|Professor and the Madman|
The making of the OED was the brain child of Dr. James Murray, who oversaw the project. The actual finding of words and meanings was assisted by over 1,000 contributors from all over the world, who provided words, origins and definitions to Minor and his group.
One of the most prolific contributors was Dr. Minor, a very mysterious contributor. Dr. Murray tried to visit or communicate with most of his contributors but had no luck getting any information from or about Dr. Minor. They maintained a correspondence for over ten years, but finally after having received nearly 10,000 definitions from Dr. Minor, Murray set out to meet him.
He discovered a fascinating individual living at a surprising location. Dr. Minor, an amazing wordsmith, was also a murderer and living in the insane asylum at Broadmoor, England's asylum for criminal lunatics.
So there you have the premise for my introduction to Simon Winchester. The Professor and the Madman, was published in 1998 and is a fascinating story, detailing the lives of two fascinating, obsessed individuals, Dr. James Murray and one of his most prolific contributors to the publication of the first ever OED, Dr. William Chester Minor. My wife hit a home run with this gift; I enjoyed every word of it; the fascinating characters, the enthralling process involved with the making of the OED.
|Making the OED|
I have since purchased a few more Winchester stories and have found them as enjoyable as the first two books. The Map that Changed the World; William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology is one such story. Originally published in 2001, it tells the story or William Smith, a canal digger, who in 1793, discovered that by tracing the placement of fossils, one could follow the layers of rocks clear across England. His discovery enabled him, for the first time ever, to draw a chart of the hidden underside of the earth. This is a story of another dedicated individual, a man who spent twenty-two years of his life, travelling across England, piecing together an epochal and beatifully hand-crated map of the Earth. However it is not just a story of a map, but also a tragic story of a man, who was treated poorly, plagiarized, sent to debtor's prison and more. In the tradition of The Professor and the Madman, Simon Winchester delves into a fascinating individual and his dogged efforts to produce something that changed the way scientists view geography.
|The British Empire|
|A Crack in the World|
Sounds like another interesting read. So that is where I am, myself, with my exploration of Simon Winchester's writings. I highly recommend his stories; those that I've experienced I've enjoyed immensely. If you wish to explore all of his novels or in some sort of order, below is a chronological list of his stories. Enjoy!
- 1975 – In Holy Terror
- 1976 – American Heartbeat
- 1983 – Prison Diary: Argentina
- 1984 – Their Noble Lordships: Class and Power in Modern Britain
- 1985 – Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire (also known as The Sun Never Sets)
- 1988 – Korea, A Walk Through the Land of Miracles
- 1991 – Pacific Rising: The Emergence of a New World Culture
- 1992 – Hong Kong: Here Be Dragons (by Rich Browne, James Marshall and Simon Winchester)
- 1992 – Pacific Nightmare: How Japan Starts World War III : A Future History (novel)
- 1995 – Small World: A Global Photographic Project, 1987–94 (by Martin Parr and Simon Winchester)
- 1996 – The River at the Center of the World: A Journey up the Yangtze and Back in Chinese Time
- 1998 – The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary (Published in the US as The Professor and the Madman)
- 1999 – The Fracture Zone: A Return To The Balkans
- 2001 – The Map that Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology
- 2003 – The Meaning of Everything — the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
- 2003 – Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded
- 2004 – Simon Winchester's Calcutta (a collection of writings about the Indian city, edited with son Rupert)
- 2005 – A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906
- 2008 – The Man Who Loved China — the Life of Joseph Needham (title of the UK edition: Bomb, Book & Compass)
- 2010 – Atlantic: A Vast Ocean of a Million Stories
- 2011 – The Alice Behind Wonderland - Alice Liddell