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.

ADB Endowment Fund

The Australian Dictionary of Biography is Australia’s pre-eminent dictionary of national biography. Based at the Australian National University, since its foundation in 1959 it has published 20 volumes, comprising over 13,000 concise, scholarly biographies of prominent and representative Australians. In 2006 the ADB became available online free-of-charge.

You can help us launch into our next half-century by making a donation to the ADB Endowment Fund so that we can begin to revise the earliest volumes, add ‘missing persons’ entries, and add exciting new features to the online site such as enhanced indexing between entries, thematic essays, digitised biographical sources, maps, images and visualisations.

You can either donate directly to the ADB Endowment Fund, send us a cheque, or remember us in a bequest in your will.

Cheques should be made payable to ADB/ANU and sent to:
Australian Dictionary of Biography
RSSS Building (#146)
Ellery Crescent
Australian National University
Canberra ACT 2600

All donations over $2 are tax deductible.

Please contact us for further information about how, together, we can make the ADB the world's leading, online national biographical dictionary.

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What distinguished Australians are saying about the ADB

The Australian Dictionary of Biography captures the life and times and culture of this country in an absolutely distinctive and irreplaceable way. It is the indispensable record of who we are, and of the characters who have made us what we are. I could not be prouder of the ANU’s continuing role as custodian of this crucial part of our national legacy.”
Professor the Hon Gareth Evans AC QC
Chancellor, Australian National University


“A mature nation needs a literary pantheon of inspiring and instructive life histories, a gallery of all the possibilities of being Australian. The Australian Dictionary of Biography responds to that vital need in our culture. It is a stunning collaborative achievement and I feel so proud that we have such an activity here in Australia – to a great extent it describes and defines Australia.”
Professor Fiona Stanley AC
Australian of the Year, 2003


The Australian Dictionary of Biography is one of the Australian National University's enduring achievements and an internationally admired feat of co-operative scholarship. During half a century it has provided a fine example of collaboration between academic historians and thousands of contributors throughout Australia who have given their services voluntarily.”
Professor Geoffrey Bolton AO

“The Australian Dictionary of Biography and its sponsor the Australian National University are to be warmly congratulated for the ongoing production of the Dictionary, the nation’s premier work in the field of historical biography. The Australian Dictionary of Biography is without doubt a national treasure: a rich resource, a great read, a triumph of research and scholarship.”
Professor Emerita Jill Roe AO

“The Australian Dictionary of Biography is our greatest collective research project in the humanities and a national triumph. We have much to learn from it. The project is continuing to change as we mature nationally, with deeper understanding about the impacts of gender, race, environment, religion, education, language, culture, politics, region and war on what we are and what we may become.” 
The Hon Dr Barry Jones AO

“Australia is very fortunate to have a national biographical dictionary that is democratic as well as distinguished, one that represents the rich variety of Australian culture. The Australian Dictionary of Biography gathers together the stories of people from all walks of life, from the outback to the city and from the bush to the parliament. It is a monument of scholarship – and it is for everyone.” 
Dr Dawn Casey PSM

“Few things are more illuminating than taking a random stroll through a volume of The Australian Dictionary of Biography – new insights into our greatest men and women, chance encounters with people whose exploits are all too often unpardonably overlooked. I first read the ADB with my mother Coral Lansbury who wrote four entries. One of her mentors, Bede Nairn, was a prodigious contributor. The Australian story is a story of Australians, no better told than in the ADB.”
The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP

“I find it difficult to bring to mind more than a handful of comparable enterprises in the fields of biography, history, philology or the social sciences more broadly – anywhere in the world. The status and appeal of the Australian Dictionary of Biography do not lie only in its scale and size. They reside also in the meticulous research, the erudition and scholarship, and the sweat and possibly tears involved in the editorial and publishing process. Its constituent dramatis personae are an eclectic mix of the noble and the notorious, the famous and the largely unsung. The underlying theme of the mosaic is quite clear: nothing less than the making and re-making of Australia.” 
Her Excellency Ms Penelope Wensley AC
Governor of Queensland