Last weekend marked a significant date in the annals of the Oxford English Dictionary. 17 February 1872 was the date on which a Dr. William Chester Minor, American army surgeon, shot and killed George Merrett in the early hours of the morning on a gloomy Lambeth street. Not an auspicious date, granted, but Minor went on to become one of the most important volunteer contributors to the OED.
William Minor had worked as a surgeon during the American Civil War and his experiences on the battlefield led to paranoid delusions and an unstable mind. He had come to London to recuperate. Fate dealt its final blow to George Merrett during his daily walk to work at Lambeth’s Red Lion Brewery. Believing someone was trying to enter his rooms, Minor ran on to the street and shot Merrett, who happened to be walking away from him. Minor was found not guilty of the crime on reasons of insanity, but was given a life sentence at what was then called Broadmoor Asylum.
From his cell, Minor began to send in contributions to the OED. He was a well-educated man and an avid reader, with a collection of rare antiquarian books which Broadmoor allowed him to keep in a second cell. It’s possible he saw one of Murray’s appeals in a consignment of books sent to him by one of his booksellers, and the relationship began. Scouring this literature for useful quotations came naturally to him, and he worked in a very methodical manner. Upon reading a book, he would prepare a small pamphlet headed with the title of the book in question. He would then note interesting words or usages of words in an alphabetical list, followed by their relevant page number. He soon built up a collection of these word indexes, which allowed him to supply the dictionary editors with quotations that were very relevant to the words they were working on. One example of his word indexes can be seen here, in minute handwriting.
A Minor case: OED contributions from a prison cell | OxfordWords blog

Last weekend marked a significant date in the annals of the Oxford English Dictionary. 17 February 1872 was the date on which a Dr. William Chester Minor, American army surgeon, shot and killed George Merrett in the early hours of the morning on a gloomy Lambeth street. Not an auspicious date, granted, but Minor went on to become one of the most important volunteer contributors to the OED.

William Minor had worked as a surgeon during the American Civil War and his experiences on the battlefield led to paranoid delusions and an unstable mind. He had come to London to recuperate. Fate dealt its final blow to George Merrett during his daily walk to work at Lambeth’s Red Lion Brewery. Believing someone was trying to enter his rooms, Minor ran on to the street and shot Merrett, who happened to be walking away from him. Minor was found not guilty of the crime on reasons of insanity, but was given a life sentence at what was then called Broadmoor Asylum.

From his cell, Minor began to send in contributions to the OED. He was a well-educated man and an avid reader, with a collection of rare antiquarian books which Broadmoor allowed him to keep in a second cell. It’s possible he saw one of Murray’s appeals in a consignment of books sent to him by one of his booksellers, and the relationship began. Scouring this literature for useful quotations came naturally to him, and he worked in a very methodical manner. Upon reading a book, he would prepare a small pamphlet headed with the title of the book in question. He would then note interesting words or usages of words in an alphabetical list, followed by their relevant page number. He soon built up a collection of these word indexes, which allowed him to supply the dictionary editors with quotations that were very relevant to the words they were working on. One example of his word indexes can be seen here, in minute handwriting.

A Minor case: OED contributions from a prison cell | OxfordWords blog