Origins of Thesaurus Day (January 18th)

Origins of Thesaurus Day 

by Sandra Sealy

Peter Mark Roget (Jan 18th 1779- Sep 12th 1869)
Peter Mark Roget (Jan 18th 1779- Sep 12th 1869)

#ThesaurusDay is Jan 18th, celebrating the birthday of Roget’s Thesaurus author, Peter Mark Roget born on 1779 in London, the son of Rev. John Roget, a Swiss clergyman. He began to study medicine from the age of 14 at Edinburgh University and was also , famous for his investigation of gases of possible medical use. After he retired from his medical practice, as early as 1805 he had compiled, for his own personal use, a small indexed catalogue of words which he used to enhance his prolific writing. It was called ‘Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases Classified and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition.’

Roget and Filmmaking? On November 18, 1824, he married Mary Taylor Hobson; two weeks after their wedding, she fumed over his cold breakfast while he stood entranced by the sight of a cart’s wheels, viewed through the blinds in his kitchen window. In a paper he sent to the Royal Society, Roget explained his observation: “An impression made by a pencil of rays on the retina, if sufficiently vivid, will remain for a certain time after the cause has ceased.” The insight that a series of images presented in rapid succession would create the illusion of motion eventually led to the development of cinema.

Did you know that Roget’s Thesaurus published in 1852 never went out of print and that there were more than 25 editions? It was reported that more than 32 million copies have been sold up to 2002. Of course, the online versions (see below) will offer stiff competition. Interestingly enough, the word “thesaurus” is Latin for “treasure” (I thought it had something to do with a dinosaur choking on a dictionary).

Thanks Mr. Roget – you’ve made life MUCH easier for us #writers!


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