Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Reviews of the ADB

‘scholarly, detailed, indispensable, a crowning achievement’
John McLaren, Australian Historical Studies

‘Let us celebrate the birth of a giant: The Australian Dictionary of Biography. Only once does a nation undertake so prodigious a task’
Australian Book Review, April 1966

‘Here is a monumental work which the best brains, scholarship and editorial and publishing expertise have laboured co-operatively to produce for those who are even casually interested in the people who have helped to make Australia’
Walkabout, July 1966

The ADB is ‘a gallery of very well-rounded portraits, often carefully considered with psychological insight, which are far removed from the usual dried-up biltong of most biographical compilations’
George Johnston, Sydney Morning Herald, 18 March 1967

‘The Australian Dictionary of Biography will probably be the most valuable reference work in Australian history; it is already one of the most readable works on Australian history’
Geoffrey Blainey, Papers and Proceedings (Tasmanian Historical Research Association), vol 15, no 2, Nov 1967, p 63

The ADB ‘has brought much colour into the darkness of Australian history’
Neville Hicks, Australian, 26 April 1969, p 17

‘A most valuable work of reference for Australian history: an indispensable tool for all who work in this field, and a mine of interesting information for all who read Australian history for pleasure’
Austin Cooper, Advocate, 18 January 1973

‘The Australian Dictionary of Biography will stand for a long time as a work without peer in this country’
John Lack, Monash Reporter, 11 October 1972

‘The ADB is highly desirable for its intentions, most excellent in its execution and exceedingly useful in its amplitude’
Humphrey McQueen, Nation Review, 13-19 January 1977

The ADB ‘has made itself indispensable and, like history itself, must be treated with respect as an ever onward-going enterprise’
N. D. McLachlan, Historical Studies, vol 18, Oct 1978, p 344

‘For a splendid diversity of stories about Australians with their multitudinous activities and interests, the Australian Dictionary of Biography is unparalleled in our literary and historical records’
Les Blake, Victorian Historical Journal, May 1980, p 115

‘The Australian Dictionary of Biography is of absolutely superb value for the historian, the journalist, the antiquarian and for that impossible target, the customer and consumer, the intelligent layman’
Lloyd Robson, Meanjin, no 3, 1980, p 397

‘The Australian Dictionary of Biography continues to be one of the ever-shrinking number of things Australians can be proud of’
Peter Corris, National Times, 11-17 October 1981, p 41

‘truly a national record and a suggestive piece of social history’
Richard Davenport-Hines, Times Literary Supplement, 14 January 1986, pp 1263-64

'Behind the writers are serried phalanxes of editors, researchers, historians, librarians, archivists and local experts.  Together they are putting together a communal enterprise that is already one of the intellectual treasures of our national life'
Edmund Campion, Bulletin, 29 July 1986, p 87

‘stylistically and intellectually cohesive, quite remarkably comprehensive ... a remarkable gift to the nation'
Stephen Murray-Smith, Australian Historical Studies, vol 23, Oct 1988, pp 206-07

‘The contributors and editors of the Australian Dictionary of Biography are to be congratulated for their efforts to record dramatically, the lives of the gentle and the violent, the rich and the poor, and the ignorant and the enlightened who have shaped the destiny of our nation’
Edward Dukyer, Quarterly Bulletin (Sutherland Shire Historical Society), no 75, February 1991, p 633

‘The scope and quality of the work make this a notable monument of Australian scholarship’
Sir Paul Hasluck, Canberra Bulletin of Public Administration, no 64, May 1991, p 73

'The ADB has slowly become a cultural icon quietly emerging from its hitherto ‘academic’ closet into the mainstream of contemporary Australian literature. It is not one more book in the burgeoning field of Australian studies. Indeed, it has become the bookend of Australian society as we know it. These are our heroes and villains who are of us and are us – Australians all, or figures whose lives were part of the historical tapestry of our great land' 
Michael Fogarty, Journal of the Australian Naval Institute, August/October 1994, p 63

‘for consistency, interest, fluency, accuracy, interest - and sheer pleasure - the ADB may be the best English-language biographical dictionary in the world’
James Walter, Australian Historical Studies, no 104, April 1995, p 489

'Universally hailed as unique, comprehensive, definitive and a note-worthy social history and national record, the Australian Dictionary of Biography can boast to be the only work of its type in Australia and is perhaps unique in the world'
Wayne Crawford, Mercury, 4 November 1996, p 29

'a jolly good read.  Once you’ve dipped in, you’ll be hooked’
Holly Kerr Forsyth, Australian, 21-22 March 1998

'The entries make intriguing reading. At their best, they are fair, frank, witty and authoritative. Read as a whole, they constitute a sort of post-modern journey through Australia’s immediate past, peopled by a diverse cast of worthies, good blokes, crooks, eccentrics, rogues and grotesques'
Carl Bridge, Times Literary Supplement, 16 October 1998, p 10

'one of our least known national literary treasures'
Mark McGinness, Courier Mail, 27 April 2000

'When Australian scholarship must stand and give an account of itself, it should tender the corpus of the Australian Dictionary of Biography as a chief exhibit in favour of its stewardship’
Peter Ryan, Quadrant, June 2000, p 88

‘one of the most important longitudinal research projects in the intellectual life of the Humanities in Australia'
Rod Moran, West Australian, 3 June 2000

‘a key to understanding the human condition shaped and defined by the peculiar exigencies of Australian life and experience’.
John Thompson, Australian Book Review, no 249, March 2003, p 36

'a gift of scholarship to the nation and the world’ 
Eric Richards, Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia, no 34, 2006, p 120
full text of review