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Biographical Information

Encyclopedias: International, National, Subject Field | Bibliographies & Periodical Indexes

See also guides on African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Chicano/Latino Studies, Native American Studies, and Women in Society, Women Writers.

When looking for biographical information it helps to keep a few things in mind:

  • How much information do you need?--Some biographical sources have very brief entries with perhaps date of birth, occupation, address, etc.; others have more in depth, essay-type information.
  • How famous is your person?--For someone fairly famous, a general encyclopedia (e.g., Britannica Online) or subject encyclopedia (Encyclopedia of Islam) can be a good source of information. For a book on a person, search Socrates (Stanford's Online Catalog) using the person's name as subject. Less famous people might be found in biographical sources such as those listed below.
  • Finally, is your biographee living or dead?--If no longer living, when did the person die? Obituaries are often excellent sources of biographical information. Try newspaper and magazine indexes or the Annual Obituary (1980-1993 Green Library Information CenterCT128.A56). Many biographical works cover only those no longer living.

In general, you will find many biographical indexes and encyclopedias with call numbers beginning with CT100-CT3999. Then there are literally hundreds of more specialized handbooks or dictionaries. Usually these more specialized materials are either geographical (Who's Who in the West or Dictionary of African Biography) or professional or topical (Dictionary of Literary Biography, Who's Who Among Asian Americans). You can search Socrates for these sorts of materials using the subject index combining the term biography with a country, profession, or field of interest.

Encyclopedias, Handbooks, Dictionaries, etc.

International--All periods


Biography Resource Center click Proceed to use many of the Gale biographical products, plus The Complete Marquis Who's Who Stanford only

Current Biography and Current Biography Yearbook (1940+ Green Library Information Center CT100.C8) Articles on people in all fields. Emphasis is on celebrities. Short bibliographies; portraits. The Yearbook has cumulative indexes by name and occupation.

Encyclopedia of World Biography (Green Library Information Center CT103 .E56 1998 and part of Biography Resource Center on Web) 18 volumes that cover all time periods. Many pictures. Indexes by name, ideas, place, profession.

Lexis-Nexis Academic Full text newspaper and magazine articles (obituaries, profiles, interviews) and biographical directories (select Reference, then Biographical Information).

Literature Online's Biographies Section provides biographical sketches on a wide range of authors.

New York Times Historical (1851+) fulltext Stanford only

New York Times Biographical Service (1970+ Green Library Information Center CT100.N4) Reprints of biographical articles (obituaries, profiles, etc.) found in the New York Times. See also the New York Times Obituary Index (Green Library Information Center AI21.N46) and Personal Name Index to the New York Times (Green Library Information Center Z5301.F28 1976 & Suppl.).

Short Entries

International Who's Who (latest volume Green Library Information Center Ready Reference; earlier issues in Stacks CT120.I5) Living persons.

Webster's New Biographical Dictionary (Green Library Information Center CT103.W4 1983) Covers all periods and nationalites; includes living persons. "With pronunciations."

National or Regional Biography

United States--Essay-Length

American National Biography (Green Library Information Center CT213.A68 1999) a successor to the Dictionary of American Biography that updates the entries and adds new ones, bringing it's coverage up to those who died prior to 1996. See the online version for updates.

Biography Resource Center click Proceed to use many of the Gale biographical products, plus The Complete Marquis Who's Who Stanford only

Dictionary of American Biography (Green Library Information Center E176.D56) An important source of biographical information on " persons who have made significant contributions to our national past." To be included a person must be dead. The latest supplement brings the coverage up through 1980. Articles include selected bibliographies. See the American National Biography for newer entries.

National Cyclopedia of American Biography (Green Library Information Center E176.N28) The most comprehensive American work. The original set covers individuals who died before 1930. The supplemental set, Current Volumes, was published incrementally through 1984 and includes those living at the time of publication of each volume. Entries are not alphabetical, but there is a cumulative index.

United States--Short Entries

Webster's American Biographies (Green Library Information Center CT213.V36 1975) Includes living persons. Indexed by place of birth and profession.

Who's Who in America (1899+ Latest edition Green Library Information Center Ready Reference and part of Biography Resource Center; earlier in Stacks E663.W5612.) Living persons from all fields. Biannual. Marquis Press also produces four regional (East, Midwest, West, and South/Southwest) and a number of professional directories (Who's Who in Finance and Industry; Who's Who in Religion) which supplement (e.g., entries are not in both) Who's Who in America.

Who Was Who in America (Green Library Information Center E663.W54) Historical Volumes, 1607-1896 and supplementary volumes published every ten years. These volumes contain all the biographies removed from Who's Who in America because of the death of the individual. The Index covers all the volumes.


Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Green Library Information Center F1005.D49) In progress. Scholarly, essay-length articles. Organized by periods with each volume covering a given range of years.

MacMillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Green Library Information Center F1005.M3 1978) Short articles with bibliographies. Not as comprehensive as the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, but a good alternative until the DCB is complete.


