Who's Who (UK)

Who's Who
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Release number
168 (in 2015)
Publication date
ISBN 9781408181201

Who's Who is a leading source of biographical data on more than 33,000 influential people from around the world. Published annually since 1849, and as of 2015 in its 168th edition, it lists people who influence British life, according to its editors. Entries include judges, civil servants, politicians and notable figures from academia, sport and the arts.

Each entry in Who's Who is authored by the subject who is invited by the editors to fill in a questionnaire. Entries typically include full names, dates of birth, career details, club memberships, education, professional qualifications, publications, recreations and contact details.[3][4]

Biographies in Who's Who

Subjects include peers, MPs, judges, very senior civil servants, and distinguished writers, actors, lawyers, scientists, researchers, athletes and artists. Some (such as those holding a Professorial Chair at Oxbridge) are included automatically by virtue of their office; those in less hierarchical occupations are included at the discretion of the editors.

Inclusion in Who's Who, unlike many other similar publications, has never involved any payment by or to the subject, or even any obligation to buy a copy. Inclusion has always been by perceived prominence in public life or professional achievement. Inclusion has therefore come to carry a considerable level of prestige. The Wall Street Journal has said that an entry in Who's Who "really puts the stamp of eminence on a modern British life",[5] and the Daily Mail has described it as "Britain's most famous reference book".

Once someone is included in Who's Who he or she remains in it for life, so for example MPs are not removed when they leave Parliament. The 7th Earl of Lucan is still listed in the book, even though he has been missing since 1974 and was declared legally dead in 1999.[6]

The publication is dominated by people who are active in British public life, including the members of the Scottish Parliament, Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies, as well as Members of the House of Commons, the chief executives of all UK cities and counties, and foreign ambassadors accredited to London.[7] There is a high proportion of Oxford and Cambridge (Britain's most prestigious universities) graduates among the new entrants.[7]

The entries are compiled from questionnaires returned to the publisher by the featured subjects. Some checks are made by the editors but subjects may say or omit anything they wish. For example, the playwright John Osborne did not acknowledge an estranged daughter in his entry; Carole Jordan does not mention any marriage in her article, although her ex-husband, Richard Peckover, did in his. Jeremy Paxman[8] has also calculated that only 8% of new entrants in 2008 made any reference to marital breakdown, which is far below the national average.[7]

On the other hand, by asking the people themselves to submit a short biography, this sometimes leads to them including titbits that would not otherwise be known, and allows the subject to show something of his or her character, rather than being a curriculum vitae, especially in the descriptions of "recreations". From conventional references to fishing, reading or opera (which still feature prominently), listed recreations have included: "Maintaining rusty old cars" (Alastair Balls),[9] "Generally fomenting the overthrow of capitalism" (the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell),[10] "Anglophobia" (Christopher Murray Grieve)[11] and "Contemplating revenge" (Stephen Chambers).[12] Sometimes, there is an excess of detail: the prolific romantic novelist Dame Barbara Cartland listed each of her publications, many hundreds of books, together with a list of her other achievements; the result was one of the longest entries in the book's history.

Who Was Who

When someone dies, her or his biography is transferred to the volumes of Who Was Who, where it is usually printed as it appeared in the last Who's Who, appended with the date of death.

The first volume of Who Was Who covered deaths between 1897 and 1915; they were then published at 10-year intervals, and since 1990 at five-year intervals.[13]


Who's Who has been published since 1849.[14] It was originally published by Baily Brothers.[15] Since 1897, it has been published by A & C Black.[14] From 1849 to 1850, Who's Who was edited by Henry Robert Addison,[16] from 1851 to 1864 by Charles Henry Oakes,[17] from 1865 by William John Lawson and from 1897 to 1899 by Douglas Brooke Wheelton Sladen.[18] Subsequent editions do not disclose the identity of their editor.[19]

Originally, it merely provided lists of the names of notable people, for example all members of parliament and all bishops. Beginning with the 1897 edition, it listed people alphabetically and provided fuller biographical details.

A full online edition of the work was launched in 2005. However, it continues to be published annually in hard copy.

A history of Who's Who was published to coincide with the 150th edition in 1998.[14] "Preface with a Brief History 1849–1998" was included in Who's Who 1998.

Other uses of the Who's Who title

Main article: Who's Who

The name has been widely copied, and now there are many publications with "Who's Who" in the title such as Marquis Who's Who, though they are not from the same publisher. Some of these are considered to be merely Who's Who scams.[20]

The name is also often used metaphorically, as in this example from an Associated Press wire article about Los Angeles cemeteries:

Los Angeles, Spanish for "The City of Angels," has one of the world's greatest collections of cemeteries and memorial parks in the world. A who's who of what was.[21]


  1. http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/special-interest/reference/whos-who/
  2. "Who's Who and Who Was Who Online". oup.com.
  3. "Who's Who". ukwhoswho.com.
  4. Who's Who on Twitter
  5. Paul Levy. "(Sex) Lives and Deaths of British Worthies". Wall Street Journal. 9 August 1996.
  6. "Lord Lucan 'officially dead'", BBC News Online, 27 October 1999.
  7. 1 2 3 Paxman, Jeremy (1 December 2007). "Who's new in Who's Who?". The Daily Telegraph.
  8. PAXMAN, Jeremy Dickson. Who's Who. 2015 (online ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription required)
  9. BALLS, Alastair Gordon. Who's Who. 2015 (online ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription required)
  10. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/af378b38-5ac8-11e5-9846-de406ccb37f2.html
  11. GRIEVE, Christopher Murray. Who Was Who. 2015 (online ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription required)
  12. CHAMBERS, Stephen Lyon. Who's Who. 2015 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription required)
  13. Who was Who series:
    1. 1897–1915, 1988 reprint: ISBN 0-7136-2670-4
    2. 1916–1928, 1992 reprint: ISBN 0-7136-3143-0
    3. 1929–1940, 1967 reprint: ISBN 0-7136-0171-X
    4. 1941–1950, 1980 reprint: ISBN 0-7136-2131-1
    5. 1951–1960, 1984 reprint: ISBN 0-7136-2598-8
    6. 1961–1970, 1979 reprint: ISBN 0-7136-2008-0
    7. 1971–1980, 1989 reprint: ISBN 0-7136-3227-5
    8. 1981–1990: 1991 ISBN 0-7136-3336-0
    9. 1991–1995: 1996 ISBN 0-7136-4496-6
    10. 1996–2000: 2001 ISBN 0-7136-5439-2
    11. 2001–2005: 2006 ISBN 0-7136-7601-9
  14. 1 2 3 "More about Who's Who". OUP.
  15. "Albert Nelson Marquis" in "Obituary Notes" (1944) 145 Publishers Weekly 130 Google Books
  16. Frederic Boase. "Addison, Henry Robert" in Modern English Biography. 1892. Volume 1. Page 1819.
  17. Frederic Boase. "Oakes, Charles Henry" in Modern English Biography. 1897. Volume 2. Page 1871.
  18. "Who's Who". National Library of Australia Catalogue.
  19. Margaretta Jolly (ed). "Who's Who" in Encyclopedia of Life Writing: Autobiographical and Biographical Forms. Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. 2001. Routledge. 2013. ISBN 157958232X. Volume 1. Page 939.
  20. Vernon, David (2007), "What Price Fame? Be a Very Important Person – all it takes is money", The Skeptic, 27 (2), p. 16.
  21. Warner, Gary A (28 December 2005), "LA cemeteries a who's who of celebrities", USA Today, AP via The Orange County Register, retrieved 27 June 2007.
Wikisource has original text related to this article:
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/29/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.