Discworld Wiki

Dr. A. A. Dinwiddie, (spelled with an "O"), D.M.(7th), D.Thau., B.Occ., M.Coll., B.F.,D.M.(7th), is the Bursar at Ankh-Morpork's Unseen University, succeeding the deceased Mr. Spelter who was reduced to a pile of ashes by Archchancellor Coin's 'possessed' staff. Like many members of the faculty and college council, the Bursar is usually referred to by his job-title rather by his name (the only other prominent faculty to be named are Rincewind, Mustrum Ridcully, Ponder Stibbons, John Hicks, Horace and Henry). Dr. Dinwiddie's first definite appearance by name is in Moving Pictures. However, he is likely the Bursar in Eric, since it is not a post that wizards kill the incumbent to attain. In The Last Continent, it's mentioned that the Bursar first enrolled at UU at a time when wizards' training began at a very young age so he seems to have been an Unseen University resident almost since birth.

The Bursar's original personality could be considered quiet and reserved, and he became the Unseen Univerity Bursar because no-other wizard was so happy as he when working with numbers. In fact, the Archchancellor describes him as "one of those idiot servants". Being an arithmetically-inclined wizard, he expected to spend the rest of his life quietly adding up rows of figures and when he first appeared in the series, the Bursar was relatively sane. Unfortunately for his sanity, shortly after he became the Bursar, Mustrum Ridcully was appointed Archchancellor. The Bursar's idea of excitement was originally a soft-boiled egg, so Ridcully's loud abrasive personality contributes in a large part to the Bursar's increasing insanity. By the events of Reaper Man he has became increasingly unhinged. As a consequence he requires regular ingestion of dried frog pills to maintain 'normality' - normality in his case being a state where his mind is in a heaven of pink clouds and his body is stiff. It says something about the nature of the Bursar job, that he can still function as a bursar while single-handedly keeping the dried frog pharmaceutical industry on double shifts and, since no one else wants the job, he initially continues in the position with only minor inconvenience to his fellow wizards. It has also been observed that no matter how detached from reality he gets, he retains his skill with numbers. In fact he is possibly the only person on Discworld who understands imaginary numbers, since much of what he's familiar with is imaginary. However, by Unseen Academicals, his insanity has reached the point where he cannot properly fulfill his duties, having developed a specialised form of dyslexia, where he is unsure as to where the decimal point goes. Perhaps his increasing addiction to the sort of higher mathematics which can only be understood by three other people as well as those who habitually write in crayon, dribble a lot, and require serious medication, has rendered him unfit for the more mundane sort of number-juggling.

Questionably beneficial side effects of the Bursar's unique mental state are an ability to deal with certain types of bewildering or dangerous situations without batting an eye (though everyday events like Ridcully firing his crossbow across the hall and into a target above the Bursar's desk chair still put him on edge), and to occasionally perform impossible feats of ingenuity (for example, locking himself in the university's safe and somehow getting the key inside with him and locking himself in rooms that actually had no keyhole or key to start with).

The Bursar attempts to be an active participant in the affairs of the Unseen University and always tries to contribute to any discussion when a situation arises. However, because of the dried frog pills (clearly a halucinogenic like LSD), his contributions are largely irrelevant, usually off topic, sometimes incoherent and sometimes demonstrating a variety of alternate personalities. For example; Sometimes he speaks as though he's engaged in an entirely different activity such as calling for a pub landlord when he is really at a college council meeting. On at least one occasion, the Bursar goes through the previous day... backwards. He has hallucinated that he can fly (not unusual with Roundworld's LSD), which fortunately, since he is a wizard, occurred indoors and led to Ridcully trying to get him down from the ceiling. His insanity is so renowned, that "going bursar" has become a byword for "going crazy" in Ankh-Morpork.

His fellow wizards attempt many 'cures' (besides the dried frog pills) to little avail. His "health restrictions" include only using a wooden spoon at meals, and not eating anything sugary. They also make him hallucinate that he's sane which most of the population does naturally without the help of dried frog pills. This lets him acts rational and coherent apart from really flying around and becoming upset easily. His speciality is a knack for casting the spell 'Eringyas' Surprising Bouquet' which of course is useless, but it does makes nice roses.

His role as Bursar is increasingly taken on by the overburdened Ponder Stibbons. In The Last Continent, it is revealed that he suffers from Planets, an occupational hazard of wizards and that he is an able surfer.

The bursar has some talent for survival (see: Lords and Ladies and The Science of Discworld I & II) and is widely accounted as a neurovore i.e. someone living on his own nerves. For example, in Soul Music it was said he's been shot twice by arrows and survived. Hex temporarily inherited the Bursar's condition after a "conversation" with him, until Archchancellor Ridcully remedied the matter by convincing the ant-run thinking engine it had just been administered "LOTS OF DRYD FRORG P¼LLS".

The Bursar's insanity has become a byword in Ankh-Morpork; "to go Bursar" is "to go crazy." This is presumably a play on the term "to go berserk".