Dictionary of Australian Biography

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Dictionary of Australian Biography, published in 1949, is a reference work by Percival Serle containing information on notable people associated with Australian history. With approximately a thousand entries, the book took more than twenty years to complete. It should not be confused with the multi-volume Australian Dictionary of Biography published by Melbourne University Press in 1966.

The book contains 1030 biographies of Australians, or people who were closely connected with Australia, who died before the end of 1942. According to Serle in his preface:

"This date closed the first one hundred and fifty years of Australia's history, for although the first fleet arrived in January 1788, the first emigrant ship, the Bellona, did not come until January 1793. Until then Australia had been merely a dumping ground for convicts, but the arrival of free emigrants foreshadowed the founding of a nation."


The average length of the biographies is about 640 words. Serle classified them roughly into the following twelve groups:

  1. Army and navy – 10
  2. Artists, including architects, actors and musicians – 130
  3. Governors and administrators – 50
  4. Lawyers – 69
  5. Literary men and women – 137
  6. Notorieties – 17
  7. Pioneers, explorers, pastoralists, men of business – 161
  8. Politicians – 174
  9. Scholars, philosophers, clergy – 76
  10. Scientists, including physicians, surgeons and engineers- 140
  11. Social reformers, philanthropists, educationists – 53
  12. Sporting men (cricketers and athletes) – 13

The number of women included is 42; 4% of the biographies. Forty-seven percent of those included in the book were born in England, 27% in Australia, 12% Scotland, 8% Ireland, 1% Wales and the last 5% were from the rest of the world which included 12 from the United States, 9 from Germany, and 6 from New Zealand.

Prior to its publication similar Australian reference works included:

Subsequently other Australian biographical dictionaries have been released including:


  1. ^ Serle, Percival, 1949. Dictionary of Australian Biography

External links[edit]