Australian National University Launches Database of Biographies

The Australian National University (ANU) has launched a Dictionary of Biography, which contains 10,000 articles on people who have played an important role in the history of Australia and died before 1980. The Web site is available at; this is a front page that reminds, “Users of the ADB Online should also be aware that it contains language that may be culturally sensitive.”

Once you’ve entered the site, you’ll see that the front page actually offers three different ways to browse — by people, occupation, or author. You may also do a quick keyword search. An advanced search tab at the top of the page lets you do really detailed searching (gender, cultural heritage, religious influence, occupation, place of occupation, etc.)

A little intimidated by the advanced search, I did a quick search for Cooper and got 242 results. Search results include the name of the person and the first line or so of their biography; clicking on their name gives them the full article. The articles I looked at were fairly extensive; your searched keyword is highlighted in the entire article and there’s a summary box to the left that includes the birth and death date and place, cultural heritage, and occupation (or in the cases I looked at series of occupations.) Sometimes there’s a picture, and sometimes there’s crosslinking with other biographies.

For those who just want the facts and a way to report them, there are a few links beneath the summary which provide life details in a quick table, provide a list of abbreviations common to all articles, and provide information on the print version of the article (as it appeared in the multivolume Australian Dictionary of Biography) and any revisions there have been to the print version and when. Not all articles I looked at had all these links, and a couple had a “Resources” link that pointed to external writings on the subject of the biography and offered a Google search box.

For details about the history of the Dictionary and future plans, check out

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