Word Nerd Wednesday: Peter Mark Roget

Roget's Thesaurus

Anyone who spends time reading books, learning about books, and writing about the same is, by definition, a lover of language and the words upon which our language is built. This might be rather presumptuous, but I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that anyone who has stuck with me throughout the duration of this online experiment is equally fascinated by language and what we can learn from it.

While riding in the car, soaking up the smooth sound of Mike Rowe unraveling the mysteries and histories of familiar personalities, this particular episode of his podcast piqued my curiosity in a way that few have: Call It What You Will.

Click the link to listen to it. It’s less than 10 minutes -most of the episodes are- and nothing I offer hear could compare to the enjoyment of hearing Rowe’s delivery of this little known story. Nonetheless, long after I disconnected from my car’s BlueTooth and embarked on the other activities of the day, I remained infinitely curious about the genius who provided us with the first Thesaurus of note in 1852.

oroiginal roget's thesaurus

After cursory research, I determined that Roget is worthy of infinitely more than a short feature on an obscure, little-known, barely read blog. This, however, is all I have to offer. This, and a strong suggestion that you look into Peter Roget at your leisure.

Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869) was a British physician, lexicographer, and natural theologian.  The fact that he was a natural theologian, documenting all the ways the natural world supports the existence of our Creator, was an aspect of his history that I was wholly unfamiliar with. Once considered, the connections seem obvious; at least to me. A physician who is a natural theologian and lexicographer, concerned with words, what they mean, and how they are used.

Roget experienced his share of tragedy in life, as many of us do, and with that, he was drawn ever more deeply into unraveling the mysteries of the natural world, of seeing the order of God in what was often the chaos of life. With each observation, he produced more and more pages of words, information, and inventions. Here are just a few things we can attribute to the work of PeterMark Roget:

  • Discovery of nitrous oxide’s usefulness as an anesthetic
  • The slide rule, which calculated the roots and powers of numbers and was the forerunner to the calculator
  • Original author of articles and research for Encyclopedia Britannica
  • Numerous papers on optics and “optical deception”

In 1840, Roget retired from medicine and dedicated the rest of his life to compiling the volume that earned him the dubious honor of being the subject of this post; Roget’s Thesaurus.

I hope you enjoyed this initial ‘Word Nerd Wednesday”!