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Sir James Murray (1837—1915) - Lexicographer

He was born on 7th February 1837 in the village of Denholm near Hawick, Scotland, the son of a tailor. He was educated locally at Minto school until 1854, when he was appointed an assistant master at Hawick United School; he became a prominent citizen of the town, with a wide range of literary and scientific interests. In 1857 he became headmaster of Hawick Academy, but after his first marriage in 1862 his wife's illness forced him to move to London, where he was employed by the Chartered Bank of India. He became a master at Mill Hill School in 1870 and he also studied for an external degree at University College, London. It was at that time that Murray's interest in languages involved him in the work of the Philological Society and in editing texts for the Early English Text Society, founded by Frederick Furnivall (1825-1910). Murray's study of the language of the Borders, The Dialect of the Southern Counties of Scotland, was published in 1873. The culmination of Murray's interest in languages came in 1879 when he was appointed editor of the Philological Society's dictionary, which was later to become the Oxford English Dictionary. It was proposed, originally, to complete the compilation in ten years but it was not until 1885 that Murray was able to work full-time as editor, and by his death on 26 July 1915 only half the dictionary had been published. The first part was published in 1884 and the final part in 1928: the entire work includes 414,825 words with 1,827,306 illustrative quotations. The dictionary marked an important step forward in the science of lexicography, and Murray's historical principles, which decreed that a word be traced from its earliest appearance, have been adopted as the model for succeeding dictionaries. James Murray was knighted in 1908 for his work on the dictionary and he received honorary degrees from nine universities.

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