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Sir James Murray
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    (February 7, 1837-July 26, 1915)
    Born in Denholm, Scotland, United Kingdom
    Teacher turned lexicographer
    Wrote 'The Dialect of the Southern Counties of Scotland' (1873)
    Primary editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED; 1879-1915)
    Knighted (1908)
    He tried to invent water wings, but almost drowned when he miscalculated their buoyancy.
    He was extremely sensitive to criticism.
    He kvetched about poet Robert Browning using words 'without regard to their proper meaning.'
    The word 'bondmaid' ended up in the OED supplement because it got lost behind some books in his Scriptorium and was not found until after the 'B' volumes had gone to print.
    When he was hired, the OED was expected to take 10 years to complete and cost £9,000 to produce.
    It ended up taking 49 years and £300,000 by the time it was finished (1928).
    Despite leaving school at age 14 for financial reasons, he acquired an 'outline knowledge' of 25 languages.
    His first wife and seven month old daughter died over a two-year span (1865-66).
    He taught future telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell the basics of acoustics and electricity.
    He and Bell became lifelong friends with Bell serving as best man at his second wedding.
    Most of the reason the OED took so much longer and cost so much more than initially projected was that it turned out to be a far larger undertaking than anyone had suspected.
    He was personally responsible for writing about half of the first edition of the OED, defining some 200,000 words.
    Anthony Burgess said, 'Everyone who speaks English owes Murray an unpayable debt.'

Credit: C. Fishel

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