When the television show Biography first premiered on the A&E Network, it was greeted with widespread skepticism. Where’s the audience?, critics asked. Who would possibly be interested in a show with such an incredibly nerdy title?
Millions of viewers, as it turned out. Biography is one of the most popular shows on A&E. Now in its thirteenth season, it is also one of the longest running documentary television programs, and is frequently imitated by other networks.
The show has an impressive companion Web site, with detailed biographies of more than 25,000 people. Each biography includes a chronological list of achievements, and links to other biographies of “related people.”
As impressive as it is, Biography.com is just one of many outstanding sources of biographical information on the Web. There are large, general purpose collections such as The Biographical Dictionary and the World Biographical Index. Other sites are more niche-oriented, focusing on famous people from the past, or people currently active in specific professions or fields of endeavor.
Whether you’re a student researching the life of a famous person, or just curious about the achievements and personal life of someone you admire, the Web provides a rich treasure trove of biographical resources.
As a general rule, when you’re looking for biographies, skip the major search engines and use the specialized biographical databases listed here. Surf on and enjoy these “nerdy” Web sites. As Longfellow said, “Lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime.”
A searchable database of 25,000 famous people, from the folks who produce the TV show Biography.
The Biographical Dictionary
Biographies of more than 28,000 notable men and women who have shaped our world from ancient times to the present day.
Dead People Server
Search for, um, “dead-certain” answers to the question, “Is this person still alive?” A directory of “interesting celebrities” who are no longer with us.
World Biographical Index
This site is based on the 7th CD ROM edition of the World Biographical Index containing about 2.8 million short biographical entries for “eminent individuals.”
Specialized Biography Search Sites
Chiefs of State
People On Stamps