Drew’s #25 — The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester


The Oxford English Dictionary (O.E.D.) is a much more than a desk reference.  In fact, it is authority on the english language.   If you’ve never considered the dictionary, think for a moment just what it took to put one of the first ones together and just what sort of people it would take to accomplish this task.  I mean, you’d have to be crazy to see that project through, right?  The short answer is:  yes.  In fact the largest contribution was made my Dr. William Chester Minor, a paranoid schizophrenic remanded to an asylum in England after murdering another man in his delusional state.  But, like the O.E.D. itself, there’s much more to the story than you’d initially assume.  And there were a number of remarkable people that had a hand in the publication.   And the author does a fascinating job of researching, developing and relating the details the people who put the first O.E.D. together.   Murder, insanity, words, famous nerds, social radicals of academia… all wrapped together in a hilariously (in a very dry sense) engaging story.  Take my word for it:  a MUST read.

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