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The Professor and the Madman | [Simon Winchester]

The Professor and the Madman

Part history, part true-crime, and entirely entertaining, listen to the story of how the behemoth Oxford English Dictionary was made. You'll hang on every word as you discover that the dictionary's greatest contributor was also an insane murderer working from the confines of an asylum.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential: This is a fascinating cubbyhole of literary history that plays like the best fiction: the most-prolific contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary turns out to be an imprisoned murderer. Listening to Simon Winchester's quirky and endearing narration, I found myself infected by his obvious enthusiasm for the story - and for the detective work it took to uncover it. —Steve Feldberg

Publisher's Summary

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 his home in Oxford, Murray set out to find him. It was then that Murray would finally learn the truth about Minor - that, in addition to being a masterly wordsmith, he was also an insane murderer locked up in Broadmoor, England's harshest asylum for criminal lunatics. The Professor and the Madman is the unforgettable story of the madness and genius that contributed to one of the greatest literary achievements in the history of English letters.

©1998 Simon Winchester; (P) 1999 HarperCollins Publishers Inc., All Rights Reserved, Harper Audio, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers

What the Critics Say

"The linguistic detective story of the decade." (New York Times Magazine)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (1960 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Mary WESTERLO, NY, United States 05-28-13
    Mary WESTERLO, NY, United States 05-28-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "now i want to learn more about words."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    yes. it stretches the tunnel vision.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Professor and the Madman?

    when he cut off his penis


    What about Simon Winchester’s performance did you like?

    his clear speech for an author he's a good reader.


    If you could give The Professor and the Madman a new subtitle, what would it be?

    the beauty of words


    Any additional comments?

    the first time I read this I went on the web to find out about OED. it was fun

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Miguel Cheswick, PA, US 03-25-13
    Miguel Cheswick, PA, US 03-25-13 Member Since 2012
    ratings
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    30
    6
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    Story
    "An improbable friendship with a superb result"
    If you could sum up The Professor and the Madman in three words, what would they be?

    Surprising: imposible to imagine such an improbable friendship.
    Historical: well researched and documented.
    Humane: the meeting of two great minds despite tragic cicumstances.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Its profound human reality. The diescription of adversity as a positive element.


    What about Simon Winchester’s performance did you like?

    His voice is clear, well modulated and consistent with the emotional situations narrated along the book.


    If you could give The Professor and the Madman a new subtitle, what would it be?

    Two great minds joint despite adversity.


    Any additional comments?

    Anyone interested in historical facts about our language and its evolution should read this very enjoyable book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    H. Baber Chula Vista, CA USA 02-06-13
    H. Baber Chula Vista, CA USA 02-06-13 Member Since 2008

    LogicGuru

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fantastic book!"
    Any additional comments?

    Superb book about the making of the OED--and the work of a contributor who happened to be a lunatic inmate of Broadmoor, the asylum for the criminally insane. I can't recommend this highly enough!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Enrique 01-20-13
    Enrique 01-20-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great Listening"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Professor and the Madman to be better than the print version?

    Yes, the author reads it


    Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

    Yes, there are many facts totally impressive in this research


    What does Simon Winchester bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    The English accent, and the pronunciation of the author gives the exact idea the author wanted to communicate to the audience


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    The whole research on the subject


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    tony channells 01-07-13 Member Since 2010
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    9
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    Story
    "Wonderfull story well narrated"

    This is a wonderful story that is very well narrated by the author. The authors passion for the subject shines through the narration. The story is richly detailed by thorough research depicting the extraordinary circumstances that contrived to create the first true english dictionary.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shako Mumbai, India 01-03-13
    Shako Mumbai, India 01-03-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great story on a "dry" subject"

    One wouldn't expect an intriguing story such as this on the making of a dictionary. In a way, you can compare the protagonist Dr Minor with today's icon Steve Jobs and wonder; does it take a person to be "mad" to be so brilliant? And in so many ways, being thus is not so bad after all.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Fried Bay area, CA, USA 01-02-13
    J. Fried Bay area, CA, USA 01-02-13 Member Since 2011
    ratings
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    6
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    "Great story for word lovers"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Professor and the Madman to be better than the print version?

    For us it was, as we could listen to it during out trip from NY to Washington DC and enjoy the trip, also preparing us for some history watching..


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    The combination of the story, the excerpts from the dictionary, the tragic people involved and the vision of a few brave men. Oh, and the language!


    What about Simon Winchester’s performance did you like?

    He really put his heart into the book, no doubt!


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Yes, wouldn't say extreme but it definitely stirred emotions and was very enjoyable.


    Any additional comments?

    Would recommend it to anyone who is interested in words, humans and some history. A truly inspiring tale, made me want to read more of the Author's books, if that's an indication.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JANE 12-10-12
    JANE 12-10-12
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    "A VERY DELIGHTFUL BOOK"
    What made the experience of listening to The Professor and the Madman the most enjoyable?

    it is a very interesting story and well written.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Simon Winchester?

    Yes, but I did find his accent a little difficult to understand.


    Any additional comments?

    There is so much junk out there. How refreshing to listen to an very good story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sheryl Los Angeles, CA, United States 12-01-12
    Sheryl Los Angeles, CA, United States 12-01-12 Member Since 2010
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    "A Fascinating True Story"
    What made the experience of listening to The Professor and the Madman the most enjoyable?

    The intricate detail made this enjoyable.


    What does Simon Winchester bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    The authentic British voice definitely added to the experience


    If you could give The Professor and the Madman a new subtitle, what would it be?

    The title is perfect as it is.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jessie Niles, Ca 12-01-12
    jessie Niles, Ca 12-01-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting"

    I didn't really know what to expect from The Professor and the Madman, but I enjoyed reading the book. It was very interesting to hear the story as well as learn how the dictionary was created.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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