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The Professor and the Madman

35 ratings

Summary

Hidden within the rituals of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary is a fascinating mystery. Professor James Murray was the distinguished editor of the OED project. Dr. William Chester Minor, an American surgeon who had served in the Civil War, was one of the most prolific contributors to the dictionary, sending thousands of neat, hand-written quotations from his home. After numerous refusals from Minor to visit his home in Oxford, Murray set out to find him. It was then that Murray would finally learn the truth about Minor - that, in addition to being a masterly wordsmith, he was also an insane murderer locked up in Broadmoor, England's harshest asylum for criminal lunatics. The Professor and the Madman is the unforgettable story of the madness and genius that contributed to one of the greatest literary achievements in the history of English letters.

©1998 Simon Winchester (P)1999 HarperCollins Publishers Inc., All Rights Reserved, Harper Audio, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers

Length: 7 hrs and 21 mins
Available on Audible
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The Meaning of Everything

2 ratings

Summary

From the best-selling author of The Professor and the Madman, The Map That Changed the World, and Krakatoa comes a truly wonderful celebration of the English language and of its unrivaled treasure house, the Oxford English Dictionary.  Writing with marvelous brio, Winchester first serves up a lightning history of the English language - "so vast, so sprawling, so wonderfully unwieldy" - and pays homage to the great dictionary makers, from "the irredeemably famous" Samuel Johnson to the "short, pale, smug and boastful" schoolmaster from New Hartford, Noah Webster. He then turns his unmatched talent for story-telling to the making of this most venerable of dictionaries. In this fast-paced narrative, the reader will discover lively portraits of such key figures as the brilliant but tubercular first editor Herbert Coleridge (grandson of the poet), the colorful, boisterous Frederick Furnivall (who left the project in a shambles), and James Augustus Henry Murray, who spent a half-century bringing the project to fruition. Winchester lovingly describes the nuts-and-bolts of dictionary making - how unexpectedly tricky the dictionary entry for marzipan was, or how fraternity turned out so much longer and monkey so much more ancient than anticipated - and how bondmaid was left out completely, its slips found lurking under a pile of books long after the B-volume had gone to press. We visit the ugly corrugated iron structure that Murray grandly dubbed the Scriptorium - the Scrippy or the Shed, as locals called it - and meet some of the legion of volunteers, from Fitzedward Hall, a bitter hermit obsessively devoted to the OED, to W. C. Minor, whose story is one of dangerous madness, ineluctable sadness, and ultimate redemption. The Meaning of Everything is a scintillating account of the creation of the greatest monument ever erected to a living language. Simon Winchester's supple, vigorous prose illuminates this dauntingly ambitious project - a 70-year odyssey to create the grandfather of all word-books, the world's unrivalled uber-dictionary.

©2003 Simon Winchester (P)2003 HarperCollinsPublishers, Inc.

Length: 7 hrs and 18 mins
Available on Audible
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Land

Summary

The author of The Professor and the Madman and The Perfectionists explores the notion of property - our proprietary relationship with the land - through human history, how it has shaped us and what it will mean for our future. Land - whether meadow or mountainside, desert or peat bog, parkland or pasture, suburb or city - is central to our existence. It quite literally underlies and underpins everything. Employing the keen intellect, insatiable curiosity, and narrative verve that are the foundations of his previous best-selling works, Simon Winchester examines what we human beings are doing - and have done - with the billions of acres that together make up the solid surface of our planet.  Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World examines in depth how we acquire land, how we steward it, how and why we fight over it, and finally, how we can, and on occasion do, come to share it. Ultimately, Winchester confronts the essential question: who actually owns the world’s land - and why does it matter?    Supplemental enhancement PDF accompanies the audiobook.   PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2021 Simon Winchester (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers

Length: 13 hrs and 46 mins
Available on Audible
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Krakatoa

5 ratings

Summary

The best-selling author of The Professor and the Madman and The Map That Changed the World examines the enduring and world-changing effects of the catastrophic eruption off the coast of Java of the earth's most dangerous volcano - Krakatoa. The legendary annihilation in 1883 of the volcano-island of Krakatoa - the name has since become a byword for a cataclysmic disaster - was followed by an immense tsunami that killed nearly 40,000 people. Beyond the purely physical horrors of an event that has only very recently been properly understood, the eruption changed the world in more ways than could possibly be imagined. Dust swirled round die planet for years, causing temperatures to plummet and sunsets to turn vivid with lurid and unsettling displays of light. The effects of the immense waves were felt as far away as France. Barometers in Bogotá and Washington, DC, went haywire. Bodies were washed up in Zanzibar. The sound of the island's destruction was heard in Australia and India and on islands thousands of miles away. Most significant of all - in view of today's new political climate - the eruption helped to trigger in Java a wave of murderous anti-Western militancy among fundamentalist Muslims: one of the first outbreaks of Islamic-inspired killings anywhere. Simon Winchester's long experience in the world wandering as well as his knowledge of history and geology give us an entirely new perspective on this fascinating and iconic event as he brings it telling back to life.

©2003 Simon Winchester (P)2003 HarperCollinsPublishers, Inc.

