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Alexander, Sir Kenneth John Wilson [Ken] (1922–2001), economist, university administrator, and public servant, was born on 14 March 1922 at 12 Kilmaurs Terrace, Edinburgh, the only son of William Wilson Alexander (1888–1930), lawyer, and his wife, Mary Logan Grahame, née Wilson (1888–1975), tailoress. He won a scholarship to ...

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William Armstrong, Baron Armstrong of Sanderstead (1915–1980) by Arnold Newman, 1978 Arnold Newman / Getty Images; collection National Portrait Gallery, London

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Armstrong, William, Baron Armstrong of Sanderstead (1915–1980), civil servant and banker, was born in the Salvation Mothers' Home, Mare Street, Clapton, London, on 3 March 1915, the elder son of William Armstrong, of Stirling, and his wife, Priscilla Hopkins. Both his parents were ...

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Awolowo, Obafemi (1909–1987), politician in Nigeria, was born on 6 March 1909 at Ikenne, a small town about 40 miles from Lagos, in Ijebu Remo division, the son of David Sopolu Awolowo (d. 1920) and his wife, Mary Sofowora Efunyela. The Ijebu are a subgroup of the ...

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Bain, James Thompson (1860–1919), trade unionist in South Africa, was born at Dudhope Crescent, Dundee, on 6 March 1860, the third child of Andrew Bain and his wife, Eliza, née Thomson. His parents were both mill workers. At the age of seven he started work in a factory. At sixteen he joined the ...

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Augustine Birrell (1850–1933) by Sir William Orpen, 1909 courtesy the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin

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Birrell, Augustine (1850–1933), politician and author, was born at Wavertree, near Liverpool, on 19 January 1850, the younger son of Charles Morton Birrell, a Baptist minister, and Harriet Jane Grey, daughter of Henry Grey, Free Church of Scotland minister. Though he later became an agnostic, he always retained a deep respect for the Liberal nonconformist tradition of his ...

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Eric Arthur Blair [George Orwell] (1903–1950) by Felix H. Man, c. 1947 © Estate of Felix H. Man / National Portrait Gallery, London

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Blair, Eric Arthur [pseud. George Orwell] (1903–1950), political writer and essayist, was born in Motihari, Bengal, India, on 25 June 1903, the only son of Richard Walmesley Blair (1857–1938), a sub-deputy opium agent in the government of Bengal, and his wife, Ida Mabel Limouzin (1875–1943)...

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Blease, (Walter) Lyon (1884–1963), barrister and civic activist, was born on 30 May 1884 at 5 Beech Street, Fairfield, Liverpool, the second son and second of three children of Walter Blease (c.1853–1940), chartered accountant, and his wife, Mary Cecilia (d...

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Bourne, Sir (John) Wilfrid (1922–1999), barrister and civil servant, was born on 27 January 1922 at Farleigh House, Farleigh Hungerford, Somerset, the second son and youngest child of Robert Croft Bourne (1888–1938), Conservative MP for Oxford City from 1924 to 1938, and his wife, ...

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Edward Charles Gurney Boyle, Baron Boyle of Handsworth (1923–1981) by Godfrey Argent, 1969 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Boyle, Edward Charles Gurney, Baron Boyle of Handsworth (1923–1981), politician, was born at 63 Queen's Gate, Kensington, London, on 31 August 1923, elder son in the family of two sons and one daughter of Sir Edward Boyle (1878–1945), second baronet, barrister, writer, and company director, and his wife, ...

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Brendan Rendall Bracken, Viscount Bracken (1901–1958) by unknown photographer, 1941 © reserved; collection Science & Society Picture Library; photograph National Portrait Gallery, London

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Bracken, Brendan Rendall, Viscount Bracken (1901–1958), politician and publisher, was born on 15 February 1901 at Church Street, Templemore, co. Tipperary, the second son and third of the four children of Joseph Kevin Bracken (1852–1904), builder and monumental mason, and his second wife, ...

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Bretherton, Russell Frederick (1906–1991), civil servant and entomologist, was born on 3 February 1906 at Belgrave House, Belgrave Road, Gloucester, the only son of the marriage of Frederick Hawkins Bretherton (1852–1945), solicitor, and Gertrude, née Wing (1864–1952). He had three half-sisters and four half-brothers from his father's earlier marriage. He was a history scholar at ...

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Bright, Jacob (1821–1899), politician, was born on 26 May 1821 at Green Bank, Conkeyshaw, Rochdale, the fourth son in the family of eleven children of Jacob Bright (1775–1851) and his wife, Martha Wood (1788/9–1830). John Bright (1811–1889) was his elder brother, and Priscilla McLaren (1815–1906)...

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George Buchanan (1890–1955) by Walter Stoneman, 1946 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Buchanan, George (1890–1955), politician, was born in Glasgow on 30 November 1890 in Naburn Street, Gorbals, the constituency he would later represent as MP. His father, George Buchanan, a joiner, came from Kilberry in Argyll and his mother, Ann Mackay, was born in ...

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John Elliott Burns (1858–1943) by John Collier, 1889 © National Portrait Gallery, London