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definition - Simon_Winchester

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Simon Winchester

Simon Winchester
Born Simon Winchester
(1944-09-28) September 28, 1944 (age 67)
London, U.K.
Education St Catherine's College, M.A. Geology, 1966
Occupation Journalist, Author
Notable credit(s) The Guardian
Spouse Setsuko Sato

Simon Winchester, OBE (born September 28, 1944), is a British-American author and journalist who resides mostly in the United States. Through his career at The Guardian, Winchester covered numerous significant events including Bloody Sunday and the Watergate Scandal. As an author, Simon Winchester has written or contributed to over a dozen nonfiction books and authored one novel and his articles appear in several travel publications including Condé Nast Traveler, Smithsonian Magazine, and National Geographic. Simon Winchester lives in New York and on a farm in Massachusetts.


  Early life and education

Simon Winchester was born in the autumn of 1944 in northern London. Winchester attended several boarding schools in Dorset.[1] He spent a year hitchhiking around the United States,[2] then in 1963 went up to St Catherine's College, Oxford to study geology. He graduated in 1966 with a degree in geology and found work with Falconbridge of Africa, a Canadian mining company. His first assignment was to work as a field geologist searching for copper deposits in Uganda.[3]


While on assignment in Uganda, Winchester happened upon a copy of James Morris' Coronation Everest – an account of the 1952 expedition which led to the first successful attempt to climb Mount Everest.[4] Inspired by the book and with a desire to be a writer, Winchester sought career advice from Morris by mail. Morris urged Winchester to give up geology and get a job as a writer.[5] Shortly after, Winchester left Africa and returned to England eventually finding work at The Journal in Newcastle upon Tyne.

In 1969, Winchester joined The Guardian, first as regional correspondent based in Newcastle upon Tyne, but was later assigned to be the Northern Ireland Correspondent.[1] Winchester's time in Northern Ireland placed him around several events of The Troubles, including the events of Bloody Sunday and the Belfast Hour of Terror.[6][7]

After leaving Northern Ireland in 1972, Winchester was briefly assigned to Calcutta before becoming The Guardian's American correspondent in Washington, D.C., where Winchester covered news ranging from the end of Richard Nixon's administration[8] to the start of Jimmy Carter's presidency.[3] In 1982, while working as the Chief Foreign Feature Writer for The Sunday Times, Winchester was on location for the invasion of the Falklands Islands by Argentine forces. Suspected of being a spy, Winchester was held as a prisoner in Tierra del Fuego for three months.[9]

In 1985, Winchester shifted to work as a freelance writer and travelled to Hong Kong.[1] When Condé Nast re-branded Signature magazine as Condé Nast Traveler, Winchester was appointed the Asia-Pacific Editor.[10] Over the next decade and a half, Winchester contributed to a number of travel publications including the aforementioned Traveler, as well as National Geographic and Smithsonian magazine.[9] With the success of Winchester's books in the late 1990s, he has largely retired from journalism.

Winchester's first book, In Holy Terror, was published by Faber and Faber in 1975. The book drew heavily on his first hand experiences during the turmoils in Ulster. In 1976, Winchester published his second book, American Heartbeat, which dealt with his personal travels through the American heartland. Winchester's third book, Prison Diary, was a recounting of his imprisonment at Tierra del Fuego during the Falklands War and, as noted by Dr Jules Smith, is responsible for his rise to prominence in the United Kingdom.[9]

Throughout the 1980s and most of the 1990s, Winchester produced several travel books, most of which dealt with Asian and Pacific locations including Korea, Hong Kong, and the Yangtze River.

Winchester's first truly successful book was The Professor and the Madman (1998) published by Penguin UK as The Surgeon of Crowthorne. Telling the story of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, the book was a New York Times Best Seller,[11] and the rights to a film version were optioned by Mel Gibson;[12] likely to be directed by John Boorman.[13]

Though he still writes travel books, Winchester has repeated the narrative non-fiction form he used in The Professor and the Madman several times, many of which ended in books placed on best sellers lists. His 2001 book, The Map that Changed the World focused on geologist William Smith and was his second New York Times best seller.[14] The year 2003 saw Winchester release another book on the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, The Meaning of Everything, as well as the best-selling Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded.[15] Winchester followed Krakatoa's volcano with San Francisco's 1906 earthquake in A Crack in the Edge of the World.[16] The Man Who Loved China (2008) retells the life of eccentric Cambridge scholar Joseph Needham who helped to expose China to the western world.[17]

Simon Winchester's latest book The Alice Behind Wonderland was released March 11, 2011.[18]

On July 4, 2011, Winchester was naturalized as a United States citizen in a ceremony aboard the USS Constitution.[2]



Winchester was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire for "services to journalism and literature" in Queen Elizabeth II's New Year Honours list of 2006.

