The Professor and the Madman

  • by Simon Winchester
  • Narrated by Simon Winchester
  • 7 hrs and 21 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.

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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

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What the Critics Say

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

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Perfect example of a quality audible book.

Simon Winchester presents us with an amazing story about a piece of history that I would have never considered interesting or significant. The accomplishment of the combined efforts of the two main characters Minor & Murray added to scores of other volunteers is one if not the greatest achievement in the history of the English language.

The story is presented in a very logical yet unassuming manner, and maybe the perfect example of an audible book selection. The narrators voice is crisp, clear, and expressive.

Listen, enjoy, and recommend to a friend.
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- Jerry

or How I Spent My Summer(s) in the Asylum

A book about encyclopaedia and words is interesting? Actually, quite. The foibles we encounter in humanity color the texture of our society, morality, education and social progress. Believe it or not, an example of this is richly portrayed in The Professor and the Madman. A truly engaging piece of work, well researched and delivered with wit and grace. I only rated this a 3-4 because I have happened to listen to some truly remarkable books recently so I've tightened up my ratings all around. Nonetheless, highly recommended (I went out and bought the hardcover book as well).
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- Karen "I write my reviews under my wife Karen's account. Retired USN Russian linguist/analyst; actor; director; producer. Biography & History focus"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-16-1999
  • Publisher: HarperAudio