The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is the national record of people who’ve shaped British history, worldwide, from the Romans to the 21st century. The ODNB currently includes the life stories of over 60,000 men and women who died in or before 2014.
Of these 60, 000 people, more than 4600 have close ties to Edinburgh—through families, education, work or residence.
Below you’ll find some famous (and some less familiar) Edinburgh faces, including James Boswell (above), and (below) cookery school founder, Christian Wright, and the pioneering balloonist James Tytler. Then discover the ‘who and how’ in Edinburgh by searching the ODNB for people by place.
- Who and how? in Edinburgh
- Family & local history: how do I search?
- What else does the Oxford DNB offer?
As well as looking for people by name, you can also search by place, for example:
- which notable people were born in Edinburgh?
- which historical figures were one-time residents of Leith?
- who was educated at Edinburgh University?
- which celebrated writers once lived in Edinburgh?
- how many times is the Grassmarket mentioned in the Oxford DNB?
- who painted the murals at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery?
- which famous individuals appear on the murals?
- how many people in the ODNB were buried in Warriston cemetery?
(NB: You'll need to be logged into your library's subscription for these searches.)
Finding people in the Oxford DNB is easy.
- to discover more Edinburgh people simply use the ‘place’ option on the People Search page. You can find people who were born, baptized, educated or resident in Edinburgh (or elsewhere), or who died and were buried here. Search by county, city, town, village, church, and even street.
- you can also search the ODNB’s 70 million words for places (e.g. Arthur's Seat). For this use Text Search.
- Free biography podcast: as well as 60, 000 life stories, the ODNB publishes a twice monthly biography podcast featuring some popular entries from the collection. There are now over 250 episodes in the archive. Highlights include Diana, princess of Wales, George Orwell, John Lennon, and Margaret Thatcher.
- Follow us on Twitter for more historical figures in the news.
- Don’t forget: the ODNB online is available free—anywhere, anytime—via Edinburgh libraries: just type your library card number in the box here.