Rothiemay: from Glenbarry

Local Heroes (and Villains)

John Ogilvie

John Ogilvie

John Ogilvie (1797-1867)

John Ogilvie, cousin of John Cruickshank, was born at Knowehead in Marnoch, Banffshire (now in Aberdeenshire). Like his cousin he had little elementary education, other than one winter quarter at Ordiquhill parish school, and although he was interested in mathematics and literature, as eldest son he seemed destined for a farming life. At about the age of 20 he had an accident to his knee which led to the need for his leg to be amputated, so his career had to take a different turn.

Encouraged by his cousin, now Professor of Mathematics, he enrolled at Marischal College and graduated with Honours in Mathematics. He went on to teach mathematics at Gordon's Hospital,
Aberdeen from 1831 until 1859.

His leisure moments, however, were given to literature and his abilities became known to Messrs. Blackie & Son of Glasgow, who made him joint editor of Stackhouse's "History of the Bible," and then gave him whole charge of the compilation of their new dictionary which was to be based on Noah Webster's American Dictionary.

Ogilvie's Imperial Dictionary

The task was to take him 13 years, and The Imperial Dictionary containing over 100,000 headings, was published by Blackie in 1850–1851. It became one of the most popular dictionaries of its time, not least because of its use of illustrations and inclusion of technical terms and encyclopedic information - it was later expanded by Charles Annandale to 130,000 headings. It became a main source for the American Century Dictionary (1889-91, in 6 volumes), which in its turn had considerable influence on 20th-century dictionaries of English such as The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (1966), and the Collins English Dictionary (1979).

John Ogilvie also produced several other dictionaries, including The Comprehensive English Dictionary (1863) and The Student's English Dictionary (1865).

His earlier  literary works appeared in "The Aberdeen Magazine" including:- "Autobiography of Rory McFigh" and  "The Auld Dominie's Song."