Friday, November 30, 2007

The Professor and the Madman, Simon Winchester

Title: The Professor and the Madman
Author: Simon Winchester
Rating: Good

The Professor and the Madman documents the relationship between Sir James Murray - one of the major editors of the original Oxford English Dictionary - and Dr. William Chester Minor - a retired US Army surgeon, and - without doubt - a madman.

Dr. Minor made significant contributions to the OED, and did it all from his abode in... well... I'll leave that for you to read.

This is an interesting story, both for the history behind the OED and that behind Minor. But that said, the treatment feels a bit long. Winchester goes to great lengths to draw out certain points when they could be stated more concisely. it's still a good read, though.

If you've ever stared at the OED in its printed form and wondered how it was originally created, this book will answer that question. And it throws in a sad story of madness besides.