The Oxford DNB includes life stories of more than 57,000 men and women who have shaped British history from the Romans to the early 21st century.
Among the collection are hundreds of people who were born or lived in Renfrewshire. Below you’ll find a selection of these lives from the Oxford DNB, which is freely available online to all users of Renfrewshire libraries. Library members can also access the Oxford DNB, and other online resources, remotely (from home or any other computer) using their library card number as a log-in. More.
Writing and performing
- James Maxwell [pseud. Poet in Paisley] (1720–1800), writer
- William Sharp [pseud. Fiona MacLeod] (1855–1905), novelist and mystic
- William Cummings (1858–1919), runner
- Renée Houston (1902–1980), actress
- Fulton Mackay (1922–1987), actor
Retailers and manufacturers
- William Teacher (1810/11–1876), wine and spirit merchant [you may also like our Brewers of Britain feature]
- James Arthur (1819–1885), clothing retailer and manufacturer
- Abram Lyle (1820–1891), shipowner and sugar refiner
Engineering, science, and medicine
- James Watt (1736–1819), engineer and scientist
- John Thomson (1765–1846), physician and surgeon
- William Dunlop (1792–1848), surgeon and pioneer in Canada
- Archibald Barr (1855–1931), engineer and manufacturer of range-finders
- Dorothée Pullinger (1894–1986), automobile engineer
Campaigners and benefactors
- John Neilson (1778–1839), grocer and benefactor
- Jane Arthur (1827–1907), advocate of women's rights and benefactor
- Jean Mann (1889–1964), politician and housing reformer
- John Ross Campbell (1894–1969), political organizer
Read on for more Renfrewshire lives
Having read these biographies, you can also search the Oxford DNB for other historical figures with a local connection. Use the dictionary’s People Search to find individuals who were born, baptized, educated, resident, died, or buried in a particular place.
Within Renfrewshire you’ll find 15 people baptized in Paisley, more than 70 former pupils of the region’s schools; 44 one-time residents of Greenock and 4 of Kilbarchan. And across the ODNB’s 70 million words, you’ll also find more than 30 references to Johnstone, 23 to Paisley Abbey, 12 to Bridge of Weir, and 1 to St Mirren FC.
Topical history in the Oxford DNB
Topical slices of history are always available in the Oxford DNB. Try our: