A biography is a description of a person’s life, and they come in many shapes and sizes (the biographies, that is, as well as the people. Ba-dum ching!) If you are looking for in-depth information about a person's life, you may want to find an entire book about them: do a subject search in the library catalog for the author’s name, using the format “Doe, John”.
If you do not need an entire book about someone, or if no books exist about that person, then you might want to look in a resource that lists many brief biographies for different people. The library provides several electronic resources that are good basic sources of biographical information on many kinds of people:
Biography Reference Center: Offers a comprehensive collection of more than 450,000 full text biographies, including the complete full text run of Biography Today and Biography Magazine.
Biography Resource Center in Context: Provides more than 600,000 full text biographical entries spanning history and geography.
Biography and Genealogy Master Index: Indexes current, readily available reference sources, as well as the most important retrospective works that cover individuals, both living and deceased, from every field of activity and from all areas of the world. This resource does not include full-text articles, only citations.
In addition to these library resources, there are also many great websites with biographical information on people. Here are some of the best:
General Biography and Information
Bio: Over 25,000 historical and contemporary biographical sketches that include birth and death dates, photographs as available and links to other biographies on the Internet.
Distinguished Women of Past and Present: Search by name or subject for biographies from Internet sources; international in scope.
The History Makers: Profiling African American artists, politicians, athletes, scientists, entertainers, and more, the HistoryMakers' video oral history archive comprises the "largest archival project of its kind in the world."
Voice of America Pronunciation Guide: Having difficulty pronouncing a name? This site has phonetic spellings and audio file pronunciations for hundreds of names.
National and Local
American Life Histories: First-person accounts of life during the Great Depression as collected by the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Writer's Project. Ability to limit search to Oregon. Subjects include: folklore, occupations, agriculture, local history and genealogy, transportation, recreation and ethnic groups.
Born in Slavery: More than 2,300 first-hand accounts of slavery collected by the Works Progress Administration from 1936 to 1938, with photographs taken at the time of the interviews.
First Person Narratives of the American South: Accounts of the nineteenth-century American South from the viewpoint of Southerners: diaries, autobiographies, memoirs, travel accounts and ex-slave narratives of not only prominent individuals, but also of relatively inaccessible populations: women, African Americans, enlisted men, laborers and Native Americans.
Notable Oregonians Guide: Short biographical sketches that summarize the accomplishments of notable Oregonians. Some images are included.
Oregon Biographies: Brought to you by the Oregon History Project and the Oregon Historical Society, Oregon Biographies features stories and information related to some of Oregon's most significant historical figures.
Oregon Biographies Project: Pulling from sources that are no longer copyrighted, volunteers work to transcribe what is now over 2,000 Oregon biographies. Search by surname, county or keyword.
Politicians, Rulers and Leaders
World Leaders: From the CIA, frequently updated information giving the names of foreign government officials. Ambassadors to the United States and Permanent Representatives to the United Nations are included. This site does not give biographical information beyond the name.
Rulers: Lists of heads of state and heads of government of all countries and territories, from 1700 A.D. to the present time. Short political histories of each country followed by names and dates of all leaders. Names with links lead to a short biography.
Political Graveyard: A biographical website for American political history and cemeteries. Locate American politicians, judges and diplomats by name, place, election and offices held or sought. Additionally, search for names of politicians by category: gender, ethnic background, organizational affiliations, cause of death and many other subjects.
The Presidents: Official White House site for biographical information about each of the U.S. Presidents.
The First Ladies: From the White House website, this includes pictures and biographies of the U.S. First Ladies, from Martha Dandridge Custis Washington to the present.
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress: Search by name, state or position for biographical information and photographs of past and present members of Congress. Some entries include bibliographies for finding additional information.
Congressional Directory: Up-to-date biographical information and political affiliation for current members of Congress. Includes email, address, phone and fax numbers and website address, plus the counties, cities and zip codes they represent.
Architects, Artists, Authors and Poets
Great Architects: A list of "master" architects, many with biographies and links to images and more information about their specific works.
The Union List of Artist Names: Currently incorporates approximately 100,000 individual artists (including performance artists, decorative artists, etc.) and architects from ancient times to contemporary. Many entries have biographical and bibliographical information on the artists. This union list can be difficult to use; here is a webpage with tips for searching in it.
Poets: Biographies, photographs and other information on more than 500 poets. Also search for poems, audio files and interviews.
African American Women Writers of the 19th Century: Biographies of 19th-century black women writers, produced by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Selected works by these authors may be read online.
Native American Authors: Search this site by author, title or tribe for biographical information on Native North American authors with bibliographies of their published works and links to online resources including interviews, online texts and tribal Web sites.
Scientists, Mathematicians and Astronauts
The Faces of Science, African Americans in the Sciences: African American men and women who have contributed to the advancement of science and engineering. Search by name or subject area within the realm of science for biographies with photographs.
Profiles in Science by the National Library of Medicine: Biographies of twentieth-century biomedical scientists, including electronic access to many of their published and unpublished materials.
The MacTutor History of Mathematics Biographies Index: International in scope, search for mathematicians alphabetically or chronologically by date of birth or death. Includes country maps for birthplaces of mathematicians, an index of women mathematicians, plus an historical timeline from 800 B.C. to the present.
Astronaut Biographies: Biographical information regarding those who participate or have participated in NASA's space flight programs as members of space flight crews.
… and these websites are really just the beginning of what's out there! If you ever need more help finding biographical information about a person, please ask a librarian and we will be happy to help.