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John Simpson, Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, to Retire; Succession Plan Announced

Released on April 26, 2013

Oxford University Press today announced that John Simpson, Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), will retire from his post in October 2013. John, whose pioneering leadership has seen the OED embrace the Internet, joined the OED editorial staff in 1976, and became Co-Editor with Edmund Weiner in 1985. He was appointed Chief Editor in 1993, becoming the seventh OED Editor since Sir James Murray’s appointment in 1879. Under John’s editorship, over 60,000 new words and meanings have been added to the OED.

For more than 35 years John has contributed to one of the largest and longest-running scholarly projects during a time of great change, and has been instrumental in ensuring the OED has been at the forefront of innovation. During the 1980s the entire OED text, comprising the First Edition (1884-1928) and its Supplement (1972-86), was digitized as an integrated single text. This laid the foundations for the publication of the twenty-volume Second Edition in 1989 and, under John Simpson’s leadership, the launch of OED Online in 2000 as one of the world’s first major online reference resources.

The OED is a living document that has been growing and changing for 140 years. Recognizing the OED as a record of the evolution of our language, John Simpson instigated the OED’s first comprehensive revision, with every word in the Dictionary scheduled for review to improve the accuracy of definitions, derivations, pronunciations, and historical and contemporary quotations. During his tenure as editor, the team of editors working on the Third Edition has expanded from 25 to more than 70 staff, revising existing entries and adding new words and senses to the dictionary simultaneously. This growth is testament to John’s vision of the OED as an ongoing research project and a dynamic document of social history.

Nigel Portwood, Chief Executive of OUP, said: “John Simpson has made a truly outstanding contribution to the OED, and also to the English language, over the 37 years that he has been at Oxford University Press. As well as devising and overseeing the enormously important revision of the third edition, he has pioneered the use of digital technology in both the production and use of the OED, transforming the dictionary into a resource fit for the 21st century. His achievements put the OED in a fantastic position to continue to thrive and to meet the opportunities in the ever-changing lexical landscape.”
Effective as of 1 November 2013, Michael Proffitt, the current Editorial Project Director for the OED, is appointed as Chief Editor, OED. Michael will be responsible for leading decision-making on style, policy, and strategy.  Philip Durkin, currently Principal Etymologist, OED, is appointed as Deputy Chief Editor alongside existing Deputy Chief Editor Edmund Weiner.


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