Simon Winchester

Winchester in New York City, 2013
Winchester in New York City, 2013
Born (1944-09-28) 28 September 1944 (age 77)
London, England
OccupationJournalist, author
EducationUniversity of Oxford, Geology, 1966
SpouseCatherine Heald (div.)
Setsuko Sato

Simon Winchester OBE (born 28 September 1944) is a British-American author and journalist. In his career at The Guardian newspaper, Winchester covered numerous significant events, including Bloody Sunday and the Watergate Scandal. Winchester has written or contributed to more than a dozen nonfiction books, has written one novel, and has contributed to several travel magazines, among them Condé Nast Traveler, Smithsonian Magazine, and National Geographic.

Early life and education

Born in London, Winchester attended several boarding schools in Dorset, including Hardye's School.[1][2] He spent a year hitchhiking around the United States,[3] then in 1963 went up to St Catherine's College, Oxford, to study geology. He graduated in 1966, 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.[4]


While on assignment in Uganda, Winchester happened upon a copy of James Morris' Coronation Everest, an account of the 1953 expedition that led to the first successful ascent of Mount Everest.[5] The book instilled in Winchester the desire to be a writer, so he wrote to Morris, seeking career advice. Morris urged Winchester to give up geology the very day he received the letter, and get a job as a writer on a newspaper.[6]

In 1969 Winchester joined The Guardian, first as a regional correspondent based in Newcastle upon Tyne, but later as its Northern Ireland correspondent.[2] 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".[7][8] In 1971, Winchester became involved in a controversy over the British press's coverage of Northern Ireland on the floor of the House of Commons when Bernadette Devlin described his role in reporting the shooting to death by British soldiers of Barney Watt in Hooker Street in the morning of Saturday, 6 February 1971.[9][10][11]

After leaving Northern Ireland in 1972, Winchester was briefly assigned to Calcutta before becoming correspondent for The Guardian in Washington, DC, where he covered news ranging from the end of Richard Nixon's administration[12] to the start of Jimmy Carter's presidency.[4]

In 1982, while working as chief foreign feature writer for The Sunday Times, Winchester was on location for the invasion of the Falkland Islands by Argentine forces. Suspected of being a spy, Winchester was held for three months as a prisoner in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego.[13] He wrote about this event in his book, Prison Diary, published in 1983 and also in Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire, published in 1985. That same year, he shifted to working as a freelance writer and travelled to Hong Kong.[2] When Condé Nast re-branded Signature magazine as Condé Nast Traveler, Winchester was appointed its Asia-Pacific Editor.[14] Over the following fifteen years he contributed to a number of travel publications including Traveler, National Geographic and Smithsonian magazine.[13]

Winchester's first book, In Holy Terror, was published by Faber and Faber in 1975. The book drew heavily on his experiences of the turmoil in Northern Ireland. In 1976 he published his second book, American Heartbeat, which deals with his travels through the American heartland. 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.[15]

Though he still writes travel books, Winchester has used the narrative non-fiction form he adopted for The Professor and the Madman several more times, resulting in multiple best-selling books. The Map that Changed the World (2001) focuses on the geologist William Smith and was Winchester's second New York Times best seller.[16] The year 2003 saw the publication of The Meaning of Everything, which returns to the topic of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, and of the best-selling Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded.[17] Winchester then published A Crack in the Edge of the World, a book about San Francisco's 1906 earthquake.[18] The Man Who Loved China (2008) retells the life of the scholar Joseph Needham.[19]The Alice Behind Wonderland, an exploration of the life and work of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), and his relationship with Alice Liddell, was published in 2011.[20]

Winchester's book on the Pacific Ocean, Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers, was published in 2015. It was his second book about the Pacific region, his first, Pacific Rising: The Emergence of a New World Culture having been published in 1991.

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June 2018)

Personal life

On 4 July 2011 Winchester was naturalized as an American citizen in a ceremony aboard the USS Constitution.[3]

Winchester lives in Berkshire County, Massachusetts.[21]



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.[22]

Winchester received an honorary degree from Dalhousie University in October 2010.[23]

Winchester received the Lawrence J. Burpee Medal of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society in November 2016. He was also elected a Fellow of the RCGS.

See also


  1. ^ Simon Winchester (24 March 2010). "Simon Winchester from HarperCollins Publishers". Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  2. ^ a b c "Simon Winchester Bio". Simon Archived from the original on 20 April 2010. Retrieved 6 April 2010.
  3. ^ a b "My Turn: Simon Winchester on Becoming an American Citizen". 26 June 2011. Retrieved 5 July 2011.
  4. ^ a b "Winchester Simon – Bio of Winchester Simon – AEI Speakers Bureau". AEI Speakers Bureau. Retrieved 3 April 2010.
  5. ^ "BookPage Interview August 2001: Simon Winchester". August 2001. Archived from the original on 1 June 2008. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  6. ^ "Simon Winchester – Annotated Bibliography". San Jose State University. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  7. ^ Winchester, Simon (31 January 1972). "13 killed as paratroops break riot". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 6 April 2010.
  8. ^ Hoggart, Simon (22 July 1972). "11 die in Belfast hour of terror". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 6 April 2010.
  9. ^ McCann, Eamonn (1972). "3: The Press & The British Army". The British Press and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland Socialist Research Centre. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  10. ^ John, Ó Néill (24 April 2017). "Barney Watt: propaganda and obstructing justice in February 1971". The Treason Felony Blog. Retrieved 6 September 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ "Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I..." TheyWorkForYou. Retrieved 6 September 2021.
  12. ^ Pick, Hella (9 August 1974). "Dignity in the Last Goodbye". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  13. ^ a b "Simon Winchester". 2004. Archived from the original on 13 December 2010. Retrieved 6 April 2010.
  14. ^ "Travel Writers: Simon Winchester". Rolf Pott's Vagabonding. Retrieved 8 April 2010.
  15. ^ "Best Sellers Plus". New York Times. 17 January 1999. Archived from the original on 9 April 2009. Retrieved 8 April 2010.
  16. ^ "Best Sellers". New York Times. 9 September 2001. Retrieved 8 April 2010.
  17. ^ "Best Sellers". New York Times. 25 August 2002. Retrieved 8 April 2010.
  18. ^ "Best Sellers". New York Times. 6 November 2005. Retrieved 8 April 2010.
  19. ^ "About the Book – The Man Who Loved China". HarperCollins. Retrieved 8 April 2010.
  20. ^ "Simon Winchester Writer, Broadcaster and Traveler". Simon Retrieved 29 March 2011.
  21. ^ Writers' and Artists' Yearbook 2015. Bloomsbury. 2015. pp. 324–5.
  22. ^ "Academic Staff". St Catherine's College. Archived from the original on 13 May 2010. Retrieved 8 April 2010.
  23. ^ "Simon Winchester". Dalhousie University Registrar. 8 October 2010. Retrieved 21 November 2010.