Adrian Du Plessis was born in South Africa and educated at Natal University and Stanford University. After teaching in Swaziland for three years until independence in 1968, he joined Cambridge University Press in 1969 as an editor working on educational books for Africa.
Two years later he persuaded the management of CUP that his time would be better spent creating a list in English as a Foreign Language (EFL).
When he moved on from EFL to create a reference division, Cambridge publishing in British and American English was one of the world’s leading lists of learning materials with a reputation for innovation and quality, regularly winning awards. The Cambridge list of professional books for teachers and in applied linguistics was acknowledged to be outstanding.
In the new reference division, he developed a dictionary for non-native speakers of English: The Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. This grew into a family of dictionaries including bilingual dictionaries, a thesaurus and a major dictionary in American English.
Subsequently, the lexicographic work was published online, and today the Cambridge Dictionary website is one of the most popular among learners and advanced users of English. The site includes bilingual dictionaries, a translation facility, a thesaurus and a comprehensive grammar of English.
Cambridge publishing for learners of English is a world leader and the biggest publishing division in the University Press, employing 600 people worldwide.
Before retiring from the University Press, he led a review of the Press’s visual identity and editorial standards. The University itself followed suit a few years later, creating an identity virtually indistinguishable from that of the University Press. Twenty-five years later, both styles are still thriving.
In Clare Hall, he ran the Colloquium for three years and also led a review of the College visual identity before the 50th-anniversary celebrations in 2016. He is currently a member of the College Publications Committee.