"The Professor and the Madman" deals with the lives of two men who came together through their work on the Oxford English Dictionary: James Murray, the professor, who was the first editor of the dictionary, and Dr. William Chester Minor, the madman, who was a contributor of material.
Winchester describes how James Murray chose to use lay readers to help compile the information for the dictionary based on their reading. They would search out words and send him slips with the lexicographical information on them. He would compose the entries based on that information. One of the readers who contributed nearly 10,000 words to the project was Dr. William Chester Minor. Murray never had any contact with him except through the mail. Then, in 1896, he set out to meet his contributor and discovered that he was an insane murderer imprisoned in Broadmoor, an asylum.
Winchester spends a large part of the book describing the details of Minot's murder of a man on his way home from work, his earlier life in America where he worked as a doctor during the Civil War, as well as his work on the dictionary. Winchester's book is primarily concerned with describing the unusual relationship between two such different men.
This report prepared by Jack Goodstein
The Professor and the Madman is about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary. The book describes the process of contribution that helped make the dictionary possible. The major focuses of the story are James Murray and Dr. W.C. Minor. Murray (the professor) develops an interest in Minor because he has contributed more than ten thousand entries to the dictionary. The story and history take an odd twist when Murray discovers that Minor is currently residing at an asylum for the crimnally insane.
This report prepared by Kristy Pastore