What’s What in Biographical Resources

When researching a particular topic, event, or person, biographical tools may come in handy for discovering all sorts of useful information about persons of interest. Here are some of the biographical resources the IUB Libraries have to offer, starting with some more general resources:

Biography and Genealogy Master Index indexes several thousand volumes and editions of biographical reference sources, including popular dictionaries, who’s whos, and subject encyclopedias. Boasting over 13.6 million entries, it’s an incredibly comprehensive index that makes for a good first stop for researchers and serves as a good introduction to biographical reference sources.

Gale’s Biography in Context offers biographical data pulled from reference sources, covering over 525,000 individuals. Besides the embedded biographical entries, this database also offers full-text access to related entries from academic journals, primary sources, news sources, magazines, and other reference sources. Biography in Context also integrates multimedia objects into its biographical entries, which are useful for research and presentations. There’s a lot going on here, but it’s another great starting point for researchers.

The IUB Libraries also offers its users electronic access to the contents of Current Biography Illustrated, which has been publishing biographies on notable and current cultural figures since 1940. Users can access over 15,000 biographical entries on “celebrities, politicians, business people, writers, actors, sports figures, artists, scientists, and many others.” This resource also offers access to over 19,500 images.

In addition to general biographical resources, there are a number of more specialized biographical resources that are useful for finding information on persons working within a specified field of study. Here are just a few:

The Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, printed in 27 volumes or available electronically, offers biographical entries on scientists, mathematicians, and inventors throughout history. Its coverage spans from “classical antiquity to modern times.”

The Dictionary of Literary Biography is much more than its name would indicate. In addition to biographical entries, this database offers coverage of literary topics, periods, and genres. The biographical entries themselves offer information on the author’s published works, a biographical overview, information on interviews, bibliographies, and references.

Something About the Author is a database that pulls information from two series: Something About the Author and Something About the Author: Autobiography Series. It offers biographical entries on the authors and illustrators of children’s literature, with an emphasis on their professional careers, awards, and works.

Who’s Who is a popular title for biographical texts, though researchers should be careful as books with this title aren’t necessarily related to each other or have the same publisher. Those published by Marquis serve as good reference volumes, such as Who’s Who in America , Who’s Who in Finance and Business, and Who’s Who in Science and Engineering.

These are just some of the many resources that can be used to uncover rich biographical contexts for notable public figures. For help finding other biographical resources, be sure to ask a librarian!

-ES

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