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The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 03 October 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:957
  1. Jeff Aronson, clinical reader in clinical pharmacology
  1. Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford

    Simon Winchester

    Viking, =A310, pp 207

    ISBN 0 670 87862 6

    An insane homicidal doctor, an autodidactic bank clerk, and a poor labourer do not sound promising candidates as dramatis personae in the story of the creation of one of the world's greatest reference books, but so they turned out to be.

    William Chester Minor studied medicine at Yale, graduated in 1863, and, with the Civil War raging, enlisted in the Union army in June, four days before the battle of Gettysburg. A sensitive man, he was appalled at the horrors of the war, and, although he rose to the rank of captain and was regarded as one of the best army surgeons in the country, he was invalided out on full pension in 1871 with what was termed monomania, attributed to “causes arising in the line of duty.”

    Minor hoped that moving to London would ease his mind, …

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