The Murderous Origins Of The Oxford English Dictionary

Published November 4, 2017
Updated December 18, 2017
Published November 4, 2017
Updated December 18, 2017

Enter William Chester Minor

William Chester Minor

OUP ArchiveWilliam Chester Minor, M.D., on the grounds of Broadmoor Hospital for the Criminally Insane (date unkown).

William Chester Minor, M.D., graduated from Yale University in 1863. After a short research stint, he joined the Union Army to perform battlefield medicine for wounded soldiers. His academic work laid the foundation for his field medicine and then his research for the OED.

After witnessing the horrors and atrocities of the war, Minor developed paranoid schizophrenia. Not only did the doctor see wanton death at the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864, but his commanding officer ordered him to brand a letter “D” on the cheek of an Irish deserter.

The mark scarred the patient’s body, but it also warped Minor’s mind because he started to have paranoid delusions about the Irish following the incident.

Not everything about Minor’s experience in the military was about psychosis. Before he saw combat duty at the Battle of the Wilderness, Minor submitted very detailed autopsy reports of soldiers who died from various lung ailments while staying at a wartime hospital in New Haven, Connecticut. It was this meticulous attention to detail that would later make Minor a perfect volunteer for Murray’s project.

His military superiors believed Minor was incapacitated and could no longer perform his basic duties following schizophrenic episodes. So, Minor took his military pension and some of his family’s wealth to move to Lambeth, England, in 1871.

William DeLong
William DeLong is a freelance wordsmith. He thanks you for reading his content.