Length: 12 hrs and 1 min
Available on Audible
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The Perfectionists

44 ratings

Summary

The revered New York Times best-selling author traces the development of technology from the Industrial Age to the Digital Age to explore the single component crucial to advancement - precision - in a superb history that is both an homage and a warning for our future. The rise of manufacturing could not have happened without an attention to precision. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in 18th-century England, standards of measurement were established, giving way to the development of machine tools - machines that make machines. Eventually, the application of precision tools and methods resulted in the creation and mass production of items from guns and glass to mirrors, lenses, and cameras - and eventually gave way to further breakthroughs, including gene splicing, microchips, and the Hadron Collider. Simon Winchester takes us back to origins of the Industrial Age, to England where he introduces the scientific minds that helped usher in modern production: John Wilkinson, Henry Maudslay, Joseph Bramah, Jesse Ramsden, and Joseph Whitworth. It was Thomas Jefferson who later exported their discoveries to the fledgling United States, setting the nation on its course to become a manufacturing titan. Winchester moves forward through time, to today’s cutting-edge developments occurring around the world, from America to Western Europe to Asia. As he introduces the minds and methods that have changed the modern world, Winchester explores fundamental questions. Why is precision important? What are the different tools we use to measure it? Who has invented and perfected it? Has the pursuit of the ultra-precise in so many facets of human life blinded us to other things of equal value, such as an appreciation for the age-old traditions of craftsmanship, art, and high culture? Are we missing something that reflects the world as it is, rather than the world as we think we would wish it to be? And can the precise and the natural co-exist in society?

©2018 Simon Winchester (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

Category: History, World
Length: 11 hrs and 46 mins
Available on Audible
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The Map That Changed the World

7 ratings

Summary

From the author of the best-selling The Professor and the Madman comes the fascinating story of William Smith, the orphaned son of an English country blacksmith, who became obsessed with creating the world's first geological map and ultimately became the father of modern geology. In 1793 William Smith, a canal digger, made a startling discovery that was to turn the fledgling science of the history of the earth - and a central plank of established Christian religion - on its head. He noticed that the rocks he was excavating were arranged in layers; more important, he could see quite clearly that the fossils found in one layer were very different from those found in another. And out of that realization came an epiphany: that by following the fossils, one could trace layers of rocks as they dipped and rose and fell - clear across England and, indeed, clear across the world. Determined to publish his profoundly important discovery by creating a map that would display the hidden underside of England, he spent 20 years traveling the length and breadth of the kingdom by stagecoach and on foot, studying rock outcrops and fossils, piecing together the image of this unseen universe. In 1815 he published his epochal and remarkably beautiful hand-painted map, more than eight feet tall and six feet wide. But four years after its triumphant publication, and with his young wife going steadily mad to the point of nymphomania, Smith ended up in debtors' prison, a victim of plagiarism, swindled out of his recognition and his profits. He left London for the north of England and remained homeless for 10 long years as he searched for work. It wasn't until 1831, when his employer, a sympathetic nobleman, brought him into contact with the Geological Society of London - which had earlier denied him a fellowship - that at last this quiet genius was showered with the honors long overdue him. He was summoned south to receive the society's highest award, and King William IV offered him a lifetime pension. The Map That Changed the World is, at its foundation, a very human tale of endurance and achievement, of one man's dedication in the face of ruin and homelessness. The world's coal and oil industry, its gold mining, its highway systems, and its railroad routes were all derived entirely from the creation of Smith's first map; and with a keen eye and thoughtful detail, Simon Winchester unfolds the poignant sacrifice behind this world-changing discovery.

©2001 Simon Winchester (P)2003 HarperCollinsPublishers, Inc.

Length: 9 hrs and 59 mins
Available on Audible
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Atlantic

7 ratings

Summary

From best-selling author Simon Winchester comes the immense and thrilling story of the world's most mysterious and breathtaking natural wonder: the Atlantic Ocean. Atlantic is a biography of a tremendous space that has been central to the ambitions of explorers, scientists, and warriors, and continues to affect profoundly our character, attitudes, and dreams. Spanning the ocean's story, from its geological origins to the age of exploration, from World War II battles to today's struggles with pollution and over-fishing, Winchester's narrative is epic, intimate, and awe inspiring. Until a thousand years ago, few humans ventured into the Atlantic or imagined traversing its vast infinity. But once the first daring mariners successfully navigated to its far shores - whether they were Vikings, the Irish, the Basques, John Cabot, or Christopher Columbus in the north, or the Portuguese and the Spanish in the south - the Atlantic swiftly evolved in the world's growing consciousness of itself as an enclosed body of water. Soon it became the fulcrum of Western civilization. More than a mere history, Atlantic is an unforgettable journey of unprecedented scope by one of the most gifted writers in the English language.

