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Aikenhead, Thomas (bap. 1676, d. 1697), freethinker and blasphemer  

Michael Hunter

Aikenhead, Thomas (bap. 1676, d. 1697), freethinker and blasphemer, was baptized on 28 March 1676, the son of James Aikenhead (d. in or before 1683), apothecary and burgess of Edinburgh, and his wife, Helen (d. 1685), daughter of Thomas Ramsey, former minister of ...

Article

Annet, Peter (1693–1769), religious controversialist  

James A. Herrick

Annet, Peter (1693–1769), religious controversialist, was born in Liverpool but nothing further is known about his background and early life. He worked for a time as a schoolmaster and developed a widely used system of shorthand that received some recognition. Joseph Priestley learned it at school and corresponded with ...

Article

Ball, William Platt (1844–1917), freethinker and author  

J. F. M. Clark

Ball, William Platt (1844–1917), freethinker and author, was born on 28 November 1844 at 12 Regent Row, Birmingham, the son of Abraham Ball, copper plate printer, and his wife, Mary Platt. He was educated at the Birkbeck Institute, London, and was briefly a schoolteacher before resigning in protest against religious instruction. In 1866 he matriculated at the ...

Article

Barham, Francis Foster [known as Alist Francis Barham] (1808–1871), transcendentalist  

Anne Taylor

Barham, Francis Foster [known as Alist Francis Barham] (1808–1871), transcendentalist, was born on 31 May 1808 at Leskinnick, Penzance, Cornwall, the youngest of the five sons of Thomas Foster Barham (1766–1844), musician and writer, and his wife, Mary Ann, daughter of the ...

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Cover Barker, Joseph (1806–1875)

Barker, Joseph (1806–1875)  

Maker: John Cochran

Joseph Barker (1806–1875) by John Cochran, pubd 1880 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Article

Barker, Joseph (1806–1875), Methodist minister and politico-religious controversialist  

Eileen Groth Lyon

Barker, Joseph (1806–1875), Methodist minister and politico-religious controversialist, was born on 11 May 1806 at Bramley, near Leeds. His ancestors, originally of Keighley, had been settled in this area for several generations as farmers and manufacturers. The identity of his parents has not been discovered, though it is known that his father was employed in woollen manufacture and served for some time in the militia, and that ...

Article

Beesly, Edward Spencer (1831–1915), positivist and historian  

Martha S. Vogeler

Beesly, Edward Spencer (1831–1915), positivist and historian, was born on 23 January 1831 in Feckenham, Worcestershire, the eldest son of the Revd James Beesly (1781–1855) and his wife, Emily Fitzgerald (1798–1868), of Queen's county, Ireland. After reading Latin and Greek with his father, in the autumn of 1846 he was sent to ...

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Cover Beesly, Edward Spencer (1831–1915)

Beesly, Edward Spencer (1831–1915)  

Maker: Barraud

In 

Edward Spencer Beesly (1831–1915) by Barraud © National Portrait Gallery, London

Article

Besant [née Wood], Annie (1847–1933), theosophist and politician in India  

Anne Taylor

Besant [née Wood], Annie (1847–1933), theosophist and politician in India, was born at 2 Fish Street Hill in the City of London on 1 October 1847, the only daughter of William Persse Wood (d. 1852), underwriter, and his wife, Emily Roche Morris (...

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Cover Besant, Annie (1847–1933)

Besant, Annie (1847–1933)  

Maker: Hayman Selig Mendelssohn

Annie Besant (1847–1933) by Hayman Selig Mendelssohn © National Portrait Gallery, London

Article

Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna (1831–1891), founder of theosophy  

Richard Davenport-Hines

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, ...

Article

Blomfield [née Ryan], Sara Louisa [Sitárih Khánum] (1859–1939), Bahء‎i promoter and philanthropist  

Philip Hainsworth

Blomfield [née Ryan], Sara Louisa [Sitárih Khánum] (1859–1939), Bahء‎i promoter and philanthropist, was born in Knockaneven, near Limerick, the daughter of Matthew John Ryan. She received a convent education in England. On 21 April 1887 she married Arthur William Blomfield (1829–1899)...

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Cover Blomfield, Sara Louisa (1859–1939)

Blomfield, Sara Louisa (1859–1939)  

Maker: unknown photographer

In 

Sara Louisa Blomfield (1859–1939) by unknown photographer The Bahá'í Publishing Trust

Article

Blount, Charles (1654–1693), freethinker and author  

Dario Pfanner

Blount, Charles (1654–1693), freethinker and author, was born at Upper Holloway, Islington, Middlesex, on 27 April 1654 and baptized at Highgate Chapel, Hornsey, on 10 May 1654, the fourth son of Sir Henry Blount (1602–1682), traveller, of Tittenhanger, Hertfordshire, and his wife, Hester (...

Article

Bonner, Hypatia Bradlaugh (1858–1935), freethinker and radical  

Edward Royle

Bonner, Hypatia Bradlaugh (1858–1935), freethinker and radical, was born in London on 30 March 1858 at 3 Hedger's Terrace, Hackney, the second child of Charles Bradlaugh (1833–1891), politician and freethinker, and Susannah Lamb Hooper (d. 1877). Her elder sister, Alice Bradlaugh (...

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See Bonner, Hypatia Bradlaugh

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Cover Bradlaugh, Charles (1833–1891)

Bradlaugh, Charles (1833–1891)  

Maker: Walter Sickert

In 

Charles Bradlaugh (1833–1891) by Walter Sickert, exh. New English Art Club 1890 © Estate of Walter R. Sickert. All rights reserved, DACS 2010; National Liberal Club; © reserved in the photograph

Article

Bradlaugh, Charles (1833–1891), politician and freethinker  

Edward Royle

Bradlaugh, Charles (1833–1891), politician and freethinker, was born on 26 September 1833 at home at 31 Bacchus Walk, Hoxton, London, the eldest of seven children born to Charles Bradlaugh, a solicitor's clerk, and his wife, Elizabeth Trimby, a former nursemaid. He was baptized at ...

Article

Bray, Charles (1811–1884), freethinker and social reformer  

Matthew Lee

Bray, Charles (1811–1884), freethinker and social reformer, was born on 31 January 1811 in Coventry, Warwickshire, where he was baptized at St Michael’s on 22 February 1811, the son of Jonathan Bray (1775/6–1835), a wealthy ribbon manufacturer, and his first wife, Elizabeth. Ill as a child, ...

Article

Breakwell, Thomas (1872–1902), the first English Bahaء‎i convert  

Philip Hainsworth

Breakwell, Thomas (1872–1902), the first English Bahaء‎i convert, was born at Ellen Street, Woking, Surrey, on 31 May 1872, the youngest of the five children of Edward Breakwell, blacksmith, and his wife, Elizabeth, née Knight. He received his elementary education at the local school, and subsequently emigrated with his family to the ...