Today is the anniversary of the first meeting between Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the author of the landmark Dictionary of the English Language, and his biographer James Boswell (1740-1795). The two men met in Thomas Davies’ London bookshop in 1763, and established a relationship that would allow Boswell to produce what is known as the greatest biography ever written: The Life of Samuel Johnson, published in 1791. Also considered the first modern biography, Boswell included personal traits, conversations, and familiar details that were excluded in other biographies of the time.
What root word do all these words have in common?
Autobiography – The story of one’s life written by oneself (auto = self + graph = writing)
Autograph – Written or made with one’s own hand, as a signature (auto = self + graph = writing)
Bibliography – A list of writings (biblio = book + graph = writing)
Biography – An account of someone’s life written by someone else (bio = life + graph = writing)
Hagiography – Biographies written about saints (hagio = holy + graph = writing)
Lexicography – The branch of linguistics dealing with the writing or compiling of dictionaries (lex = word + graph = writing)
Did You Know…? Since 1917, the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography has been presented for a distinguished biography or autobiography by an American author. Many of the older books can be freely read at Project Gutenberg.
If you are a bit behind on your biographical readings, a good way to get caught up quickly is to browse through the brief biographical sketches at InfoPlease.com.
See also: FamousHomeschoolers.net for biographies of famous homeschoolers and homeschool parents.