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Famous British personalities

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Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)

(1832 - 1898)
Profession: Writer
English author of the children's classics Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in 1865 and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There in 1872. Among later works was the mock-heroic narrative poem The Hunting of the Snark in 1876. He was fascinated by the limits and paradoxes of language and thought, the exploration of which leads to the apparent nonsense of Alice's adventures. He was a lecturer at Oxford and also published mathematical works.

Dodgson lectured in mathematics at Oxford 1855-81. There he first told his fantasy stories to Alice Liddell and her sisters, daughters of the dean of Christ Church. Dodgson was a prolific letter writer and one of the pioneers of portrait photography - his sitters included John Ruskin, Alfred Tennyson, and D G Rossetti, as well as children. He was also responsible, in his publication of mathematical games and problems requiring the use of logic, for a general upsurge of interest in such pastimes. He is said to be, after Shakespeare, the most quoted writer in the English language.

Dodgson was born in Daresbury, Cheshire, and studied mathematics and classics at Oxford. He was ordained a deacon 1861. In 1867 he visited Russia. His two Alice books brought ` nonsense´ literature to a peak of excellence, and continue to be enjoyed by children and adults alike. The reasons for their success include the delightful illustrations of John Tenniel, the eminently quotable verse, and the combination of exciting adventures, imaginative punning, and humorous characters, such as the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, and White Knight, with a more sophisticated level of ingenious imagination which parodies everything from mathematical to literary theories. His other major works of fiction, Sylvie and Bruno 1889, which combined a children's story with religious instruction, and Sylvie and Bruno Concluded 1893, were less successful.

Number games and mathematical works Interested in the use of number games that called for general intelligence to solve the problems, rather than specialized knowledge, he saw their potential as teaching aids. His books in this field include A Tangled Tale 1885, The Game of Logic 1886, and Pillow Problems 1893. The chessboard featured in some of these games. Several of his books of puzzles suggest an awareness of the theory of sets - the basis on which most modern mathematical teaching is founded - which was then only just being formulated by German mathematician Georg Cantor. Dodgson also wrote mathematical textbooks for the general syllabus, quite a few books on historical mathematics (particularly on Euclid and his geometry), and a number of specialized papers.

Isabella Beeton

(1836 - 1865)
Profession: Writer
Born in Cheapside, London, to Benjamin and Elizabeth Mayson, Isabella Beeton was educated at Heidelberg and became an accomplished pianist. She married her husband, Samuel Orchard Beeton, a wealthy publisher in 1856. Her career as a cookery star of her time was surprisingly short-lived as she died of puerperal fever at the age of 28.

Her life was marred by tragedy. Her first child died in September 1859, but she recovered and her second son, also named after her husband, was born. Shortly afterwards, the first instalment of her famous cookery book entitled The Book of Household Management was published.

A History of the Origin, Properties, and Uses of all things connected with Home Life and Comfort was another of her titles. It's contents included nearly 100 recipes for soup, 200 for sauces and 128 for fish as well as advice regarding etiquette, household management, dinner parties, and the employment of servants. The book was illustrated with coloured engravings on nearly every page and was the first to format recipes in the layout still used today. She also opened a soup kitchen at her house for the many poor children of Hatch End and Pinner during the harsh winter of 1858.

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson

(1836 - 1917)
Profession: Humanitarian
Anderson, Elizabeth Garrett, 1836–1917, English physician. A sister of Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Elizabeth also worked for woman suffrage. With difficulty she obtained a private medical education under accredited physicians and in London hospitals; in 1865 she was licensed to practice by the Scottish Society of Apothecaries.

In London in 1866 she opened a dispensary, later a small hospital, for women and children, the first in England to be staffed by women physicians; it was known after 1918 as the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital. Largely as a result of her efforts, British examining boards opened their examinations to women.

Octavia Hill

(1838 - 1912)
Profession: Humanitarian
Octavia Hill (3 December 1838 – 13 August 1912) was an English social reformer, particularly concerned with the welfare of the inhabitants of cities, specifically London, in the second half of the 19th century.

