Thursday, May 28, 2009

People behind British homes and gardens added to Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

George Jennings—engineer whose invention allows us ‘to spend a penny’
Christopher Leyland—the gardener behind the Leylandii conifer
Jesse Dawes—pioneer of recycling and salvage
Walter Potter—the Victorian taxidermist favoured by Damien Hirst

Freely available in almost all UK public libraries, with direct home access for library members

Today, Thursday 28 May 2009, the biographies of 87 people who have shaped British history are added to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. This is the fourteenth update to the dictionary, published by Oxford University Press and Oxford University.

Key lives behind Britain’s homes and gardens are revealed in this update. They include Victorian engineers of everyday inventions (now taken for granted) that helped create modern domestic life: basic but essential things including the water closet, public toilets, clean water supplies, dustbin collection, salvage and recycling, and central heating. At the time, Britain led the world in these areas and was celebrated for its high standards of cleanliness, public hygiene, and waste management.

Outdoor pursuits are also celebrated with biographies of 30 gardeners who shaped British domestic landscapes: from the nurserymen who cultivated the nation’s favourite plants—including daffodils, sweet peas, snowdrops as well as, perhaps its least favourite, Leylandii—to plant hunters, broadcasters, and people behind famous gardens such as Heligan in Cornwall.

Updates to the Oxford DNB are published each January, May and October. The next update will include a special focus on people who have shaped Scottish history, the Scots overseas, as well as Britons active in central and Latin America.

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