That’s the subtitle of The Professor and the Madman, written by Simon Winchester in 1998.
The madman is William C. Minor, a Civil War surgeon. His latent madness may have been triggered during the two days of the stunningly bloody encounter known as the Battle of Wilderness, which occurred in Orange County, Virginia in early May of 1864.
Later, in London, he commits murder, is arrested and incarcerated, and spends the balance of his life in asylums for the criminally insane. What is remarkable is this astonishingly gifted man’s decades-long contribution to the compilation of the OED.
A friend who lives in Oxford and whose work is involved with the OED told me that Winchester–the author of a dozen books on various other topics–wrote a second tome about the famed dictionary in collaboration with a friend of hers. Written in 2004, The Meaning of Everything has been touted by The New York Times Book Review as “supremely readable.”
That’s next on my list after finishing Deborah Devonshire’s memoir, Wait For Me! and Stefan Zweig’s The World of Yesterday. More on those in a future post.
In the meantime, happy summer reading to you.
P.S. Speaking of reading, I am thrilled to announce that my second memoir, published earlier this year, is a semi-finalist in the Florida Writers Association’s Royal Palm Literary Award Competition.
You can get your copy on Amazon by clicking here: amzn.to/1RtRBwp.
See you next time!