Synopses & Reviews
The extraordinary true story of Peter Mark Roget and his legendary Thesaurus, Peter Mark Roget polymath, eccentric, synonym aficionado was a complicated man. He was an eminent scholar who absorbed himself in his work, yet he also possessed an allure that endeared him to his mentors and colleagues not to mention a host of female admirers. But, most notably, Roget made lists.
From the age of eight, he kept these lists with the intention of ordering the chaotic world around him. After his father's death, his mother became, at once, overbearing and despondent. Soon, his sister would also descend into mental illness. Despite these tragedies, Roget lived a colorful life full of unexpected twists and discoveries including narrowly avoiding jail in Napoleon's France, assisting famed physician Thomas Beddoes by personally testing the effects of laughing gas, and inventing the slide rule.
Evocative and entertaining, The Man Who Made Lists lets readers join Roget on his worldly adventures and emotional journeys. This rich narrative explores the power of words and the everlasting legacy of a rediscovered genius.
"First published in London in 1852, Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases became popular in America with the 1920s crosswords craze and has sold almost 40 million copies worldwide. According to freelancer Kendall in this Professor and the Madman wannabe, Peter Mark Roget (1779 1869) compiled the thesaurus as a means of staving off the madness that pervaded his family the classification of words was a coping mechanism for his anxiety. Burdened by his father's early death and a mentally unstable mother and grandmother, young Roget was shy and melancholy. In the wake of the suicide of his uncle and surrogate father, Samuel Romilly, a distinguished MP, Roget's mother slid into paranoia, and a depressed Roget left a flourishing medical practice. But in his 40s, he found happiness: he married a wealthy, intellectually curious woman; developed a lively social circle; and became a first-rate scientist, lecturer and science writer for the masses. His thesaurus, which he tinkered with for nearly half a century, borrowed principles of classification from Roget's hero, the naturalist Carl Linnaeus. Although Roget is a tantalizing subject, Kendall never lights the necessary spark to make the legendary wordsmith come alive. B&w illus." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"If the title of Joshua Kendall's fine new biography of Roget has a clinical Oliver Sacks feel, the material pretty much justifies it....Kendall's style is plain and sensible; he gets the job done with sympathy and speed, occasionally entertaining the reader with a novelistic flourish." New York Times
"Here is truth in advertising. Word geeks...must look elsewhere. This is a portrait of Dr. Roget....The Man Who Made Lists is brisk and vivid, with Kendall coloring between the lines left by history." Los Angeles Times
"The first work in English that collected and organized synonyms (and antonyms) appeared in 1852....The book was the work of Peter Mark Roget, a British polymath who is now the subject of Joshua Kendall's engaging The Man Who Made Lists." Wall Street Journal
"Drawing upon letters, diaries, and other family documents, Kendall blends historical research with storytelling to support the theme of personal battles and educational experience." Library Journal
Madness did not just run in [Rogets] family; it galloped, sped, sprinted, dashed and made haste. If the title of Joshua Kendalls fine new biography of Roget has a clinical Oliver Sacks feel, the material pretty much justifies it. . . . [Kendall] convinces a reader of the psychological roots and therapeutic success of the Thesaurus.
New York Time Book Review
The Man Who Made Lists is brisk and vivid, with Kendall coloring between the lines left by history. . . . Word geeks may find something to get their temperatures up.
Los Angeles Times
A readable and informative, if not masterful treatment of a worthy and fascinating subject.
Who knew that the man behind the thesaurus also invented the slide rule, volunteered to test laughing gas, and barely avoided jail in revolutionary France?
Josh Kendalls biography trace[es] an intricate career and vividly depict[s] the early development of this extraordinary, quirky mind . . . Rogets achievement was certainly unique, and now the story of this troubled life and how he overcame his demons comes as pure revelation.
California Literary Review
Joshua Kendall has written a fascinating account of Rogets life. The book is dense with details and cleverly organized . . .
New Haven Register
In The Man Who Made Lists: Love, Death, Madness, and the Creation of Roget's Thesaurus, U.S. journalist and word-lover Joshua Kendall tells the life of Peter Mark Roget, thesaurus-maker to the world, and tells it very well indeed. There are enough sidelines and footnote-candidates (Roget tested laughing gas on himself, noticed the visual persistence-of-memory phenomenon that eventually allowed the cinema projector to be made, and participated in the making of the slide rule), and Kendall is a good enough storyteller to keep the pages turning.
Simon Winchester, The Globe and Mail
"Brisk and vivid, with Kendall coloring between the lines left by history."
-Los Angeles Times
"Kendall's style...gets the job done with sympathy and speed."
-New York Times
"Well written and persuasive."
Kendall offers the extraordinary true story of Peter Mark Roget the man who created the legendary Roget's Thesaurus. Evocative and entertaining, this work lets readers join Roget on his worldly adventures and emotional journeys as he explored the power of words.
In the tradition of The Professor and the Madman, a "brisk and vivid"( Los Angeles Times) account of an obsessive scholar.
Polymath, eccentric, and synonym aficionado, Peter Mark Roget had a host of female admirers, was one of the first to test the effects of laughing gas, invented the slide rule, and narrowly escaped jail in Napoleon's France. But Roget is best known for making lists.
After the tragic turmoil of his early life (both his mother and sister were institutionalized), Roget longed for order in his chaotic world. At the age of eight, he began his quest to put everything in its rightful place, one word at a time. This is the fascinating story of a driven man and a brilliant scholar-and the legacy he has left for generations.
About the Author
Joshua Kendall is a language enthusiast and an award-winning freelance journalist who currently writes for such publications as Business Week and The Boston Globe.