19 Astonishing Facts
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The man who wrote the first self-help book is the great-great-grandfather of Bear Grylls!


Samuel Smiles was a Scottish author and reformer who died in 1904. He left school when he was 14 to be the apprentice of a doctor which eventually led him to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh. His father died while he was there during a cholera epidemic, but he was able to continue his schooling due to his persevering mother.

She kept the family shop open supporting herself and their nine children. After graduating, Smiles campaigned for parliamentary reform and wrote articles for newspapers. Smiles wrote what is considered to be the first self-help book ironically named "Self-Help." The newly founded Routledge publishing house rejected publishing Self-Help in 1855.

Twenty years later Smiles was seated next to George Routledge at a dinner, and he said to him: "And when, Dr. Smiles, are we to have the honour of publishing one of your books?", Smiles replied that Mr. Routledge had had the honor of rejecting Self-Help. Although John Murray was willing to publish Self-Help on a half-profits system, Smiles rejected this as he did not want the book to lose it's anecdotes.

In 1859 he published the book at his own expense and risk, retaining the copyright and paying John Murray a ten percent commission. It sold 20,000 copies within one year of it's publication. By the time of Smiles' death in 1904 it had sold over a quarter of a million. Smiles is the great-great grandfather of adventurer and explorer Bear Grylls.

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