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Famous British personalities

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Edith Cavell

(1865 - 1915)
Profession: Humanitarian
English nurse

When World War I broke out, she was head of the nursing staff of the Berkendael Medical Institute in Brussels.

In 1915 she was arrested by the German occupation authorities and pleaded guilty to a charge of harboring and aiding Allied prisoners and assisting some 130 to cross the Dutch frontier.

She was shot on Oct. 11, 1915, despite the efforts of Brand Whitlock, U.S. minister to Belgium, to secure a reprieve.





(Joseph) Rudyard Kipling

(1865 - 1936)
Profession: Writer
English writer

Actually born in Bombay whilst India was under British rule, Kipling was educated at the United Services College at Westward Ho!, Devon, England. Plain Tales from the Hills 1888, about Anglo-Indian society, contains the earliest of his masterly short stories. His books for children, including The Jungle Book 1894-95, Just So Stories 1902, Puck of Pook's Hill 1906, and the picaresque novel Kim 1901, reveal his imaginative identification with the exotic. Poems such as `Danny Deever´, `Gunga Din´, and `If-´ express an empathy with common experience, which contributed to his great popularity, together with a vivid sense of `Englishness´. His work is increasingly valued for its complex characterisation and subtle moral viewpoints. Kipling won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907.

In 1926 he was awarded the gold medal of the Royal Society of Literature; he received many other honours, including associate membership of the French Académie des Sciences et Politiques. Kipling was well travelled and lived in many countries until finally settling in Sussex, South East England. He is buried in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey.





H(erbert) G(eorge) Wells

(1866 - 1946)
Profession: Writer
English author and political philosopher, most famous for his science-fantasy novels with their prophetic depictions of the triumphs of technology as well as the horrors of 20th-century warfare.

Wells was born September 21, 1866, in Bromley, Kent, and educated at the Normal School of Science in London, to which he won a scholarship. He worked as a draper's apprentice, bookkeeper, tutor, and journalist until 1895, when he became a full-time writer. His novel The Time Machine (1895) mingled science, adventure, and political comment. Later works in this genre are The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898), and The Shape of Things to Come (1933); each of these fantasies was made into a film.

Wells also wrote novels devoted to character delineation. Among these are Kipps (1905) and The History of Mr. Polly (1910), which depict members of the lower middle class and their aspirations. After World War I (1914-1918) Wells wrote an immensely popular historical work, The Outline of History (2 volumes, 1920).

Throughout his long life Wells was deeply concerned with and wrote voluminously about the survival of contemporary society. For a time he was a member of the Fabian Society. He envisioned a utopia in which the vast and frightening material forces available to modern men and women would be rationally controlled for progress and for the equal good of all.





Beatrix Potter

(1866 - 1943)
Profession: Writer
English author and illustrator

She published her first animal stories, The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902) and The Tailor of Gloucester (1903), at her own expense before she found a publisher, Frederick Warne & Company. Over a period of 30 years, Warne published 23 of her books.

Potter's stories, although fantasy, depict animals in an intelligent, unsentimental, and humorous manner.

The books are enhanced by her delicate drawings and watercolor paintings. Now considered classics, Potter's stories are still popular and have been translated into several languages.





Robert Falcon Scott

(1868 - 1912)
Profession: Explorer
British naval officer and explorer of Antarctica

Born in Devonport, England. Scott entered the Royal Navy at the age of 14. In 1900 he was placed in command of the National Antarctic Expedition. Leaving England in 1901, Scott established a land base on the shores of McMurdo Sound, in Antarctica. He explored to the east of the Ross Ice Shelf and named Edward VII Peninsula. He also led a party that achieved a record latitude of 81° 17' south and sledged over Victoria Land. The expedition, which returned in 1904, was responsible for scientific discoveries of marked importance.

In 1910 Scott embarked on a second Antarctic expedition, with the aim of being the first man to reach the South Pole. He again landed at McMurdo Sound and with four companions began a trek of 2964 km (1842 mi), the longest continuous sledge journey ever made in the polar regions. Scott reached the South Pole on January 18, 1912, only to find the tent and flag of the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who had achieved the goal 5 weeks earlier. The return journey ended in the loss of the entire party. Petty Officer Edgar Evans died from a fall; Captain Lawrence Oates sacrificed his life, hoping thus to save his comrades; Henry R. Bowers, Dr. Edward Wilson, and Scott perished of starvation and exposure on March 29, 1912, within 18 km (11 mi) of a supply depot. Their bodies, along with valuable documents and specimens left by Scott in his tent, were found by a search party almost eight months later. His diaries and other documents were published as Scott's Last Expedition (1913). He is also the author of The Voyage of the Discovery (1905)





Sir Winston (Leonard Spencer) Churchill

(1874 - 1965)
Profession: Statesman
Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, the elder son of Lord Randolph Churchill. Educated at Harrow and Sandhurst, he joined the army in 1895. In the dual role of soldier and military correspondent he served in the Spanish-American War in Cuba, and then in India, Egypt, and South Africa, where he made a dramatic escape from imprisonment in Pretoria.

