There are no synonyms, according to Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869), author of Roget's Thesaurus, for no two words have the exact same meaning. There are many words with near meanings from which to choose to clarify messages, and the eccentric polymath and classifier tried to organize them. He created his thesaurus first for himself, as he found he needed a stronger vocabulary. When he published it late in his life, many reviewers cheered it, but some opposed him for providing a crutch to lesser minds.
According to journalist Joshua Kendall in The Man Whom Made Lists: Love, Death, Madness, and the Creation of Roget's Thesaurus, Roget was a physician and scientist who made compulsively made lists from childhood in response to the discord and chaos of his life. He did not realize that his focus on the lists would help him to stay free of the madness that infected his grandmother, mother, sister, and uncle. His thesaurus was a byproduct of his effective personal therapy. It also eventually made him rich.
Roget rubbed shoulders with almost everyone in science, medicine, literature, and government of his time. At one point, he was considered the most eligible bachelor in London, but he seemed blind to the designs of young women around him. His lectures were well-attended, he was president of nearly every learned society in London at some point in his life, and he was praised for perfecting the logarithmic slide rule. His family, however, fell apart around him, and he also suffered mental breakdowns.
General readers will enjoy this biography full of vocabulary facts and family drama. Most public libraries should consider adding it to their collections.
Kendall, Joshua. The Man Whom Made Lists: Love, Death, Madness, and the Creation of Roget's Thesaurus. G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2008. ISBN 9780399154621.