Reader reviews for The Professor and the Madman

Extraordinary...perfect for wordsmiths!
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this books is fantastic. i picked it up and finished it the same day. quick read because its so interesting.
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I know I read this. I don't know when but I know I did, so I'd better add it before I forget it entirely.

As carelessly as I use the star ratings, I wouldn't be so unfair as to rate this after, let me think, at least 3 years. But I'd call it about a three. Not as much OED as I would have liked, and rather more murderer...but that's what's attention-grabbing I suppose.
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The Professor and the Madman contains a small, fascinating facet of history. It explores the 70 year effort to create the Oxford English Dictionary, but focuses on the story of two men in particular. Dr. Murray, the first editor to make any significant progress on the OED, and Dr. Minor, a prolific contributor to the effort. The drama comes from the fact that Dr. Minor was a murderer and long-term inmate in a mental institution.The OED is not a dictionary like the one you will find on your shelf. Each letter has its own volume and each word entry has several supporting quotations to demonstrate the proper usage. Dr. Murray broadcast a wide plea for volunteers to supply appropriate quotations from literature. Dr. Minor provided a consistent stream of high quality contributions. The stories behind these two men humanize what could otherwise be a dry recital of facts and figures. The author delves into the tragic events that unfold in Dr. Minor's life as well as detailing the struggles of Dr. Murray to organize such an immense undertaking. There is enough history to satisfy history buffs, but also enough side stories to entertain the casual reader. The writing style is somewhat formal, but not so stilted as to be difficult to read.Simon Winchester now has another book out about the Oxford English Dictionary: The Meaning of Everything. If you are interested in a broader view of the history of the OED instead of focusing on the story of Dr. Murray and Minor, then that might be a better choice.3 Stars
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Explored the Interesting and curious fact that a major contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary was both an American and criminally insane who was based at Broadmoor for 50-60 years. And that the editor came from a poor working call background, with no degree but a deep interest in the subject that led him via a national society to take on the role for 50-60 years.However, more really an essay on their separate and related histories then a detailed history
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Enjoyable read on the making of my favorite dictionary, the OED. Although the main focus is on the lives and interaction of Minor and Murray, also provides some highlights on the other major contributors. Chapters begin with word entry from OED, word gives small preview of what to expect.
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I absolutely loved this book, it tells the story how the Oxford Dictionary came to be. It involved murder, madness among the world's top intellectuals. Simon Winchester certainly knows how to weave history and academia together perfectly.
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This was a depressing little book built around the collaboration and friendship between the self-made scholar who shepherded the astonishing birth of the Oxford English Dictionary and one of the volunteers who regularly sent in contributions. The volunteer turned out to be a wealthy American doctor and murderer housed in an insane asylum outside London. The book expounds on a variety of topics which touch on the lives of the two men, including surgical practice in the Union Army during the Civil War, the Battle of the Wilderness, and the history of dictionaries. Much of this is quite interesting, but I didn’t find the central story all that compelling, perhaps because the actual documentation isn’t voluminous, so all the details on other subjects feel like filler.
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Doctors Murray and Minor are an unlikely pair who ultimately come together to help create one of the most important books ever printed.At first glance, it is hard to believe that a story about a dictionary project could be just so darn interesting, but it truly is. Readers/scholars/librarians, etc., and others with a strong affinity for words will be captivated by the unusual, tragic and inspiring chain of events that took place during this massive volunteer effort -- an effort which spanned decades and ultimately benefited all of us.
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Required reading! A great book. A little slow, but an important historical account of the development of the OED. Very memorable and I have recommended this book to many word-loving friends.
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