In 1859 octavia hill created the army cadet force

She was born in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, and worked closely with her sister Miranda Hill (1836–1910), who founded the Kyrle Society. They were both daughters of Mr James Hill and granddaughters of Dr Thomas Southwood Smith, the pioneer of sanitary reform.

Hill was a moving force behind the development of social housing, including Council housing, and she also campaigned for the availability of open spaces for poor people, which resulted in the establishment of the National Trust. She was a member of the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws in 1905. Both sisters worked for the preservation of open spaces.

She knew a great many notable Victorian artists and writers. To give but one example; at a party at George MacDonald's house John Ruskin formally started off a large dance with Octavia Hill as his dancing partner. It was Ruskin who funded her first ventures in housing reform.

She was influenced very much by the important theologian, anglican priest and social reformer Frederick Denison Maurice. His son Colonel Edmund Maurice edited her letters, which give a good insight into her life. He published Life of Octavia Hill as Told in her Letters (London, 1913). Her publications include: Homes of the London Poor (1875) and Our Common Land (1877).

A monument to Octavia Hill is to be found at a Surrey beauty spot, on the summit of a hill called Hydon Ball (now owned by the National Trust). Shortly after her death, the family erected a stone seat there, from which walkers can enjoy fine views over the Surrey countryside. There is also the Octavia Hill Birthplace Museum in Wisbech.

In 1995, to mark the centenary of the National Trust, a rose was named in her honour.

There is an Octavia Hill Society, as well as an Octavia Hill Association, a small, Philadelphia-based real estate company devoted to providing affordable housing to low and middle-income city residents.

Gertrude Jekyll

(1843 - 1942)
Profession: Artist
British artist, landscape gardener, and crafts artist

Gertrude Jekyll (November 29, 1843–December 8, 1932), was an influential British garden designer, writer, and artist who created over 400 gardens in the UK, Europe and the USA. She also contributed over 1,000 articles to Country Life, The Garden and other magazines.

A rotund, bespectacled spinster, who was one of seven children, the Surrey-born Jekyll (pronounced JEE-kul, to rhyme with 'treacle') should be more correctly categorized as a planter than as a "designer". She did indeed design, but did it through her plantings rather than traditional design aspects. She also was one half of one of the most influential and historical partnerships of the Arts and Crafts movement, thanks to her association with the English architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, for whose projects she created numerous landscapes. (In 1900, Lutyens and Jekyll's brother Hubert designed the British Pavilion for the Paris Exposition.) Jekyll is not remembered for her outstanding designs but instead for her subtle, painterly approach to the arrangement of the gardens she created, particularly her herbaceous borders. Her work is known for its radiant color and the brush-like strokes of her plantings; the Impressionistic-style schemes may have had something to do with Jekyll's deteriorating eyesight, which largely put an end to her career as a painter and watercolorist.

Jekyll was one of the first of her profession to take into account the color, texture, and experience of gardens as the prominent authorities in her designs, and she was a life-long fan of plants of all genres. Her theory of how to design with colour was influenced by JMW Turner and by Impressionism. Later in life, Jekyll collected and contributed a vast array of plants solely for the purpose of preservation to numerous institutions across Britain. This pure passion for gardening was started at South Kensington School of Art, where she fell in love with the creative art of planting, and even more specifically, gardening. At the time of her death, she had designed over 400 gardens in Britain, Europe and even a few in North America. All were known for their meticulous attention to color detail, and the lack of consideration to fads of the day like the angular modernist gardens that were popular, to a degree, in England and France in the 1920s. This characteristic of "going against the grain" is a large part of the reason that Jekyll is remembered today.

Jekyll was not only an inspiring garden designer, but is also known for her prolific writing. She penned over fifteen books, ranging from Wood and Gardening to memoirs of her youth. Jekyll did not want to limit her influence to teaching the practice of gardening, but to take it a step further to the quiet study of gardening and the plants themselves.

