The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
The OED project began in 1857, and took 70 years to complete, even with the help of thousands of contributors. One of the most prolific contributors, submitting nearly ten thousand entries over the course of 20 years, was Dr. William Chester Minor, an American Civil War veteran from Connecticut, who turned out to be an inmate at one of Britain’s harshest insane asylums. A fascinating and mysterious true story. The audio edition is fantastic. This is the audiobook that got me hooked on audiobooks.
The Professor and the Madman, masterfully researched and eloquently written, is an extraordinary tale of madness, genius, and the incredible obsessions of two remarkable men that led to the making of the Oxford English Dictionary — and literary history. The compilation of the OED, begun in 1857, was one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken. As definitions were collected, the overseeing committee, led by Professor James Murray, discovered that one man, Dr. W. C. Minor, had submitted more than ten thousand. When the committee insisted on honoring him, a shocking truth came to light: Dr. Minor, an American Civil War veteran, was also an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane.