The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester

The Professor and the Madman

The Professor and the Madman, masterfully researched and eloquently written, is an extraordinary tale of madness, genius, and the incredible obsessions of two remarkable men that led to the making of the Oxford English Dictionary -- and literary history. The compilation of the OED, begun in 1857, was one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken. As definitions were collected, the overseeing committee, led by Professor James Murray, discover...

Details The Professor and the Madman

TitleThe Professor and the Madman
Release DateJul 25th, 2018
PublisherHarper Perennial
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Biography, Humanities, Language, Writing, Books About Books

Reviews The Professor and the Madman

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    ...for each word, there should be sentences that show the twists and turns of meanings—the way almost every word slips in its silvery, fishlike way, weaving this way and that, adding subtleties of nuance to itself, and then perhaps shedding them as public mood dictates.” Herbert Coleridge whose brilliant life was too short.I was driving into work the other day thinking about Herbert Coleridge and realized that I might possibly be the only pe...
  • Stephen
    As a completely fledged bibliopsychotic and an ever-striving-to-be cunning-linguist , I was all aquiver with anticipation to bury my face in this purported history of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Alas, despite being well-written and thoroughly researched, I’m having to fake it a bit to give this a full 3 stars. My primary joy-dampening problem with the book’s arrangement was the dearth of page time given to what I see as the most fasc...
  • Hannah Greendale
    Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend. Eloquent writing and the talented vocal work of narrator Simon Jones make this brief account of one of the greatest known editors of the OED and his longtime collaborator (a man who conducted his research from the confines of an asylum) a fascinating read/listen.
  • Sean Gibson
    People tend to juxtapose the idea of reading the dictionary with other activities as a means of underscoring how incredibly uninteresting and undesirable those other activities are. For example: “I have to interact with Sean today…UGH. I’d much rather read the dictionary.”This is an effective comparison for good reason. Look, I love words as much as the next guy, but even I find reading the dictionary only slightly more fun than reading t...
  • Will Byrnes
    Professor James Murray was one of the primary editors of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Dr Chester Minor, was one of the primary contributors to the massive project. But Murray did not know that Minor was an inmate in an insane asylum. Simon Winchester - image from Andersons Bookshop The book tells their separate stories, how Murray rose to the prominence necessary to land this major position, how Minor emerged from a troubled, if well-to-d...
  • Jason Koivu
    A man goes insane, shoots another man to death and then helps write one of the first complete dictionaries. What an odd way to enter the academic world!And believe it or not, those aren't even spoilers! Simon Winchester gives us all that right in the title of his surprisingly riveting read The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary.The idea of reading a book on the creation of a dictio...
  • Kinga
    If you know me personally or almost personally, then you should be aware that I am quite mad. I have a heavy obsession with the alphabet, with inventing bizarre systems that rule just about anything in my life and catalouging things. It is quite obvious that a book about a lunatic and creating Oxford English Dictionary would be a winner with me. And it was.However, it wasn't perfect. Winchester performed some weird narrative experiments. For exam...
  • Danae
    This is a perfect example of a book that I wish had been written by David McCullough. I gave it three stars based primarily on potential--the story itself was very interesting; the writing was more like 2 stars. I cannot believe this man has been able to make his living as a writer on two continents. His main problem was being redundant, giving the general impression that his target audience was not-too-bright fifth graders (I don't need every li...
  • Trevor
    I have been meaning to read this book for years – I couldn’t even tell you when I first saw it or heard about it and thought it would be a good idea to read. Then I saw a copy in a bookshop that was going cheap and bought it on my way to my mother’s place. I showed it to her and then lent it to her. She told me she enjoyed it – so that made me keen to read it too. That was a couple of years ago – as you see, I was in no rush. I think mu...
  • Diane
    Calling all bibliophiles! Have you ever wondered how that magnificent beast, the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary (OED), came into being? Well, this is the book for you.Simon Winchester weaves together the story of two men in Victorian England: one was Professor James Murray, who was editing what was to become the definitive work on the English language; the other was William Chester Minor, who had committed murder and was living in a lunatic ...
  • Heather
    I can't believe people get paid to write books like this. I'm surprised it's not twice as long, since he employs half a dozen methods to inflate the page count. The actual story itself is fascinating, absolutely! But the writing was all fluffy excited repetitious drama, full of egoistic awe of one's own flair for "understanding" what these people must have felt and thought. It was a manipulative sham of a book. You know those History Channel show...
  • Bettie☯
    Broadmoor Description: Hidden within the rituals of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary is a fascinating mystery. Professor James Murray was the distinguished editor of the OED project. Dr. William Chester Minor, an American surgeon who had served in the Civil War, was one of the most prolific contributors to the dictionary, sending thousands of neat, hand-written quotations from his home. After numerous refusals from Minor to visit hi...
  • Debbie Petersen
    This book has been on my to-read list for some time, and I had a few preconceived ideas that turned out to be wrong. For instance, I had assumed that the "madman" would have been someone psychotically insane, the type of man that you would pass in the street and cross to the other side, since he would be unkempt and smelly and gibbering nonsense to unseen companions. As it turns out, the "madman" was an American doctor, educated at Yale, who was ...
