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The Professor and the Madman written by Simon Winchester is a biography about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary Winchester who is an author journalist broadcaster and foreign correspondent has written for many magazines and newspapers distributed worldwide In an interview between Winchester and a host of C-SPAN Winchester was asked where the idea for the book came he replies Well it came to me in a rather bizarre way I was reading a book on lexicography in the bath one morning as one does I suppose just before breakfast and it was a book--a wonderful book called Chasing The Sun by a man called Jonathan Green And it had a reference--it said Readers will be familiar with the extraordinary story of Dr WC Minor an American lunatic murderer who was a prodigiously energetic contributor to the OED And I remember sitting up in the bath Archimedeslike dripping and saying Well I know nothing about this Winchesters main foundation for this book is to clarify the tale of the making of the Oxford English DictionaryThe formation of the Oxford English Dictionary began in 1857 and took seventy years to finish Tens of thousands of individuals organized the expansive language into 414825 exact definitions The story begins with the grisly murder of George Merrett by William Chester Minor the former US Army officer and qualified surgeon On February 17th of 1872 in the early morning William Minor had been sleeping when he awoke to some noises of someone in his flat He sat up and saw someone standing at the foot of his bed He proceeded to chase the individual into the street and shot at the person as they attempted to flee He ended up shooting the first person that came into view apparently and this person was George Merrett Merrett had never met WC Minor and had been heading home after a long day at work WC Minor was arrested While in prison
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