©2010 Simon Winchester (P)2010 HarperCollins Publishers

Length: 14 hrs and 30 mins
Available on Audible
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The Man Who Loved China

1 rating

Summary

In sumptuous and illuminating detail, Simon Winchester, the best-selling author of The Professor and the Madman ("Elegant and scrupulous" - New York Times Book Review) and Krakatoa ("A mesmerizing page-turner" - Time) brings to life the extraordinary story of Joseph Needham, the brilliant Cambridge scientist who unlocked the most closely held secrets of China, long the world's most technologically advanced country. No cloistered don, this tall, married Englishman was a freethinking intellectual, who practiced nudism and was devoted to a quirky brand of folk dancing. In 1937, while working as a biochemist at Cambridge University, he instantly fell in love with a visiting Chinese student, with whom he began a lifelong affair. He soon became fascinated with China, and his mistress swiftly persuaded the ever-enthusiastic Needham to travel to her home country, where he embarked on a series of extraordinary expeditions to the farthest frontiers of this ancient empire. He searched everywhere for evidence to bolster his conviction that the Chinese were responsible for hundreds of mankind's most familiar innovations - including printing, the compass, explosives, suspension bridges, even toilet paper - often centuries before the rest of the world. His thrilling and dangerous journeys, vividly recreated by Winchester, took him across war-torn China to far-flung outposts, consolidating his deep admiration for the Chinese people. After the war, Needham was determined to tell the world what he had discovered, and began writing his majestic Science and Civilisation in China, describing the country's long and astonishing history of invention and technology. By the time he died, he had produced, essentially single-handedly, 17 immense volumes, marking him as the greatest one-man encyclopedist ever. Both epic and intimate, The Man Who Loved China tells the sweeping story of China through Needham's remarkable life. Here is an unforgettable tale of what makes men, nations, and, indeed, mankind itself great - related by one of the world's inimitable storytellers.

©2008 Simon Winchester (P)2008 HarperCollins Publishers

Category: History, World
Length: 9 hrs and 11 mins
Available on Audible
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A Crack in the Edge of the World

Summary

The international best-selling author of The Professor and the Madman and Krakatoa vividly brings to life the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake that leveled a city symbolic of America's relentless western expansion. Simon Winchester has also fashioned an enthralling and informative informative look at the tumultuous subterranean world that produces earthquakes, the planet's most sudden and destructive force. In the early morning hours of April 18, 1906, San Francisco and a string of towns to its north-northwest and the south-southeast were overcome by an enormous shaking that was compounded by the violent shocks of an earthquake, registering 8.25 on the Richter scale. The quake resulted from a rupture in a part of the San Andreas fault, which lies underneath the earth's surface along the northern coast of California. Lasting little more than a minute, the earthquake wrecked 490 blocks, toppled a total of 25,000 buildings, broke open gas mains, cut off electric power lines throughout the Bay area, and effectively destroyed the gold rush capital that had stood there for a half century. Perhaps more significant than the tremors and rumbling, which affected a swatch of California more than 200 miles long, were the fires that took over the city for three days, leaving chaos and horror in its wake. The human tragedy included the deaths of upwards of 700 people, with more than 250,000 left homeless. It was perhaps the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.Simon Winchester brings his inimitable storytelling abilities - as well as his unique understanding of geology - to this extraordinary event, exploring not only what happened in northern California in 1906 but what we have learned since about the geological underpinnings that caused the earthquake in the first place. But his achievement is even greater: he positions the quake's significance along the earth's geological timeline and shows the effect it had on the rest of 20th-century California and American history. A Crack in the Edge of the World is the definitive account of the San Francisco earthquake. It is also a fascinating exploration of a legendary event that changed the way we look at the planet on which we live.

©2005 Simon Winchester (P)2005 HarperCollins Publishers

Length: 12 hrs and 29 mins
Available on Audible
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Pacific

8 ratings

Summary

Following his acclaimed Atlantic and The Men Who United the States, New York Times best-selling author Simon Winchester offers an enthralling biography of the Pacific Ocean and its role in the modern world, exploring our relationship with this imposing force of nature. As the Mediterranean shaped the classical world and the Atlantic connected Europe to the New World, the Pacific Ocean defines our tomorrow. With China on the rise, so, too, are the American cities of the West Coast, including Seattle, San Francisco, and the long cluster of towns down the Silicon Valley. Today the Pacific is ascendant. Its geological history has long transformed us - tremendous earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis - but its human history, from a Western perspective, is quite young, beginning with Magellan's 16th-century circumnavigation. It is a natural wonder whose most fascinating history is currently being made. In telling the story of the Pacific, Simon Winchester takes us from the Bering Strait to Cape Horn, from the Yangtze River to the Panama Canal, and to the many small islands and archipelagos that lie in between. He observes the fall of a dictator in Manila, visits aboriginals in Northern Queensland, and is jailed in Tierra del Fuego, the land at the end of the world. His journey encompasses a trip down the Alaska Highway, a stop at the isolated Pitcairn Islands, a trek across South Korea, and a glimpse of its mysterious northern neighbor. Winchester's personal experience is vast and his storytelling second to none. And his historical understanding of the region is formidable, making Pacific a paean to this magnificent sea of beauty, myth, and imagination that is transforming our lives.

©2015 Simon Winchester (P)2015 HarperCollins Publishers

Category: History, World
Length: 14 hrs and 2 mins
Available on Audible