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Preface, January 2005by Lawrence Goldman, editor
Welcome to the first online release of the Oxford DNB. Each year we plan three updates of the dictionary, in January, May, and October, publishing new content in the online edition of the Oxford DNB. Each January issue will extend the dictionary's coverage by including noteworthy people who have died since 2000. Successive January issues will cover individuals who died in a particular year, beginning with 2001 and continuing in January 2006 with people who died in 2002, and so on. In this release we publish biographies of 195 people of note and distinction whose deaths occurred in 2001.
In this way we shall add regularly to the Oxford DNB which, as published in September 2004, contained over 54,000 lives of people who had died up to the end of the year 2000. The lives we include in this release continue the dictionary's tradition of recognizing achievement and influence in many different areas of national life, including politics, public administration, business, the arts, and scholarship. But we have not neglected fields such as sport and popular entertainment, from which emerge many of the most celebrated and influential figures of the age. Just under a third of people included in this release were born before the First World War. The majority were born in the 1920s and 1930s. Thirty-one individuals were born outside the British Isles and members of this group came from twenty different countries in all. Forty-four lives, just under a quarter of the total, are women.
Lives in politics, science, and business
The collection of notable political figures among the new additions includes Quintin Hogg, Viscount Hailsham, the leading Conservative politician and lord chancellor in the 1970s and 1980s; Peter Shore, the Labour minister of the 1960s and 1970s; Frank Pakenham, seventh earl of Longford, perhaps more famous for his pursuit of moral and humanitarian causes than for his career in parliament and the cabinet; and the former Welsh secretary Cledwyn Hughes. We also include a memoir of Sir Gordon Reece, who was Margaret Thatcher's image consultant.
There are men of action here: James (Johnnie) Johnson, the great Second World War fighter pilot, and Brian Trubshaw, who test-flew the first Concordes in the 1960s, alongside Lord Carver and Sir Walter Walker, distinguished soldiers who came to positions of national prominence, though for rather different reasons. Scholarship and research are also well represented. The life of Elizabeth Anscombe gives access to important developments in philosophy during the mid-twentieth century, while the remarkable advances in cosmology in the same period are discussed in the entry for Sir Fred Hoyle. Other scientists include Tom Kilburn, a pioneer of the earliest computers; the hepatologist Dame Sheila Sherlock; and Sir Harold Ridley, who invented the intraocular lens implant and literally brought sight to millions around the world. The chemist Herchel Smith, whose fortune was made from research which led to the manufacture of the contraceptive pill, is also included, as much for his remarkable philanthropy in making large donations to British and American universities for the endowment of science as for his own scientific contributions.
Marcus Sieff of Marks and Spencer, Alistair Grant of Safeway, Hyman Kreitman of Tesco, and Dennis Curry, chairman of the electrical goods chain, represent the world of retailing—though Curry's biography is of added interest because of his work as a geologist. And Grant, who wrote the memoir of James Gulliver (1930–1996) for the 2004 edition of the Oxford DNB, now joins his business partner in the dictionary. Among other businessmen, Joseph Bamford, founder of JCB, which has become the ubiquitous shorthand name for mechanical diggers, is included.
Hitch-hikers to historians
Entries on writers as varied as Douglas Adams, author of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the satirist Auberon Waugh, the literary critic and author Lorna Sage, and W. G. Sebald, who brought the distinctive voice and themes of central Europe to recent English literature, form a significant component of our new coverage. They are joined by some very popular and very different actors and actresses, including Sir Nigel Hawthorne, Sir Harry Secombe, Peggy Mount, and Nyree Dawn Porter, the last of whom will be forever associated with the famous 1960s BBC production of John Galsworthy's The Forsyte Saga. Biographies drawn from the worlds of music and the arts further illustrate the dictionary's interest in high and popular culture. They include the ballerina Dame Ninette de Valois; Dame Ruth Railton, founder of the National Youth Orchestra; Joseph Cooper, the music broadcaster famed for his 'dummy keyboard' in the television programme Face the Music; and Delia Derbyshire, who composed the haunting theme tune for the Doctor Who television series. The potter Norah Braden, the photographer Helen Muspratt, and the fashion historian Stella Newton are also included. The articles on Denys Lasdun and Richard Seifert will be of interest to anyone seeking to understand the controversies over British architecture during the past generation.
Icons and critics of the Sixties
Memoirs of a group of eminent historians, including the medievalist Richard Southern, the historical demographer Peter Laslett, and J. H. (Jack) Plumb, who made the eighteenth century his own, indicate trends in historical scholarship. The articles on Sir Dmitri Obolensky and Sir Ernst Gombrich demonstrate the great contribution of scholars born abroad, or in close contact with other cultures, to the academic life of the nation. The memoirs of two 'children of the 1960s', George Harrison, guitarist and singer with the Beatles, and Nicholas Albery, a protean organizer of alternative community groups and campaigns, will evoke special memories of time and place for many readers. Lovers of sport, and followers of Scottish association football in particular, will forever associate the late James (Jim) Baxter, with a single match at Wembley stadium in 1967, when the Scots defeated the world cup-winning England team. Other notable lives include Leopold Marks, the Second World War cryptographer, Larry Adler, the entertainer, and Mary Whitehouse, who campaigned against supposedly declining standards in public broadcasting. She would surely have approved of two notable children's broadcasters in our group: Muriel Young, who presented children's programmes on the BBC, and Harold Williamson, who pioneered the art of interviewing children on television.
In the case of the film directors John and Roy Boulting, the death of Roy in 2001 has allowed us to commission and publish a joint article on the brothers, who collaborated so closely throughout their careers, to replace the essay on John alone (d. 1985). Interestingly, our release includes two combinations of husband and first wife: Anthony and Catherine Storr, and Tony and Jean Denton. Three people in this release are included in entries already published in the Oxford DNB: a memoir of Ruth Sanger's life has been combined with that of the geneticist Robert Race (1907–1984); Helen Cherry is now attached to the article on the actor Trevor Howard (1913–1988); and Nancy Sharp now appears in the entry on Sir William Coldstream (1908–1987), the artist and arts administrator.
Forthcoming online releases
The capacity to add material to existing articles is one of the most important and exciting aspects of the Oxford DNB online. We are able to combine the lives of new and old subjects in the dictionary. We shall also be able to amend and update articles as fresh evidence is made available or the incorporation of new historical interpretation is required. In this way the Oxford DNB will develop and evolve through the addition of new lives; by the connection of lives; by the addition of information to a life; and by providing a variety of contextual articles to assist the appreciation and use of the dictionary's content.
May 2005 online update
Our next update to the online edition will be published in May 2005, and will extend the Oxford DNB's coverage of people dying before the year 2000. May's update will provide new articles on subjects active between the thirteenth and twentieth centuries, with a particular focus on women and politics, immigrants and visitors to Britain, and innovators now associated with popular commercial brands.
May's release will also include the first set of corrections and amendments to articles published in September 2004. As ever, we welcome information, with evidence, relating either to errors in the dictionary or to new research which may require an existing article to be revised. Subsequent changes will be incorporated in successive online updates.
Lawrence Goldman, editor