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The making of the Oxford English Dictionary was a monumental 50 year task requiring thousands of volunteers. One of the keenest volunteers was a W C Mir who astonished everyone by refusing to come to Oxford to receive his congratulations. In the end, James Murray, the OED's editor, went to Crowthorne in Berkshire to meet him. What he found was incredible - Mir was a millionaire American civil war surgeon turned lunatic, imprisoned in Broadmoor Asylum for murder and yet who dedicated his entire cell-bound life to work on the English language.
Simon Winchester has had an award-winning 20 year career as Guardian correspondent. He lives in New York and is the Asia-Pacific Editor for Conde Nast Traveler and contributes to a number of American magazines, as well as the Daily Telegraph, the Spectator and the BBC. He has written numerous books. THE RIVER AT THE CENTRE OF THE WORLD (Viking 1997/Penguin 1998) has been shortlisted for the 1998 Thomas Cook/Daily Telegraph Travel Book Award.