Peter Mark Roget FRS (18 January 1779 – 12 September 1869) was a British physician, natural theologian and lexicographer. He is best known for publishing, in 1852, the Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases (Roget's Thesaurus), a classified collection of related words. Peter Mark Roget was born in London. His obsession with list-making as a coping mechanism was well established by the time he was eight years old. The son of a Swiss clergyman, Roget studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh. His life was marked by several incidents of sadness. His father and his wife died young. His beloved uncle Samuel Romilly committed suicide in Roget's presence. Roget struggled with depression for most of his life. His work on the thesaurus arose partly from an effort to battle depression.
In general usage, a thesaurus is a reference work that lists words grouped together according to similarity of meaning (containing synonyms and sometimes antonyms), in contrast to a dictionary, which provides definitions for words, and generally lists them in alphabetical order. The main purpose of such reference works is to help the user“to find the word, or words, by which an idea may be most fitly and aptly expressed” – to quote Peter Roget, architect of the best known thesaurus in the English language. Although including synonyms, a thesaurus should not be taken as a complete list of all the synonyms for a particular word. The entries are also designed for drawing distinctions between similar words and assisting in choosing exactly the right word. Unlike a dictionary, a thesaurus entry does not give the definition of words.
The word "thesaurus" is derived from 16th-century New Latin, in turn from Latin thēsaurus, which is the latinisation of the Greek, literally "treasure store", generally meaning a collection of things which are of big importance or value (and thus the medieval rank of thesaurer was a synonym for treasurer). This meaning has been largely supplanted by Roget's usage of the term. In antiquity, Philo of Byblos authored the first text that could now be called a thesaurus. In Sanskrit, the Amarakosha is a thesaurus in verse form, written in the 4th century. The first modern thesaurus was Roget's Thesaurus, first compiled in 1805 by Peter Mark Roget, and published in 1852. Since its publication it has never been out of print and is still a widely used work across the English-speaking world.
Roget retired from professional life in 1840 and about 1848 began preparing for publication the one work that was to perpetuate his memory. This was the catalogue of words organized by their meanings, the compilation of which had been an avocationsince 1805. Its first printed edition, in 1852, 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 died while on holiday in West Malvern, Worcestershire.
Roget was much concerned with medical education but the School of Medicine at the University of Manchester was only established in 1874. He was also one of the founders of the Medical and Chirurgical Society of London, which later became the Royal Society of Medicine, and he was a secretary of the Royal Society. In 1815, heinvented the log-log slide rule, allowing a person to perform exponential and root calculations simply. This was especially helpful for calculations involving fractional powers and roots. In 1834 he became the first Fullerian Professor of Physiology at the Royal Institution. He was examiner in physiology in the University of London.
On 9 December 1824, Roget presented a paper entitled Explanation of an optical deception in the appearance of the spokes of a wheel when seen through vertical apertures.
He played an important role in the establishment of the University of London; he was afounder of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge and wrote for it a series of popular manuals. He showed remarkable ingenuity in inventing and solving chess problems and designed an inexpensive pocket chessboard.
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