In 1986, the rose breeder David Austin created a deep-pink, old-fashioned-style shrub rose and named it in Jekyll's honour . A cross between Austin's own 'Wife of Bath' and the Portland rose 'Comte de Chambord,' it won, in 2002, the James Mason award from the Royal National Rose Society. 'Gertrude Jekyll' also received, in 1993, a Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit.

Jekyll spent her childhood in Bramley, Surrey and returned to the village to design a garden in Snowdenham Lane.

Her brother, Walter, was a friend of the author, Robert Louis Stevenson. His name was borrowed for the title of his famous Jekyll & Hyde psychological thriller.

Kate Greenaway

(1846 - 1901)
Profession: Artist
English illustrator and watercolorist

She is famous for her fanciful, humorous, delicately colored drawings of child life. She influenced children's clothing and the illustrating of children's books and was often imitated, though never successfully.

Among the books for which she provided text as well as illustrations are Under the Window (1879), A Day in a Child's Life (1881), Kate Greenaway's Birthday Album, and The Language of Flowers (1885)

Oscar Wilde (Fingal O'Flahertie Wills)

(1854 - 1900)
Profession: Writer
With his flamboyant style and quotable conversation, he dazzled London society and, on his lecture tour 1882, the USA. He published his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891, followed by a series of sharp comedies, including A Woman of No Importance 1893 and The Importance of Being Earnest 1895. In 1895 he was imprisoned for two years for homosexual offences; he died in exile.

Wilde was born in Dublin and studied at Dublin and Oxford, where he became known as a supporter of the Aesthetic movement (`art for art's sake´). He published Poems 1881, and also wrote fairy tales and other stories, criticism, and a long, anarchic political essay, `The Soul of Man Under Socialism´ 1891. His elegant social comedies include Lady Windermere's Fan 1892 and An Ideal Husband 1895. The drama Salome 1893, based on the biblical character, was written in French; considered scandalous by the British censor, it was first performed in Paris 1896 with the actress Sarah Bernhardt in the title role.

George Bernard Shaw

(1856 - 1950)
Profession: Writer
British Dramatist

G. B. Shaw was born in Dublin, Ireland, and became the most significant British playwright of the last 300 years.

In addition to being a prolific playwright (he wrote 50 stage plays), he was also the most trenchant pamphleteer since the Irish-born satirist Jonathan Swift and the most readable music critic and best theatre critic of his generation. He was also one of literature's great letter writers.

Shaw was mostly concerned with social problems and early on became a member of the socialist Fabian Society. He was also a brilliant novelist and critic, and many consider him the greatest satirist of this century. Among his works are 'Caesar and Cleopatra' ; 'Man and Superman' ; 'Saint Joan' ; 'Back to Methuselah'. 'Man and Superman' is a dramatic parable based on the legend of Don Juan, it contains a famous dream scene called 'Don Juan in Hell' involving a debate with the devil. Shaw continued to write into his 90s.

To the end, Shaw continued to publish brilliantly argued prefaces to his plays and to flood publishers with books, articles, and cantankerous letters to the editor

Arthur Conan Doyle

(1859 - 1930)
Profession: Writer
Arthur Conan Doyle, the son of Charles Doyle and Mary Foley, was born in Edinburgh on 22nd May 1859. Arthur's father was an alcoholic and the family was always short of money. At school, Arthur developed a strong interest in the books written by Sir Walter Scott and Edgar Allan Poe.

Conan Doyle studied at Edinburgh University and helped to fund his course by working as a surgeon on Hope, a 400 ton whaler on a seven month voyage to the Arctic. The following year he worked on Mayumba, a passenger ship bound for West Africa. On this voyage Conan Doyle nearly died of typhoid. On his return, Conan Doyle set up as a doctor in Southsea, a suburb of Portsmouth. With very few patients, Conan Doyle attempted to make money by writing detective stories. His main character, Sherlock Holmes, was based on Dr. Joseph Bell, a surgeon and criminal psychologist, who lectured at Edinburgh Infirmary.

