How a US Civil War Battle Helped Build the OED

February 1 marked the anniversary of the publishing of the Oxford English Dictionary in 1884. And the dictionary owes a lot of its early success to a U.S. Army surgeon.

Thanks to the work of Simon Winchester we know that William Chester Minor went mad after his experience in The Battle of the Wilderness (Virginia).

His illness took landed him in insane asylums in the United States. After his release he headed to England, where his delusions took hold again landed him in an asylum.

It was while he was in Broadmoor that he became fascinated with the call from the OED creators for contributions.

In the end, Minor became possibly the most prolific contributor to the OED.

Winchester’s book — The Professor and the Madman — is a terrific read.

It is also an example of how there are global connections if only a person looks.

It would have been nice, for example, if the newspaper that services The Wilderness area, the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star,  had run a small story about the connection between its area and the OED. But no one thought of it.

How many other connections are out there that are missed? And, thus, how many opportunities are lost to raise the level of knowledge about local and international events?

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