William Minor had a split personality. He was a doctor whose hobbies included playing flute and painting. His contribution to the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary was immeasurable. But internally he suffered from paranoia, which determined the course of his adult life.
Minor’s parents were Americans descended from early settlers in New England, but in 1834 they went to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) as missionaries, representing a Scottish Presbyterian group called Covenanters. His mother died when he was three, and his father remarried another young missionary woman. The mission school gave Minor and his siblings an excellent education, and he had the opportunity to learn several languages.
When Minor was 13, he started having “lascivious thoughts” toward the exotic native girls. He never acted on his impulses, but it was so difficult for him to reconcile these urges with his religious upbringing that he was plagued with guilt. His…
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