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The Man Who Deciphered Linear B: The Story of Michael Ventris
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The Man Who Deciphered Linear B: The Story of Michael Ventris

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  61 ratings  ·  12 reviews
Ventris was a dazzling linguist, a modest genius who, 52 years after Arthur Evans's original discovery in 1900, resolved the ancient mystery of Linear B where all other experts had failed. The script appeared on clay tablets among the ruins of a Cretan palace and is Europe's oldest writing.
Hardcover, 168 pages
Published June 17th 2002 by Thames & Hudson (first published June 8th 2002)
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This book is best read as a companion volume to "The Decipherment of Linear B" by Chadwick, Michael Ventris' collaborator. "The Man Who Deciphered Linear B" focuses on Michael Ventris' life, which, frankly, was not particularly interesting (and which was of course cut short by a car accident in his thirties). The author tries to tie in Michael Ventris' training as an architect to his succcess in deciphering Linear B, but he failed to convince me that one skill contributed in any way to the other ...more
Robinson provides an interesting insight into the life and personality of Michael Ventris and his work on deciphering Linear B. The author's zeal and admiration for Ventris' work comes through in his writing. At times, Robinson seems to channel the personality conflict between Ventris and Kober in his unfair appraisal of Kober's contribution to the decipherment. For example, Kober's insistence on Linear B being Greek years before Ventris reached that conclusion being the most obvious. Robinson s ...more
Dec 12, 2013 Adrian added it
Accomplished little book on Englishman Michael Ventris who deciphered Linear B the ancient Minoan script in 1952. An architect by trade and polymath (he spoke 10 languages fluently) he put aside his architectural work to work full time to solve this puzzle. Robinson ably documents what could have been dull- the analysis of 89 symbols which Ventris charted in numerous ways to find patterns of use. He compared Linear B to several ancient languages including Cypriot and Mycenaean- correctly identif ...more
This is, as far as I can tell, the only biography of Michael Ventris. The book covers it all, from his childhood, through his World War II service and early family life, to the days of the decipherment and finally his disillusionment with the subject and early death in an automobile accident.

As a student of linguistics with much interest in the earliest Indo-European languages, I have long been familiar with data from Mycenaean Greece in syllabic transcription. However, I didn't know how Ventris
Short (~165pp.). Vaguely biographical, although too sketchy to really be a biography propper. Rather too much emphasis on Mr. Ventris's life as an architect. The best part is the step through of how it is he actually cracked the ancient sylabic that had theretofore been though of as Etruscan and identified it, much to his own surprise, as Greek (chs. 5-6).

Learning Latin and translating beginning to translate the Aeneid, I found his deciphering method worthy of recording:

1. Analysis: "An exhaust
Patrick Roy
I enjoyed the book. I didn't know what Linear B was before I read it. It was just one of those random moments. I saw the book on the shelf in the library when I was looking for a book on Latin.

Michael Ventris' life seemed sad. He had an enviable gift for languages and got hooked on the puzzle of deciphering Linear B when he was just a kid, though he never seemed interested in what was written in that language. So I was interested in what might have been going on with him.

I'm now interested in
Emily Herndon
I particularly enjoyed reading this book immediately after reading The Riddle of the Labyrinth to get additional perspectively on the players of the decipherment- Evans, Kober, Chadwick, etc. I thought Robinson did an excellent job of following Ventris through the process, but I benefitted greatly from already knowing the work the Kober had put in.
Fascinating story about little-known figure who deciphered Linear B, an ancient Minoan script. The biography is just the right length to sustain the story of Michael Ventris' life.
Great beginning, tepid ending, but still recommended.
This is a good short overview of an exciting discovery in ancient language. The insight into how scientific method and inspiration worked together to solve the mystery of Linear B in Ventris' mind is compelling. The correlation of architecture and classics in this one person shows why expertise does not have to have predictable outcomes. I hope you like it too. You can read it in about 2 hours.
David Robertus
One of the better book on decipherment- it delves into the technical aspects of the process along with some very good (and relevant) biographical material. Ranks up with Coe's book on the decipherment of the Mayan glyphs and FAR superior to "The Linguist and the Emperor", which was dreadful.
Ben Crowder
I think I would have preferred a little more about Linear B and less about Michael Ventris's life, but since this is a biography, I can't fault him for that. :) Good book.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author by this name in the Goodreads data base.

W. Andrew Robinson is a British author and former newspaper editor.

Andrew Robinson was educated at the Dragon School, Eton College where he was a King's Scholar, University College, Oxford where he read Chemistry and finally the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. He is the son of Neville Robinson,
More about Andrew Robinson...
Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World's Undeciphered Scripts Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye The Last Man Who Knew Everything: Thomas Young, the Anonymous Polymath Who Proved Newton Wrong, Explained How We See, Cured the Sick, and Deciphered the Rosetta Stone, Among Other Feats of Genius The Story of Writing: Alphabets, Hieroglyphs, and Pictograms Writing and Script: A Very Short Introduction

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