Kathleen Dixon's Reviews > The Surgeon of Crowthorne

The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester
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Jan 06, 13

really liked it
bookshelves: language-and-literacy
Read in November, 2008

I did a cop-out one-sentence nothing-review when I read this four years ago, so am attempting to remedy it just a little right now.

This book (published in the US as The Professor & the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity & the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary) is fascinating. I did participate in a discussion group, and said there:
I am in awe of the achievement of the OED. I had never paused to think about it before, so am delighted that this book was put forward to discuss. So many people, and so many years! Truly a "heroic creation."

I am also so very impressed by Winchester's telling of the story. If someone had simply told me that the OED took some 75 years to complete, I would have widened my eyes in amazement. If they had then told me that one of the major contributors to it was a madman, I would have expressed interest and said something like "well, they often say that genius borders insanity", and that would have been it. But Winchester has not only set the making of the OED in its historical context, but has painted a great portrait of James Murray and given a fascinating account of William Minor and his illness.
This book is worth re-reading.
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