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Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891–1956) by unknown photographer © reserved; photograph National Portrait Gallery, London

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Ambedkar [formerly Ambavadekar], Bhimrao Ramji (1891–1956), politician, was born at Mhow in central India on 14 April 1891, the youngest of the fourteen children of Ramji Maloji Sakpal, a subahdar-major in the British Indian army and headmaster in a military school, and his wife, ...

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Aung San (1915–1947) by unknown photographer © Popperfoto

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Aung San (1915–1947), politician in Burma, was born on 13 February 1915 at Natmauk, a small town in the Magwe district of central Burma, the youngest of nine children of U Pha, lawyer, and his wife, Daw Su. A sickly child but a gifted student, he was educated as a novice in a Buddhist monastic school and then at a high school to which he won a government scholarship. He was already interested in politics and adept at public speaking when he went to ...

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Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike (1899–1959) by Kenneth J. Somanade, 1959 Getty Images – Kenneth J. Somanade

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Bandaranaike, Solomon West Ridgeway Dias (1899–1959), prime minister of Ceylon, was born on 8 January 1899 at the family home in Horagolla, Veyangoda, the only son of Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike (1862–1946) and his wife, Daisy Ezline, daughter of Sir Solomon Christoffel Obeyesekere...

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Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna (1831–1891), founder of theosophy, was born at Yekaterinoslav (Dnepropetrovsk), Ukraine, at midnight on 30–31 July 1831, the daughter of Colonel Peter Hahn (d. 1873), descended from the counts Rotenstern-Hahn of Mecklenburg, and of his wife, Helena Pavolovna Fadeev. She was a petted, wayward, invalid child whose mother, a novelist who advocated women's emancipation, died when she was small. From girlhood onwards she was a beguiling story-teller. On 7 July 1848 she married an older man, ...

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Bose, Satyendranath [Satyendra Nath] (1894–1974), physicist, was born on 1 January 1894 in Calcutta, the only son and eldest of the seven children of Surendranath Bose (1867/8–1964), an accountant with the East Indian Railways, and later one of the founders of a small chemical and pharmaceutical company, and his wife, ...

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Arabella Spencer Churchill (1949–2007) by Ian Hargreaves, 1976 © Ian Hargreaves / National Portrait Gallery, London

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Raymond Clark (1942–1996) by David Hockney, 1970–71 [Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy] © David Hockney / Tate, London, 2004

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Clark, Raymond [Ossie] (1942–1996), fashion designer, was born on 9 June 1942 at 107 Rice Lane, Walton Park, Liverpool, the youngest of the six children of Samuel Duncan Clark, a storesman in the Royal Navy victualling department, and his wife, Ann Grace Williams...

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Cohen, John Michael (1903–1989), translator and literary scholar, was born on 5 February 1903 at 58 Carlton Hill, St John's Wood, London, the son of Arthur Cohen, master upholsterer, and his wife, Elizabeth, née Abrahams. Born into an assimilated Jewish family, he was educated at ...

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Desani, Govindas Vishnoodas (1909–2000), journalist and author, was born on 8 July 1909 in Nairobi, Kenya, the son of Vishnoodas Manghirmal and his wife, Rukmani Chabria Desani. In 1913 his father, an Indian merchant who had migrated to Kenya in the late nineteenth century, decided to repatriate the family to their ancestral home in ...

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Dillon, (Laurence) Michael (1915–1962), transsexual and Buddhist monk, was born Laura Maud Dillon on 1 May 1915 at 20 Ladbroke Gardens, London, the only daughter and second child of Robert Arthur Dillon (1865–1925) and his Australian wife, Laura Maud McCliver, née Reese (...

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Lawrence George Durrell (1912–1990) by Mark Gerson, 1968 © Mark Gerson; collection National Portrait Gallery, London

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Durrell, Lawrence George (1912–1990), novelist and poet, was born on 27 February 1912 at Jullundur in the Punjab, India, the first of the five children of Lawrence Samuel Durrell (1884–1928), a civil engineer then with the railway system, and his wife, Louisa Florence Dixie (1884–1964)...

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Farrer, Reginald John (1880–1920), traveller and plant collector, was born on 17 February 1880 at 3 Spanish Place, Marylebone, the elder of two sons of James Anson Farrer (1849–1925), barrister, whose country home was at Clapham in the North Riding of Yorkshire, and his wife, ...

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Helen Lyndon Goff (1899–1996) by Jane Bown, pubd 1982 © Jane Bown

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Goff, Helen Lyndon [pseuds. P. L. Travers, Pamela Lyndon Travers] (1899–1996), children's writer, was born on 9 August 1899 in Maryborough, Queensland, Australia. She was the first of the three children of Travers Robert Goff (1863–1907), a London-born bank manager (later demoted to a clerk), and ...

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Hearn, (Patricio) Lafcadio Carlos [Yakumo Koizumi] (1850–1904), author and translator, was born on the Ionian island of Santa Maura, Greece, on 27 June 1850, the eldest surviving child of Surgeon-Major Charles Bush Hearn (d. 1866), later of the East India Company...