Simon Winchester

Simon Winchester

Past Event: Wednesday, October 19, 2005

At Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

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Sponsored by Stoel Rives, LLP.

The world-roving British author Simon Winchester may be a self-described “bad geologist” but he is unquestionably a masterful spinner of historical and scientific sagas.

Janet Maslin of the New York Times declares Winchester “the leading practitioner” of enlivening science and history with “wonderfully arcane information” and “enthralling trivia.” The Oxford-educated author takes on bold, dramatic tales: a lethal volcano in Krakatoa (2003), the legendary Yangtze River in The River at the Center of the World (1993), and the Great California Earthquake in A Crack in the Edge of the World (2005). But it was an idiosyncratic little story that produced his biggest bestseller. The Professor and the Madman (1998) recounts the unlikely tale of an asylum-bound murderer who helped to write the Oxford English Dictionary. Winchester describes the impact on his sluggish career as a book author: “I’ve had years and years of being completely unsuccessful and unnoticed, and then all of the sudden, with The Professor and the Madman, this volcano, if I can use that metaphor, erupted.”

Working for thirty years as a journalist and travel writer for British newspapers, National Geographic, and other popular periodicals, Winchester has demonstrated his wit and love of quirky details in galloping reports from Asia, the Pacific, and outposts of the British Empire. When not circling the globe, he divides his time between Massachusetts and western Scotland.

Excerpt from Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded—August 27, 1883
And then came the moment when a Delft dinner plate fell off a dining-room table in the old part of Batavia and broke into a thousand pieces. The plate had belonged to Mrs. van der Stok, a middle-aged Dutch lady who at the time of its breakage—shortly after ten minutes to eleven on the Sunday morning—was quite probably setting her table for family luncheon. It had been a part of her trousseau on the day she had married Dr. J. P. van der Stok—the distinguished scientist from Utrecht who had brought her out to Batavia some years before on his appointment as director of the colony’s Magnetic and Meteorological Observatory. The couple lived in a single-story house attached to the observatory, and on that hot and cloudless Sunday morning both could not help but notice that something, somewhere, had gone badly awry.

Selected Work
Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded (2003)
The Meaning of Everything (2003)
The Map That Changed the World (2001)
The Professor and the Madman (1998)
The River at the Center of the World (1996)

Author’s website
Contemporary Writers: Simon Winchester

Event Details

Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

200 University Street
Seattle, WA 98101

View directions.

Transportation & Parking

This event will be held in the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, the largest event space at Benaroya Hall. 

Benaroya Hall is located at 200 University Street, directly across Second Avenue from the Seattle Art Museum. The public entrance to Benaroya Hall is along Third Avenue.

By Car

  • From Southbound I-5
    Take the Union Street exit (#165B). Continue onto Union Street and proceed approximately five blocks to Second Avenue. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5
    Exit left onto Seneca Street (exit #165). Proceed two blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5 via Westbound I-90
    Take the 2C exit for I-5 North. Follow signs for Madison Street/Convention Place and merge right onto Seventh Avenue. Turn left onto Madison Street. Proceed three blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue four blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.

By Public Transit (Bus & Light Rail)
Benaroya Hall is served by numerous bus routes. Digital reader boards along Third Avenue display real-time bus arrival information. For details and trip planning tools, call Metro Rider Information at 206.553.3000 (voice) or 206.684.1739 (TDD), or visit Metro online. The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, served by light rail, has a stop just below the Hall (University Street Station).

The 430-car underground garage at Benaroya Hall provides direct access from the enclosed parking area into the Hall via elevators leading to The Boeing Company Gallery. Enter the garage on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street. Maximum vehicle height is 6’8″. Blink charging stations are available for electric vehicles. The event rate is $16.

Parking is also available at:

  • The Cobb Building (enter on University Street between Third and Fourth avenues).
  • The Russell Investments Center (enter on Union Street between First and Second avenues).
  • There are many other garages within a one-block radius of Benaroya Hall, along with numerous on-street parking options.


Open Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where a captioning screen displaying the words that are spoken or sung is placed on stage. This option is present at every event at Benaroya Hall in our 2019/20 Season.

Assisted Listening Devices (ALDs) are devices that people with hearing loss use in conjunction with their hearing device (hearing aids or cochlear implants). Benaroya Hall has an infrared hearing system, which transmits sound by light beams. Headsets are available in The Boeing Company Gallery coat check and the Head Usher stations in both lobbies.

Sign Language Interpretation is available upon request for Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing individuals. To make a request for ASL interpretation, please contact us at or 206.621.2230×10. Please note: we appreciate a two-week advance notice to allow us time to secure interpretation.

Wheelchair Accessible Seating and Accessible Restrooms are available in all sections at our venues, and our venues are fully accessible to ticket holders with physical mobility concerns. Guide and service dogs are also welcome. Among other features, Benaroya Hall has designated parking spaces adjacent to elevators in their parking garage. Elevators with Braille signage go to all levels within the Hall. A unisex restroom is also available. For more details on their accessibility features, click here.

We are pleased to offer these accessibility services at our venues, and they are provided at no additional cost to ticket holders. Please contact us with any questions and feedback about how we can be more accessible and inclusive.  Our Patron Services Manager is available at, or Monday-Thursday from 10:00am – 5:00pm, and Fridays from 10:00am – 1:00pm, at 206.621.2230×10.