Bryson in 2005
|Born||William McGuire Bryson
December 8, 1951
Des Moines, Iowa, U.S.
|Occupation||Author, university chancellor|
|Genre||Travel, English language, science|
William McGuire "Bill" Bryson, OBE, FRS (//; born December 8, 1951) is a best-selling American author of humorous books on travel, as well as books on the English language and science. Born in the United States, he was a resident of Britain for most of his adult life before returning to the U.S. in 1995. In 2003 Bryson moved back to Britain, living in the old rectory of Wramplingham, Norfolk, and served as chancellor of Durham University from 2005 through 2011.
Bryson shot to prominence in the United Kingdom with the publication of Notes from a Small Island (1995), an exploration of Britain, and its accompanying television series. He received widespread recognition again with the publication of A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003), a book widely acclaimed for its accessible communication of science.
Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, the son of William and Agnes Mary (née McGuire). ("I come from Des Moines, Iowa. Somebody had to." - Bill Bryson, "The Lost Continent"). His mother was of Irish descent. He had an older brother, Michael and a sister, Mary Jane Elizabeth – in 2006 Bryson published The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, a humorous account of his childhood years in Des Moines.
Bryson attended Drake University for two years before dropping out in 1972, deciding to instead backpack around Europe for four months. He returned to Europe the following year with a high-school friend, the pseudonymous Stephen Katz. Some of his experiences from this trip were relived as flashbacks in Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe, which documents a similar journey Bryson made 20 years later.
Move to the United Kingdom
Bryson first visited Britain in 1973 during a tour of Europe and decided to stay after landing a job working in a psychiatric hospital—the now defunct Holloway Sanatorium in Virginia Water, Surrey. He met a nurse there named Cynthia Billen, whom he married and they moved to the United States in 1975 so that Bryson could complete his college degree. In 1977 they settled in Britain, where they remained until 1995. Eventually living in North Yorkshire and mainly working as a journalist, Bryson became chief copy editor of the business section of The Times and then deputy national news editor of the business section of The Independent. He left journalism in 1987, three years after the birth of his third child. Living in Kirkby Malham, North Yorkshire, Bryson started writing independently and in 1990 their fourth child, Samuel, was born.
In 1995 Bryson returned to the United States to live in Hanover, New Hampshire, for some years. While there he wrote a column for a British newspaper for several years, reflecting on humorous aspects of his repatriation in the United States. These columns were selected and adapted to become his book I’m a Stranger Here Myself, alternatively titled Notes from a Big Country in Britain, Canada, and Australia. During his time in the United States, Bryson decided to walk the Appalachian Trail with his friend Stephen Katz (a pseudonym), about which he wrote the book A Walk in the Woods. In 2003 the Brysons and their four children returned to Britain and now live in Norfolk.
Also in 2003, in conjunction with World Book Day, British voters chose Bryson’s book Notes from a Small Island as that which best sums up British identity and the state of the nation. In the same year, he was appointed a Commissioner for English Heritage.
In 2004 Bryson won the prestigious Aventis Prize for best general science book with A Short History of Nearly Everything. This 500-page popular science work explores not only the histories and current statuses of the sciences, but also reveals their humble and often humorous beginnings. Although one "top scientist" is alleged to have jokingly described the book as "annoyingly free of mistakes", Bryson himself makes no such claim and a list of some reported errors in the book is available online. In 2005, the book won the EU Descartes Prize for science communication.
Bryson has also written two popular works on the history of the English language—Mother Tongue and Made in America—and, more recently, an update of his guide to usage, Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words (published in its first edition as The Penguin Dictionary of Troublesome Words in 1983).
In 2005 Bryson was appointed chancellor of Durham University, succeeding the late Sir Peter Ustinov and became more active with student activities than is common for holders of that post, even appearing in a Durham student film (the sequel to The Assassinator) and promoting litter picks in the city. He had praised Durham as "a perfect little city" in Notes from a Small Island. He has also been awarded honorary degrees by numerous universities, including Bournemouth University (April 2002) and the Open University.
In 2005 Bryson received the President’s Award from the Royal Society of Chemistry for advancing the cause of the chemical sciences. In the same year, Bryson and the RSC jointly created the Bill Bryson prize, an annual award to encourage science writing in schools. 
On 13 December 2006, Bryson was awarded an honorary OBE for his contribution to literature. The following year, he was awarded the James Joyce Award by the Literary and Historical Society of University College Dublin.
In May 2007, he became the president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. His first area of focus in this role was the establishment of an anti-littering campaign across England. He discussed the future of the countryside with Richard Mabey, Sue Clifford, Nicholas Crane, and Richard Girling at CPRE’s Volunteer Conference in November 2007.
On 13 November 2012, Bryson was awarded an honorary doctorate from King's College London. According to King's site, the award was relating to: "Bill Bryson OBE: the UK's highest-selling author of non-fiction, acclaimed as a science communicator, historian and man of letters."