Winchester was named an honorary fellow at St. Catherine's College, Oxford in October 2009.[19]

Winchester received an honourary degree from Dalhousie University in October 2010.[20]

  See also


  1. ^ a b c "Simon Winchester Bio". Simon Winchester.com. http://simonwinchester.com/about/bio/. Retrieved April 6, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "My Turn: Simon Winchester on Becoming an American Citizen". newsweek.com. June 26, 2011. http://www.newsweek.com/2011/06/26/my-turn-simon-winchester-on-becoming-an-american-citizen.html. Retrieved July 5, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "Winchester Simon - Bio of Winchester Simon - AEI Speakers Bureau". AEI Speakers Bureau. http://www.aeispeakers.com/speakerbio.php?SpeakerID=1500. Retrieved April 3, 2010. 
  4. ^ "BookPage Interview August 2001: Simon Winchester". Bookpage.com. August 2001. http://www.bookpage.com/0108bp/simon_winchester.html. Retrieved April 5, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Simon Winchester - Annotated Bibliography". San Jose State University. http://www.sjsu.edu/cwmfa/simonwinchester. Retrieved April 5, 2010. 
  6. ^ Winchester, Simon (January 31, 1972). "13 killed as paratroops break riot". London: The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/1972/jan/31/bloodysunday.northernireland. Retrieved April 6, 2010. 
  7. ^ Hoggart, Simon (July 22, 1972). "11 die in Belfast hour of terror". London: The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/1972/jul/22/northernireland.simonhoggart. Retrieved April 6, 2010. 
  8. ^ Pick, Hella (August 9, 1974). "Dignity in the last goodbye". London: The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/1974/aug/09/usa.hellapick. Retrieved April 5, 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c "Simon Winchester". ContemporaryWriters.com. 2004. http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/?p=auth02C22K543212627027. Retrieved April 6, 2010. 
  10. ^ "Travel Writers: Simon Winchester". Rolf Pott's Vagabonding. http://www.rolfpotts.com/writers/winchester.html. Retrieved April 8, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Best Sellers Plus". New York Times. January 17, 1999. http://www3.nytimes.com/books/99/01/17/bsp/nonfictioncompare.html. Retrieved April 8, 2010. 
  12. ^ Dempsey, John (April 26, 1999). "USA's working-class soap will bow in early evening". Variety. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117493604.html?categoryid=14&cs=1&query=the+professor+and+the+madman. Retrieved April 8, 2010. 
  13. ^ Dargis, Manohla. "Movies: About The Professor and the Madman". The New York Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/426440/The-Professor-and-the-Madman/overview. 
  14. ^ "Best Sellers". New York Times. September 9, 2001. http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/09/books/best-sellers-september-9-2001.html?pagewanted=1. Retrieved April 8, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Best Sellers". New York Times. August 25, 2002. http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/25/books/paperback-best-sellers-august-25-2002.html?pagewanted=1. Retrieved April 8, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Best Sellers". New York Times. November 6, 2005. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C02E3D6113FF935A35752C1A9639C8B63. Retrieved April 8, 2010. 
  17. ^ "About the Book - The Man Who Loved China". HarperCollins. http://www.harpercollins.com/books/9780060884598/The_Man_Who_Loved_China/index.aspx. Retrieved April 8, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Simon Winchester Writer, Broadcaster and Traveler". Simon Winchester.com. http://simonwinchester.com/. Retrieved March 29, 2011. 
  19. ^ "Academic Staff". St Catherine's College. http://www.stcatz.ox.ac.uk/content/academic-staff. Retrieved April 8, 2010. 
  20. ^ "Simon Winchester". Dalhousie University Registrar. October 8, 2010. http://convocation.dal.ca/The%20Ceremonies/Honorary/simonwinchester.html. Retrieved November 21, 2010. 

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