIY, and hobbyist.[1]


Historically, the amateur was considered to be the ideal balance between pure intent, open mind, and the interest or passion for a subject. That ideology spanned many different fields of interest. It may have its roots in the ancient Greek philosophy of amateur athletes competing in the Olympics. The ancient Greek citizens spent most of their time in other pursuits, but competed according to their natural talents and abilities.

The "gentleman amateur" was a phenomenon among the gentry of Great Britain from the 17th century until the 20th century.[2] With the start of the Age of Reason, with people thinking more about how the world works around them, (see Science in the Age of Enlightenment), things like the Cabinet of Curiosities, and the writing of the book The Christian Virtuoso, started to shape the idea of the gentleman amateur. He was vastly interested in a particular topic, and studied, observed, and collected things and information on his topic of choice. The Royal Society in Great Britain was generally composed of these "gentleman amateurs", and is one the reasons science today exists the way it does. A few examples of these gentleman amateurs are Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, and Sir Robert Cotton, 1st Baronet, of Connington.

Amateurism can be seen in both a negative and positive light. Since amateurs often lack formal training, some amateur work may be considered sub-par. For example, amateur athletes in sports such as basketball, baseball, or football are regarded as possessing a lower level of ability than professional athletes. On the other hand, an amateur may be in a position to approach a subject with an open mind (as a result of the lack of formal training) and in a financially disinterested manner. An amateur who dabbles in a field out of interest rather than as a profession, or possesses a general but superficial interest in any art or a branch of knowledge, is often referred to as a dilettante.

Amateur athleticsEdit

The line between amateur and professional has always been blurred in athletics with the central idea being that amateurs should not receive material reward for taking part in sports.[3][4] The lack of financial benefit can be seen as a sign of commitment to a sport; until the 1970s the Olympic rules required that competitors be amateurs. Receiving payment to participate in an event disqualified an athlete from that event, as in the case of Jim Thorpe (he got payment in a different sport, but was banned in all Olympic sports).[5] The only Olympic events that still require participants to be amateurs are boxing, wrestling and figure skating[6] but amateurism in these cases is defined in terms of rules, mainly participation in "professional events", rather than whether the athlete receives any money for his sport.

Contribution of amateursEdit

Many amateurs make valuable contributions in the field of computer programming through the open source movement.[7] Amateur dramatics is the performance of plays or musical theater, often to high standards, but lacking the budgets of professional West End or Broadway performances.[8] Astronomy, chemistry, history, linguistics, and the natural sciences are among the fields that have benefited from the activities of amateurs. Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel were amateur scientists who never held a position in their field of study. William Shakespeare and Leonardo da Vinci were considered amateur artists and autodidacts in their fields of study. Radio astronomy was founded by Grote Reber, an amateur radio operator.[9] Radio itself was greatly advanced by Guglielmo Marconi, a young Italian gentleman who started out by tinkering with a coherer and a spark coil as an amateur electrician.[10] Pierre de Fermat was a highly influential mathematician whose primary vocation was law.[11]

In the 2000s and 2010s, the distinction between amateur and professional has become increasingly blurred, especially in areas such as computer programming, music and astronomy. The term amateur professionalism, or pro-am, is used to describe these activities.[12]

List of amateur pursuitsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Amateurism Across the Arts". University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  2. ^ Stone, Duncan. "Deconstructing the Gentleman Amateur (article version)". Retrieved May 16, 2018.
  3. ^ Taonga, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. "Amateurism and professionalism – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand". Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  4. ^ "What is amateurism?". - The Official Site of the NCAA. 3 February 2015. Archived from the original on 17 May 2018. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  5. ^ "Jim Thorpe Biography - life, children, name, death, history, school, mother, young, son". Retrieved May 16, 2018.
  6. ^ Amateur or Professional?
  7. ^ Jackson, Joab. "The rise of hobbyist programmers". Computerworld. Retrieved 2018-05-16.
  8. ^ "Class act: The amateur-dramatics societies that could give the pros a". The Independent. 2012-11-11. Retrieved 2018-05-16.
  9. ^ Verschuur, Gerrit (20 March 2007). The Invisible Universe: The Story of Radio Astronomy. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 14–. ISBN 978-0-387-68360-7.
  10. ^ "This week in tech". The Telegraph. 2017-04-28. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2018-05-16.
  11. ^ Burns, William E. (2001). The Scientific Revolution: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 101–102. ISBN 978-0-87436-875-8.
  12. ^ Leadbetter, Charles (1 October 2004). "Amateur Revolution". Fast Company. Retrieved May 16, 2018.

Further readingEdit

  • Bourdieu, Pierre; Whiteside, Shaun (1996). Photography: A Middle-brow Art. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-2689-4.
  • Fine, Gary Alan (1998). Morel Tales: The Culture of Mushrooming. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-08935-8.
  • Goffman, Erving (24 November 2009). Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4391-8833-0.
  • Haring, Kristen (2007). Ham radio's technical culture (Online ed.). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. ISBN 9780262083553.
  • Jenkins, Henry (1992). Textual Poachers: Television Fans & Participatory Culture. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-90572-5.
  • Stebbins, Robert A. (6 April 1992). Amateurs, Professionals, and Serious Leisure. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP. ISBN 978-0-7735-6334-6.