Dictionary of National Biography (on Web and Green Library Information Center DA28.O95 2004) Standard national biography for Great Britain. Does not contain biographies of living persons.

British Biographical Archive (Green Library Media-Microtext Center, Mfiche 642) A one-alphabet cumulation of 324 major biographical reference works published between 1601 and 1929. The four volume index, British Biographical Index (Green Library Information Center CT773.B75 1990f), is also part of the World Biographical Index (on the Web). British Biographical Archive, Series 2 (Green Library Media-Microtext Center, Mfiche 2418) gathers entries from 268 works published 1601-1978. Not indexed but arranged alphabetically.

Who's Who (1898+ Latest Green Library Information Center Ready Reference; earlier volumes Stacks DA28.W6) Annual. Covers Britain and the Commonwealth; living persons from all fields. Short entries. A companion set, Who Was Who (Green Library Information Center DA28.W65), published every ten years, contains selected entries removed from Who's Who because of the death of the individual.

Obituaries From the Times, 1951- (Green Library Information Center CT120 .O15) In three volumes. Reprints of selected obituaries from the London Times and an index to all obituaries published in the Times from 1951-1975.

Deutsches Biographisches Archiv (Green Library Media-Microtext Center, Mfiche 553) A one-alphabet cumulation of 254 historical biographical reference works. The set's index, Deutscher Biographischer Index (Green Library Ref. DD85.D4 f), is also part of the World Biographical Index.

Archivo Biografico de España, Portugal e Iberoamerica (Green Library Media-Microtext Center, Mfiche 1936 and 1937) Biographies from 306 reference works published between the 17th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Its index Indice Biografico de Espana, Portugal... (Green Library Ref. CT1344.A732f), is also part of the World Biographical Index.

Soviet Biographical Service (1985-2002 Green Library HASRC Lane Reading Room DK290.S66) In English. Short sketches with some bibliography "compiled from several sources, including the Western and Soviet press, yearbooks, and various biographical aids."

Africa, Middle East, Latin America

An African Biographical Dictionary (Green Library Information Center DT18.B76 1994) "Sketches for 549 prominent sub-Saharan Africans from all periods of history." Emphasis on post-colonial period. Bibliographies.

African Biography part of Biography Resource Center

Who's Who in Africa (Green Library Information Center D18.R35 1992) Essay-length articles on political figures from sub-Saharan Africa. Organized by country with each section prefaced by a brief country profile. No bibliography.

Dictionary of African Historical Biography (Green Library Information Center DT352.L56 1986) Sketches of 850 prominent figures, living and dead, from sub-Saharan Africa. Coverage through 1980.

Who's Who in the Arab World (1965/66+ Latest in Green Library Information Center; earlier in Stacks D198.3.W5)

Archivo Biografico de España, Portugal e Iberoamerica (Green Library Media-Microtext Center, Mfiche 1936 and 1937) Biographies from 306 reference works published between the 17th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Its index Indice Biografico de Espana, Portugal... (Green Library Ref. CT1344.A732f), is also part of the World Biographical Index.

Subject Field, Occupational, Topical


Directory of American Scholars (Green Library Information Center Ready Reference LA2311.D57; latest edition is part of Biography Resource Center) Short entries. See also American Men & Women of Science for brief entries on academics in the social and physical sciences.

African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, Native American

Black Biographical Dictionaries, 1790-1950 (Green Library Green Library Media-Microtext Center, Mfiche 1182) Indexed by Black Biography, 1790-1950 (Green Library Information Center & Media-Microtext Center, Z1361.N39 B52 1991). Compilation of over 300 works of collective biography.

Who's Who Among African Americans (1975/76 + Latest Green Library Information Center Ready Reference E185.96.W52 ; earlier years in Stacks, also in Biography Resource Center) Annual. Short entries. Index by profession and place of birth.

Who's Who Among Asian Americans (Green Library Ref. E184.06W4 1994/95) Brief entries.

Notable Asian Americans (Green Library Information Center E184.06N67 1994 also in Biography Resource Center) Living and dead. Essay length. Portraits.

Who's Who Among Hispanic Americans (Green Library Information Center E184.S75W36) Brief entries.

Biographical Dictionary of American Indian History to 1900 (Green Library Information CenterE89 .W35 2001) U.S. and Canadian from time of contact through the end of the 19th century.

Biographical Dictionary of Indians of the Americas (Green Library Information Center E89.B56 1991) Two volumes. Contemporary and historical. Many portraits.

The Arts

New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians Stanford only

Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Green Library Information Center ML102 .P66 G84 1998) In addition to jazz, blues, big band, includes rock, reggae, Latin and African pop. Short sketches.

International Who's Who in Classical Music, 2003 (Green Library Information Center ML106.G7W4) Brief entries.

Grove Dictionary of Art Stanford only

Who's Who in American Art (1976+ latest in Green Library Information Center, earlier years in Stack N6536.W5 ) The earliers editions are available in the Art Library. Brief entries. Geographical and professional indexes.

Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television (Green Library Media-Microtext Center PN2012.C65 also in Biography Resource Center) Short essays. Performers, actors, directors, managers, choreographers, technicians, composers, executives, dancers, and critics in the U.S. and Great Britain.

International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers (Green Library Information Center PN1997.8 .I58 1997) Separate volumes for performers, directors, writers and production artists. Biographical sketches, lists of films, bibliography, and critical appraisal.

International Dictionary of Theatre (Green Library Information PN2000.I474 1992) Similar to above with separate volumes for playwrights, performers, directors and designers.


Contemporary Authors is part of Biography Resource Center Includes authors living or deceased since 1960. Short essays, some bibliography.

Dictionary of Literary Biography (Green Library Information Center PS129.D52 ) many volumes. Essay-length articles, more detailed than Contemporary Authors and covering historic as well as contemporary periods. Each volume has a theme (e.g., American Novelists Since World War II or Early Modern Russian Writers). Cumulative index in latest volume.

Writers Directory (1971/73+ latest Green Library Information Center Ready Reference; earlier in Stacks PN451.W72) Biennial. Brief entries. International, but limited to those who write in English.


Almanac of American Politics (1972+ Green Library Information Center Ready Reference JK1012.A44) Short political profiles with special interest group ratings and key votes for senators and representatives.

Who's Who in American Politics (1967/68+ Latest on Green Library Information Center; earlier vols. in Green Library Stacks E176.W56) Organized by state. Brief entries on national, state, and local politicians. Stanford only Contains biographies of members of Congress in the Members file. Brief biographical entry and long political profiles with demographic, voting, and ratings information.


Dictionary of Scientific Biography (Green Library Information Center Q141.D5) 18 volumes. Essay-length articles on scientists of all time periods. Excludes living.

American Men and Women of Science (Green Library Information Center Q141 .A48 2003). U.S. and Canadian living scientists. The 13th edition, 1978 (Green Library Information Center H57 .H48 1978 ) includes social science fields of economics, psychology, sociology, and political science, as well as other sciences.

Biographical Dictionary of American Science: The Seventeenth Through the Nineteenth Centuries (Green Library Information Center Q141.E37) A retrospective companion to the American Men and Women of Science. Essay-length.

American Women in Science: 1950 to the present (Green Library Information Center Q141 .B254 1998)


Biographical Dictionary of American Sports - Each volume in this 5-volume series is dedicated to a particular sport: Baseball (Green Library Information Center GV865.A1B55 1987), Football (Green Library Information Center GV939.A1B56 1987), Basketball and Other Indoor Sports (Green Library Information Center GV697.A1B494 1989), and other Outdoor Sports (Green Library Information Center GV697.A1B49 1988). Essay-length articles. A sixth volume, the Supplement, 1989-1992 (Green Library Information Center GV697.A1 B494 1992), updates the original set.


Who's Who of American Women (1970/71+ Latest issue in Green Library Information Center CT3260 .W5; also part of Biography Resource Center) Brief entries. Annual.

Notable American Women, 1607-1950 (Green Library Information Center CT3260.N573) Three volumes. Long articles with bibliographies.

Notable American Women: The Modern Period (Green Library Information Center CT3260.N573) Covers those who died between 1950-1975.

Bibliographies and Periodical Indexes

Bibliographies and Periodical Indexes can help you identify books and articles on a subject. These include both electronic and paper resources.

In addition to the biographical indexes listed below keep in mind the more generalized indexes such as:

and subject indexes such as:

  • Humanities Abstracts (1974+ Green Library Information Center AI3.H8)
  • Social Sciences Index, 1974+ (Green Library Information Center AI3S62) Author/subject index to periodicals in fields such as anthropology, economics, family studies, geography, international relations, law and criminology, political science, policy studies, psychology, social work, sociology, and urban studies.

  • Art Abstracts (1984+) Stanford only


Biography Index (1946+ Green Library Information Center Z5301.B5) "A cumulative index to biographical materials in books and magazines." Indexed by name and profession.

Biography and Genealogy Master Index Stanford only An index to more than 13.6 million biographical sketches in dictionaries and directories, including both current and retrospective sources. Entries include the person's name, the birth and death dates (when known), and the titles of source books that provide complete biographical sketches on the person.


American Biographical Index (Green Library Information Center CT211.A45 1986) Also part of the World Biographical Index. An index to 367 biographical works published between the 18th and early 20th centuries. Does not include the Dictionary of American Biography. The index lists professions, dates, and citations to the printed source. Many of the works indexed are part of the library's collections and can be found in Socrates.

World Biographical Index An index to over 1,700 works covering the United States, Latin America, France, Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, and Germany published between the 17th and beginning of the 20th century. The library owns the corresponding microfiche sets covering Britain; Latin America and Iberia; and Germany. (See above.) In addition, many of the biographical works indexed in the WBI may be part of the book collection. Check Socrates for the library's holdings.

ShinJoung Yeo, Coordinator for Reference Services
Cecil H. Green Library, Stanford University Libraries
Based on shortcuts 15 created by Elisabeth Green and modified by Kathy Kerns.

Last modified: September 17, 2008

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