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image: Samuel JohnsonThe 16 May is the anniversary of the first meeting between Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the author of the 'Dictionary of the English Language', and his biographer James Boswell (1740-1795). The two men met in Davies’s London bookshop in 1763, and established a relationship that would allow Boswell to produce what is recognized as the greatest biography ever written: 'The Life of Samuel Johnson', published in 1791.

Why is Samuel Johnson famous?

The Dictionary of the English Language, published 15 April 1755, was the first most important to that date. All other dictionaries since have been based on it and it was not superseded until the publication in 1928 of the Oxford English Dictionary.

What is a Biography?

A biography is an account of a person's life written, composed, or produced by another.

The word biography is Greek

bio = life + graph = writing


A number of words feature the graph root as it relates to writing.

Autobiography: The story of one’s life written by oneself (auto-, self)

Autograph: Written or made with one’s own hand, as a signature (auto- self)

Bibliography: A list of writings (biblio- book)

Cacography: Illegible handwriting (caco, poor)

Cryptography: The art or science of writing and deciphering secret codes (crypto, secret)

Dysgraphia: Impairment of the ability to write (dys-, impaired)

Graphite: A soft, black carbon used for pencils

Hagiography: Biographies written about saints (hagio, holy)

Homograph: Two words spelled the same but with different meanings (homo, same)

Lexicography: The branch of linguistics dealing wit the writing or compiling of dictionaries (lex, word)

Orthography: Correct spelling (ortho, correct)

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