Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Professor and the Madman by Simon…

The Professor and the Madman (original 1998; edition 1998)

by Simon Winchester

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,457197363 (3.8)328
Title:The Professor and the Madman
Authors:Simon Winchester
Info:Harper (1998), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 256 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Surgeon of Crowthorne : A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words by Simon Winchester (1998)


Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 328 mentions

English (190)  Indonesian (2)  German (2)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (197)
Showing 1-5 of 190 (next | show all)
Check out my blog for an in-depth review of this book. http://opinionsofabookaholic.blogspot.com/2016/04/the-professor-and-madman-simon... ( )
  M_Sawtelle | Apr 6, 2016 |
This is my second time reading the Professor and the Madman and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed the first time around. This book was on my library Non-Fiction Book Club Reading List for July. I was fascinated by the fact that William Shakespeare did not have access to a dictionary because there was not one available for the English language. A dictionary was not available until Samuel Johnson and there were many great British writers like Dafoe, Swift who wished to fix the English language and ban words like bamboozle, uppish and couldn't. Many dictionaries came out but it was Dr. Murray from Oxford and several others who set out to not only document every English word but give use and context of words with the use of literature including the Bible. It took nine years to put out the first nine volumes of the dictionary all of which would not have been possible had it not been for Dr Minor. Minor a very well educated man and doctor was prolific in the number of words and information that he submitted for the dictionary. He found an ad for the project in books he ordered from London booksellers.

This book is more about the history of the project and the key men involved that gave the dictionary life. Dr Murray was our Oxford professor and Dr. Minor was of course the Madman. In understanding the creation of the dictionary it is important to know the men behind the project. Dr. Minor was an American who served during the Civil War as a Army surgeon. After the war the doctor found himself in London trying to find his sanity. All was going well until one night when he murdered a man in cold blood. He was tried and found insane, he was sentenced to Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum until the monarchs "Pleasure Be Known" whenever that may be.

There is one scene that will leave the reader a little squeamish but overall a fascinating read. ( )
  yvonne.sevignykaiser | Apr 2, 2016 |
10/21: re-listened to this audiobook. The truth behind the myth of madness is sure to drive you mad.

This is an ancillary story to the making of the Oxford English Dictionary (see "The Meaning of Everything"). Dr. William Chester Minor, "an American surgeon who had served in the Civil War, was one of many contributors to the dictionary, sending in thousands of neat, hand-written quotations from his home. On numberous occasions [Professor Murry:] invited Minor to visit Oxford and celebrate his work, but Murray's offer was regularly, mysteriously, refused."

It turns out that Dr. Minor, while sober and lucid in his scholarly work, was otherwise batshit crazy. For instance, Dr. Minor believed that small Irishmen lived in his floorboards and would come out at night and "maltreat him" and sometimes even bugger him.

Dr. Minor was also a murderer, confined to the Bethlehem asylum for the criminally insane. His story is betimes sad and funny, and always riveting. (Interesting factoid: our word "bedlam" is a shortening of "Bethlehem Insane Asylum".) ( )
  evamat72 | Mar 31, 2016 |
Mostly an interesting story about two men instrumental in the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary and their friendship, but the whole thing kind of soured for me at the end when Winchester says we should be grateful that a human being suffered so terribly from paranoia and fear that he murdered another human being and mutilated himself, because if he hadn't been suffering a project that he helped contribute to might have been delayed by a couple of years. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Feb 28, 2016 |
I was a bit leery of this book as I thought there was potential for it to be rather a dry read. I was pleasantly surprised. I listened to the book on CD, read by the author, he made the topic come alive. I really enjoyed it, and learned a lot. ( )
  KylaS | Feb 18, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 190 (next | show all)
Here, as so consistently throughout, Winchester finds exactly the right tool to frame the scene.
added by John_Vaughan | editPowells, Dave Weich (Oct 1, 2001)

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Simon Winchesterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pracher, RickCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
To the memory of
G. M.
First words
Popular myth has it that one of the most remarkable conversations in modern literary history took place on a cool and misty late autumn in 1896, in the small village of Crowthorne in the county of Berkshire.
One word --and only one word-- was ever actually lost: bondmaid, which appears in Johnson's dictionary, was actually lost by Murray and was found, a stray without a home, long after the fascicle Battentlie - Bozzom had been published. It, and tens of thousands of words that had evolved or appeared during the forty-four years spent assembling the fascicles and their [twelve] parent volumes, appeared in a supplement, which came out in 1933. Four further supplements appeared between 1972 and 1986. In 1989, using the new abilities of the computer, Oxford University Press issued its fully integrated second edition, incorporating all the changes and additions of the supplements in twenty rather more slender volumes. [220]
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
UK title: The Surgeon of Crowthorne
US title: The Professor and the Madman
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Original language
Book description
A wonderful story...It has all the ingredients of one of Patrick McGrath's icily stylish novels: madness, violence, arcane obsessions, weird learning, ghastly comedy - John Banville, Literary Review

Two distinguished-looking Victorians, both learned and serious, yet from very different worlds: one a brilliant polymath, the other a madman and a murderer.

Dr James Murray, erudite and pious, who broke free from an impoverished childhood to become a towering figure of British scholarship and editor of the great Oxford English Dictionary.

Dr W.C. Minor, lascivious, charismatic, a millionaire American Civil War surgeon and homicidal lunatic. Confined to Broadmoor Asylum he pursued his passion for words and became one of the OED's most valued contributors.

Their lives and unlikely friendship are unravelled in Simon Winchester's classic work of detection.

In this elegant book the writer has created a vivid parable, in the spirit of Nabakov and Borges - full of suspense, pathos and humour - Wall Street Journal

A jewel of a book, scholarly, beguiling and moving - as gripping as any thriller - Scotland on Sunday

A cracking read - Spectator
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060839783, Paperback)

The compilation of the Oxford English Dictionary, 70 years in the making, was an intellectually heroic feat with a twist worthy of the greatest mystery fiction: one of its most valuable contributors was a criminally insane American physician, locked up in an English asylum for murder. British stage actor Simon Jones leads us through this uncommon meeting of minds (the other belonging to self-educated dictionary editor James Murray) at full gallop. Ultimately, it's hard to say which is more remarkable: the facts of this amazingly well-researched story, or the sound of author Simon Winchester's erudite prose. Jones's reading smoothly transports listeners to the 19th century, reminding us why so many brilliant people obsessively set out to catalogue the English language. This unabridged version contains an interview between Winchester and John Simpson, editor of the Oxford dictionary. (Running time: 6.5 hours, 6 cassettes) --Lou Schuler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:04 -0400)

(see all 10 descriptions)

Looks at the making of the Oxford English dictionary.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
58 avail.
72 wanted
3 pay7 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.8)
0.5 2
1 16
1.5 5
2 79
2.5 37
3 426
3.5 163
4 827
4.5 79
5 349


2 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

See editions

Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140271287, 0141037717

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Store | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 22 books! | Top bar: Always visible