Cara Giaimo writes in Atlas Obscura about a man I knew nothing about, as well as others in his line of work:
Long before we had viral quizzes to gather our peculiarities, there was only [Edmond] Edmont—a linguistic assistant who spent the end of the 19th century bicycling around France, speaking to locals, and cataloguing their unique words and phrases. Over four years, Edmont journeyed to over 600 towns, gathering material for what would become the Atlas Linguistique de la France: the world’s first great linguistic atlas.
A century later—after technological revolutions and scholarly schisms wholly reshaped the field—Edmont remains, in the words of one linguist, “a mythical figure in the history of dialect surveys.” Whether you’re the kind of surveyor who spends hours speaking to farmers in Georgia, or the kind who dreams up the Buzzfeed Accent Challenge, his work remains both vital and informative.
There follows a riveting history of dialect studies, including a PhD student named Georg Wenker who “drew up 42 sentences that, in his estimation, covered the most changeable aspects of the German language” (“In the wintertime dried leaves fly about in the air”; “I will slap your ears with the cooking spoon, you monkey!”) and Jules Gilliéron, with “his own set of 2,000 common words and phrases, similarly designed to cover a broad swath of French.” Edmont worked for Gilliéron, and their Atlas Linguistique inspired “dialectologists from Switzerland to Japan.” There’s much more at the link, which I urge you to click on.