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 Surprising results of research

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Stepha3nie

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Age : 48
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PostSubject: Surprising results of research   Sun Sep 21, 2014 4:15 am

Short version:
An attempt at verifying the contemporary population figure for my town in the UK lead, via a book recommendation: "The Surgeon of Crowthorne" from 1998 (title for USA and Canada "The Professor and the Madman"), to the (for me) astonishing discovery that one of the main contributors (of quotations) for the OED (which I had thought of as the reference book for BE) had been an American Civil War veteran condemned to Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum after committing murder in London.

Has anyone else stumbled across interesting historic facts while checking up on seemingly simple, ordinary modern day "facts"?
Or managed other (or similar) astonishing leaps?  (mundane, contemporary fact -> book recommendation -> interesting historical facts -> interesting historical figure -> almost connection to favourite fandom)

In case you want to find out more about Broadmoor (beyond what Wikip.... has to offer) and some of its better known inmates, you could read
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1088801/Broadmoor-hospital-finally-gives-secrets.html

For W.C. Minor
http://www.bbc.co.uk/legacies/myths_legends/england/berkshire/article_1.shtml

Long version (including more surprising or quite interesting things):
Earlier today I just wanted to do a quick check if the population number I had in my head for the town I live in was roughly correct.
The results were truly baffling. While I remembered something like 15.000, the 2011 census gave results from about 5.000 to about 25.000, depending supposedly how "Crowthorne" was defined. The town straddles several parishes, which seems to be the main reason for the huge range. And I think at least one of the parishes includes (parts of) more than one town. The different parishes for one town can also lead to all kinds of confusion, e.g. some public services for Crowthorne being divided along parish lines can occasionally turn a simple check for a phone number or address into detective work or lead to time-consuming discussions with locals from the larger parish, not being aware of the smaller one...
Very confusing. Especially for someone from Germany, where a town is usually defined more or less by the edge of the built-up area.
I also learned something new about the part of town I live in. It belongs to the parish of "Wokingham Without", Wokingham being a neighbouring town. Even though Crowthorne is situated in Berkshire (not anywhere close to the border), the "Without" is a leftover from the time when the parish belonged to the county of Wiltshire.
Still trying to confirm the population number I stumbled across something that first sounded quite ridiculous to me: The claim the OED (yes, Oxford English Dictionary) had been primarily researched in Crowthorne. To substantiate the claim, a book title was given.
So, next I checked for the book "The Surgeon of Crowthorne" from 1998 (title for USA and Canada "The Professor and the Madman", even though the "professor" is no such thing and "madman" does not seem applicable) and lo and behold, another surprise awaited me. Not only does the book exist, checking through some reviews it seems well worth reading.
The main characters are the chief editor of the OED Sir James Murray ("a Scotsman of enormous intellect" acc. to one review) and Dr. William Chester Minor who contributed one of the largest number of quotations to the OED.
I now simply had to check for information about W.C. Minor. The first interesting facts for me were that he indeed assembled and sent his OED contributions while being an inmate of Broadmoor (back then "Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum", later called "Broadmoor Hospital for the Criminally Insane", today a "high-security psychiatric hospital") and that a true friendship developed between Murray and Minor.
The next things I found interesting about W.C. Minor were that he was an American (somehow I had always assumed the writers or contributors of the OED to be English) and that his mental illness (back then called "paranoia", probably "paranoid schizophrenia" in today's terms) was, if not developed then brought to full bloom due to witnessing and committing horrible events while serving as Union army surgeon during the Civil War.
At this point I had almost managed to make a connection to our boys. But before any plot bunnies start hopping, Minor joined the Union army in 1863, served 1864 at the "Battle of the Wilderness", after the Civil War in New York City, followed by a posting to Florida before being sent to a "lunatic asylum" in Washington D.C. In 1871 he moved to England. So, no chance really to meet our favourite ex-outlaws.

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For me temptation is Hannibal Heyes, especially in chaps!
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Silverkelpie

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PostSubject: Re: Surprising results of research   Sun Sep 21, 2014 7:25 am

Great article, Stepha3nie and very interesting.  In answer to your question I have encountered many great leaps while researching either crimes, criminals or murder methods and they have informed many of my stories.  The best ones come out of the blue when you're not expecting it, as you've found out yourself from your marvelous links.  You've discovered the joy of research, methinks!  Warning: it can get habit forming.

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Na sir 's na seachainn an cath - Neither seek nor shun the fight      Old Scottish proverb
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Stepha3nie

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PostSubject: Re: Surprising results of research   Sun Sep 21, 2014 8:32 am

Wouldn't mind the habit, if it always leaves me as delighted as I felt today...

("habit forming" had me chuckling immediately - due to NW's contribution for the caption challenge)

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