Bryson has written the following books:
- The Palace under the Alps and Over 200 Other Unusual, Unspoiled and Infrequently Visited Spots in 16 European Countries (1985)
- The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America (1989)
- Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe (1991)
- Notes from a Small Island (1995). (Adapted for television by Carlton Television in 1998)
- A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail (1998) (Featuring Stephen Katz)
- Notes from a Big Country (UK) / I'm a Stranger Here Myself (U.S.) (1999)
- Down Under (UK) / In a Sunburned Country (U.S.) (2000)
- Bill Bryson's African Diary (2002) (travels in Africa for CARE International)
- Walk About (2002) (Combined in one volume are Down Under and A Walk in the Woods)
- The Penguin Dictionary of Troublesome Words (1984)
- Made in America (UK) / Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States (U.S.) (1994)
- The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way (U.S.) / Mother Tongue: The English Language (UK) (1990) (Adapted for Journeys in English (2004) BBC Radio 4)
- Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words (2002)
- Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors (2008)
- A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003)
- A Really Short History of Nearly Everything (2008) (Children's version of 2003 book)
- On the Shoulders of Giants (editor, 2009)
- Seeing Further: The Story of Science, Discovery and the Genius of the Royal Society (editor, 2010)
- Icons of England (2008)
- At Home: A Short History of Private Life (2010) Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-60827-5. OCLC 761512787.
- One Summer: America 1927 (2013)
- The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, p121.
- Barkham, Patrick (2010-05-29). "Bill Bryson: I’ll cheer for England, but I won’t risk citizenship test". The Guardian (London).
- "Bryson tops 'England' poll". BBC News. 2003-03-06. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
- Pauli, Michelle (2005-12-07). "Bryson wins Descartes prize for his guide to science". The Guardian (London).
- Crace, John (2005-11-15). "Bill Bryson: The accidental chancellor". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 25 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- "Errata and corrigenda: "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson".
- "Bill Bryson Litter Pick". durham21. 2008-03-01. Retrieved 2011-09-17.
- Bill Bryson visits his utopia (May 7, 2002), The Independent.
- "Westminster setting for Bill Bryson award", 31 October 2005, accessed 21 November 2010.
- The City of Des Moines Proclamation of October 21, 2006 as "The Thunderbird Kid" Day at the Wayback Machine (archived June 25, 2008) (archived from the original on 2008-06-25)
- PM in conversation with Bill Bryson, The official site of the Prime Minister’s Office (published 2006-11-30), 2006-11-29, retrieved 2009-04-10
- "Bill Bryson made an honorary OBE". BBC News. 2006-12-13. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
- "Bryson Start of Golden Period".
- Pomfret Swartz Fellows
- "Bryson to head litterbug campaign". BBC News. 2007-05-02. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
- "Contact Us - Campaign to Protect Rural England".
- "Bill Bryson stepping down as Chancellor". Durham University. 2010-09-20. Retrieved 2011-07-04.
- [Bill Bryson OBE: the UK’s highest-selling author of non-fiction, acclaimed as a science communicator, historian and man of letters. "Bill Bryson receives honorary doctorate"]. King's College London. 2012-11-14. Retrieved 2012-11-14.
- "The Main Library is being renamed 'The Bill Bryson Library'!". Durham University. 2012-09-25. Retrieved 2012-11-27.
- "Bill Bryson Library renaming event, Tuesday 27 November 2012". Durham University. 2012-11-22.
- "New Fellows 2013". Royal Society. 2013-05-02. Retrieved 2012-05-03.
- "Honorary Fellows of the Royal Society". Royal Society. 2013-05-23. Retrieved 2013-11-24.
- "ONE SUMMER; AMERICA, 1927". The Marsh Agency. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Bill Bryson|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bill Bryson.|
- Bill Bryson Welcome to Bill Bryson's official website
- Bill Bryson at Random House
- Profile at Durham University
- Works at Open Library
- Article archive at Journalisted
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Bill Bryson at the Internet Movie Database
- Works by or about Bill Bryson in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Bill Bryson collected news and commentary at The Guardian
- Bill Bryson collected news and commentary at The New York Times
- Bill Bryson - A short history of nearly everything presentation at the Royal Society
- A brief excerpt from The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid at the Wayback Machine (archived from the original on 2007-10-05)
- The Life & Times of the Thunderbolt Kid Reviews at the Wayback Machine (archived April 30, 2008) at Metacritic (archived from the original on 2008-04-30)
- BBC Wear - Bill Bryson loves Durham
- Interview with Bill Bryson about organ donation
- BBC Radio Five Live interview with Bill Bryson about the British countryside
- CPRE interview on the proposed South Downs National Park at the Wayback Machine (archived February 17, 2008) (archived from the original)
- Interview with Bill Bryson about his career in travel writing.
- At Home: A History of Private Life by Bill Bryson: A review, James Walton, The Telegraph, 19 June 2010
- Bill Bryson interviewed by Sophie Elmhirst on New Statesman, 14 October 2010.
Sir Peter Ustinov
|Chancellor of the University of Durham
Sir Thomas Allen
Sir Max Hastings
|President of the CPRE