  • Cathy DuPont
    William Shakespeare (1564-1616) had no English dictionary to reference when he wrote his 38 plays, sonnets and poems. Until Samuel Johnson, an English writer and lexicographer, compiled A Dictionary of the English Language the English speaking people had few concise or friendly dictionaries to refer to for definitions and/or spellings. Johnson’s volume took nine years to complete and was published in 1755 with a total of 42,773 words defined an...
  • Velma
    I procrastinated writing this review because I couldn’t make up my mind how many stars to award this book. The intriguing story and strong prose were overwhelmed by lack of citation, rampant speculation, and the egregiously clumsy literary device underlying the central relationship of the two protagonists. Winchester built up this great mystery about Dr. Minor, the reclusive contributor to Prof. Murray's editorial efforts, culminating in the ex...
  • Chrissie
    I chose this book since so many of my friends highly recommended it, but to be honest I was a little hesitant. I couldn't figure out what could be so interesting about the compilation of a dictionary. Simon Winchester, the author and also narrator of the audiobook, chooses just the right details. As you read or listen you drawn into the complexity involved in the Oxford English Dictionary 's making. You learn why it was needed, you learn how it d...
  • Lyn Elliott
    I read this under its original title. 'The Surgeon of Crowthorne'. It's a memorable book and on my list to re-read. According to Wikipedia, its title was changed to The Professor and the Madman for the US market: 'A journalist with three decades of experience, and the author of a dozen travel-inspired books, Winchester's initial proposal to write a book about an obscure lexicographer met with rejection. Only when Harper Collins editor Larry Ashme...
  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    This is the first pick of the 2016-17 season for my in-person book club. I had started it once before but it never really compelled me to pick it up and keep reading. As someone who teaches about research, I am actually quite intrigued by the history of how great reference works like the Oxford English Dictionary were put together, but I suspect that the author is making more out of the story of the primary editor and one contributor, a story tha...
  • Emily
    this book is pretentious. I guess if you have to write a book about the OED, it has to be written in a really pretentious, loquacious manner with lots of stupid words like "loquacious". that being said, it is an interesting story.
  • Helen
    What should have been an interesting story somehow made tediously dull. I got around half way through, then skimmed to the end. I thought I'd love this, since I enjoy finding curious new words and discovering their origins.I was all set for my journey into lexicography, with dictionary at the ready. However, the tone of the writing and the unnecessary peppering of the text with words even Stephen Fry uses only on special occasions does not convey...
  • Amantha
    I JUST WROTE A LONG EFFING REVIEW ABOUT WHY THIS WAS A TERRIBLE BOOK AND FREAKING GOODREADS DELETED IT BECAUSE I CLICKED OUTSIDE THE STUPID REVIEW SQUARE WHILE TRYING TO RING UP A CUSTOMER. I CAN'T REPRODUCE IT SO HERE ARE THE BULLET POINTS:*Winchester has zero grasp of psychology. He may be worse than Freud himself, and that's saying something. Winchester went so far as to suggest that Dr. Minor (the titular madman) could have avoided becoming s...
  • Helvry Sinaga
    Saya sampai lupa dimana buku ini dibeli, sempat mengintip review dari teman GRI, saya baca reviewnya Pak Tanzil, dan memutuskan membaca buku ini. Saya salah. Tadinya saya mengira buku ini adalah novel, ternyata buku ini adalah semacam "pengantar" pada suatu kisah besar penciptaan kamus yang dianggap termashyur abad ini, yaitu The Oxford English Dictionary (OED).Ditulis oleh Simon Winchester, Ia lahir di London Utara pada 28 September 1944, terlah...
  • Sue K H
    Something kept drawing me to this book, but I had initially shied away due to the "and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary" part of the title. I had no interest in reading about the making of a dictionary. To my surprise, it was extremely interesting. There wasn't a dull moment in this book. It was full of interesting tidbits about words & history and the amazing 50+ year process of making such a comprehensive work of literature as the Ox...
  • Saleh MoonWalker
    Onvan : The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary - Nevisande : Simon Winchester - ISBN : 60839783 - ISBN13 : 9780060839789 - Dar 242 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 1998
  • Chris
    The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary is an exploration of the lives of two men (and countless other anonymous volunteers) who meticulously crafted the Oxford English Dictionary; a dictionary to this day remains the authority on the English language. This historical enquiry covers a broad scope. We follow the life of a Dr. William Chester Minor, from his youth to his time in a lun...
  • Kelly V
    I absolutely loved this book. The fundamental story was really interesting and consistently kept me excited about reading the next page. It is basically about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and specifically two of the key players in that venture: James Murray (the Scottish editor working in England) and W. C. Minor (the American contributor living in an English insane asylum). It doesn't pretend to tell the full story of the ...
  • Albert
    It was the chance to learn about the history behind the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) that attracted me to this book. I am not sure I have ever used the OED or if I have I do not remember noting its unique characteristics. The quite novel approach that was used to collect the examples of word use was such an obvious solution in an age without computers but that made my surprise all the more enjoyable. Taking 70 years to complete...
  • Julie (jjmachshev)
    The fascinating and poignant story of the Oxford English Dictionary and two similar, yet very different in circumstance, men whose lives would likely never have crossed except for their work on the OED. Although I had heard the story of the 'lunatic American doctor' who contributed reams of information for the OED, I still found myself riveted to the sad story (and occasional salacious detail in my opinion). As a word geek myself, I have a love/h...