A British Conservative politician, prime minister from 1940-45 and 1951-55. In Parliament from 1900, as a Liberal until 1923, he held a number of ministerial offices, including First Lord of the Admiralty, 1911-15 and chancellor of the Exchequer, 1924-29. Absent from the cabinet in the 1930's, he returned in Sept 1939 to lead a coalition government from 1940-45, negotiating with Allied leaders





The Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls

(1877 - 1910)
Profession: Engineer
The son of a wealthy British peer, Rolls might have led a carefree life often associated with the young Edwardian aristocracy. Instead, he combined an adventurous spirit with an education and thus made a useful contribution to his nation.

Rolls went to Cambridge University where he earned a BA, and later MA in engineering. His love for speed led him to become a racing cyclist. Later he turned to racing automobiles along with his friend, Moore-Brabazon. In 1896 Rolls joined with other auto enthusiasts to break a law which forbade automobile travel at over 4mph (6.4km/hr). Their defiance led to a new speed limit which at 12 mph (19.3 km/hr) was 200% faster than had previously been allowed.
In 1901 Rolls, having become an aeronaut, helped found the Aero Club. Two years later he entered an automobile sales venture in London selling expensive French cars. One day a friend introduced him to F. H. Royce who was just beginning to build quality automobiles. Royce, who had worked hard his entire life, had little in common with Rolls yet they still became friends. In 1904 they agreed that Royce would build cars and Rolls would sell them. Rolls-Royce was born.

Rolls continued to fly balloons when he wasn't demonstrating his soon-to-be-famous products. His balloon flying led to aeroplane flying and in 1910 he received certificate number 2 from the Royal Aero Club (Royal as of that year). Later in the same year he became the first man to fly non-stop across the English Channel both ways, but his triumph was short lived. In July 1910 he was killed when his French-built Wright biplane broke up in mid-air. Though he came down from only 20 feet, he cracked his skull. He became Britain`s first aircraft fatality.





Marie Carmichael Stopes

(1880 - 1958)
Profession: Scientist
English paleobotanist and eugenicist

Born in Edinburgh, D.Sc. Univ. of London, Ph.D. Univ. of Munich. She lectured on paleobotany at the universities of London and Manchester.

In 1921, with Humphrey Verdon Roe, her second husband, she founded the first birth-control clinic in the British Empire.

Her activities in this field gave impetus to similar movements elsewhere. Her many works include books on eugenics, birth control, and paleobotany.





Sir Alexander Fleming

(1881 - 1955)
Profession: Scientist
British bacteriologist and Nobel laureate, best known for his discovery of penicillin. Born near Darvel, Scotland, and educated at Saint Mary's Hospital Medical School of the University of London, he served as professor of bacteriology at St. Mary's Hospital Medical School from 1928 to 1948, when he became professor emeritus.

Fleming conducted outstanding research in bacteriology, chemotherapy, and immunology. In 1922 he discovered lysozyme, an antiseptic found in tears, body secretions, albumen, and certain fish plants. His discovery of penicillin came about accidentally in 1928 in the course of research on influenza. His observation that the mold contaminating one of his culture plates had destroyed the bacteria laid the basis for the development of penicillin therapy.

Fleming was knighted in 1944. In 1945 he shared the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine with the British scientists Howard Walter Florey and Ernst Boris Chain for their contributions to the development of penicillin.





Sir Geoffrey de Havilland

(1882 - 1965)
Profession: Engineer
Born the son of a clergyman, de Havilland was one of the most successful of all British aviation pioneers. Before his twentieth birthday he designed a motorcycle and after graduating from the Crystal Palace Engineering School began a short-lived career in the automotive industry. By 1908, he persuaded his grandfather to loan him one thousand pounds from which he could fund the construction of an aeroplane. Along with his assistant Frank Herle, de Havilland built an engine and a bi-plane, which were ready to test by 1909. The success of this machine, in which de Havilland taught himself to fly, brought him to the attention of the British military which bought his plane for four hundred pounds and offered him a job at HM Balloon Factory. He test-flew all of his own designs until 1918.

In September 1920, de Havilland founded his own company and decided to target the commercial market and reject, for the most part, the military one. His factory, first at Stag Lane, Edgeware and later at Hatfield, produced a steady stream of well-designed biplanes for the civil and commercial markets.

To conserve vital materials during World War II, de Havilland's company designed the Mosquito fighter bomber, using less important wood for it's structure. The 'Mossie' is considered by some to have been the best all-round aircraft of World War II. Not only was it twice as fast as any other bomber, it was even faster than the fastest British fighter.





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