Australian Dictionary of Biography

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About the Australian Dictionary of Biography

The Australian Dictionary of Biography is Australia's pre-eminent dictionary of national biography. In it you will find concise, informative and fascinating descriptions of the lives of over 12,000 significant and representative persons in Australian history. The subjects come from all walks of life — from prime ministers, governors-general and premiers, generals and bishops, artists, actors and authors, engineers and schoolteachers, to prostitutes, thieves and murderers — providing a cross-section of Australian society.

The ADB is produced by the National Centre of Biography at the Australian National University (ANU) and is available both as a hardcopy publication and online. 


ADB structure

The Australian Dictionary of Biography is a national, co-operative enterprise, founded and maintained by the ANU. The project is headed by the General Editor, based at the ANU, and an Editorial Board, which discusses matters of general policy. ADB Working Parties draw up lists of individuals selected for inclusion in the ADB and give advice on appropriate authors. The General Editor then commissions the entries. Section editors, drawn from each of the Working Parties, and Editorial Fellows, who are eminent academic historians, read and review all entries.

ADB authors

Over 4,500 authors, not all of them academics, have written entries for the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Authors are commissioned on the recommendations of ADB Working Parties. If you wish to have your name recorded as the possible author of a future entry, please notify ADB staff at Please supply a cv and indicate your subject area of expertise. Your details will be sent to the relevant Working Party for consideration.

Authors' Roll of Honour

ADB entries

Authors with a particular knowledge of the subjects or their fields are commissioned to write ADB articles. When the entries are submitted, members of the research and editorial staff of the ADB check every verifiable statement of fact, evaluate the article for balance and comprehensiveness, and edit the text in accordance with the ADB’s conventions and style. Edited versions are then sent to authors for approval before publication

The most eminent people in Australia’s history are given entries of 2000 to 6000 words; other significant figures have entries that range in length from 500 to 2000 words. The ADB does not pretend to be setting up a pantheon of immortals, however. While the volumes cover the orthodox fields of politics, business, religion, the land, the professions and the arts, they also attempt to reflect the rich variety of Australian life by including representatives of every social group and sphere of endeavour. Entries on these representative people are usually 500 to 750 words in length. The ADB prides itself on its blend of elitism and egalitarianism.

Structure of ADB entries

Print edition

cover of vol 16 of the ADBEighteen volumes of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, including a supplementary volume of ‘missing persons’ have, so far, been published.

Volume 1 of the ADB was published in 1966; volume 18 in 2012. Staff are now editing entries for those who died in 1991-95.

Purchasing copies

Reviews of the ADB