In 1891 Conan Doyle published six Sherlock Holmes stories in the Strand Magazine. The following year he was paid £1,000 for a whole series on Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle really wanted to write historical novels like his hero, Sir Walter Scott, and in 1893 decided to kill off Sherlock Holmes in the story, The Final Problem. However, after coming under considerable pressure from his fans, he returned to write his best known detective story, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902).

Conan Doyle served as a doctor in the Boer War (1899-1902) and wrote The War in South Africa (1902), where he attempted to justify Britain's actions during the war.

On 2nd September, 1914, soon after the start of the First World War, the Liberal politician, Charles Masterman, the head of the War Propaganda Bureau, organised a secret meeting of Britain's leading writers. to discuss ways of best promoting Britain's interests during the war. Those who attended to discuss the best way of promoting Britain's interests during the war included Conan Doyle, Arnold Bennett, John Masefield, Ford Madox Ford, William Archer, G. K. Chesterton, Sir Henry Newbolt, John Galsworthy, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, Gilbert Parker, G. M. Trevelyan and H. G. Wells.

All the writers present at the conference agreed to the utmost secrecy, and it was not until 1935 that the activities of the War Propaganda Bureau became known to the general public. Several of the men who attending the meeting agreed to write pamphlets and books that would promote the government's view of the situation.

In 1914 Conan Doyle wrote the recruiting pamphlet, To Arms!. The WPB arranged for Conan Doyle to go the Western Front and his pamphlet, A Visit to the Three Fronts was published in 1916. During the war Doyle also wrote his six volume history, The British Campaign in France and Flanders. Conan Doyle also wrote on the First World War for the Daily Chronicle.

Although fifty-five when the war Conan Doyle also joined the Crowborough Company of the Sixth Royal Sussex Volunteer Regiment and served as a private throughout the war. His son,Kingsley Conan Doyle, joined the British Army and was wounded at the Somme. He died in October, 1917, after developing pneumonia.

After the war Conan Doyle wrote several books on spiritualism including The New Revelation (1918) and The History of Spiritualism (1926). Arthur Conan Doyle died at Crowborough on 7th July 1930.

Sir (Frederick) Henry Royce

(1863 - 1933)
Profession: Engineer
Although he was to rise and become the producer of some of the most luxurious cars in the world, Royce began life in poverty. Born in Alwalton, England, he was orphaned at age nine. He struggled through a variety of jobs before being apprenticed to a locomotive works. There he became an expert machinist noted for his dedication to unequalled precision. At seventeen he left a subsequent job with a train ticket that had taken him several months to save for, and travelled to London. By day he worked at an electricity generating station, while at night he went to school. Three years passed before he decided to go to Manchester to open his own shop to produce dynamos and motors. Noted for their high quality, the Royce products sold well and his company grew. In 1902 he bought a second hand Decauville automobile hoping to enjoy leisurely weekends in the countryside. Instead, the car produced an endless series of breakdowns. He decided he could build a better one. In less than a year he had built a car that was so good that he decided to market it. In 1904 he entered into partnership with Rolls to sell automobiles, thus Rolls-Royce was formed. In 1906 Royce introduced the Silver Ghost, a car which was to become known as the greatest car in the world.

Royce's reputation as a leading engineer led the Royal Navy to contact him during World War I with an order to build Renault-designed aero-engines. Royce scoffed at what he considered an inferior design and said he would come up with a better one. The result was the Eagle, a twenty-litre engine which produced 225hp. This engine, and it's derivatives the Falcon and the Hawk, were so successful that by the end of World War I Rolls-Royce supplied 60% of all British built engines.

Royce stayed actively involved with the design of his company's engines up until his death in 1933. Before he died, he dictated what was to become known as the Rolls-Royce bible. It was a set of guidelines for future generations of Rolls-Royce engineers to follow. Even today, it is a closely guarded industrial secret.

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