Dictionary of Irish Biography

On November 18, 2009, the Dictionary of Irish Biography was formally presented by the Taoiseach of Ireland at Dublin Castle. The Dictionary project had taken 12 years to complete, and was produced on time and within budget.  The Dictionary is a collaborative project between Cambridge University Press and the Royal Irish Academy. The Dictionary is the indispensable reference work on notable people in Ireland’s history.  It includes the lives of Irish men and women who made significant contributions in Ireland and abroad, as well as those born overseas who had noteworthy careers in Ireland, from James Ussher to James Joyce, St Patrick to Patrick Pearse, St Brigit to Maud Gonne MacBride, Shane O’Neil to Eamon de Valera and Edward Carson to Bobby Sands. The Dictionary will put their remarkable lives into every major library in the world and on the shelves of scholars, journalists, teachers, broadcasters, diplomats and general readers. It will be especially important in helping to sustain Irish studies in universities throughout the world.


Criteria for inclusion in the Dictionary, as outlined in the editors’ introduction, are that subjects: “born in Ireland with careers in Ireland; born in Ireland with careers outside Ireland; born outside Ireland with careers in Ireland”.  Subjects include “artists, scientists, lawyers, actors, musicians, writers in Irish and English, politicians, sporting figures, criminals and saints”. Criteria for each entry were that it be “factually accurate, based on the most recently available sources and accessible to the general reader”.  The earliest entries are from the 5th Century, and the earliest birth date is for St Patrick in 420 AD.  The latest death date, December 8th, 2002, is for the art critic Dorothy Walker.  In between lie some 9,700 lives, some very well known, some hardly at all.

The innovative, imaginative and comprehensive Dictionary of Irish Biography is an amazing work of scholarship. 

The Dictionary of Irish Biography consists of nine volumes containing entries for the 9,700 lives, ranging in length from 200 to 15,000 words. There is a subscription-based online version, which allows searching by names, birth, death and dates, gender, place, religion, occupation or field of interest, contributor and free text: http://dib.cambridge.org  One can also browse by name of subject or contributor, or read a random life. Names of other subjects covered by the series are linked from each piece, leading to a cornucopia of delightful distractions. It is much easier to click on a hyperlink than to take out another volume and leaf through it to find the person with the (qv) beside their name.

Source:  THE IRISH TIMES – Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Lunney family was a major contributor to this enormous effort.  Dr. Linde Lunney of the Royal Irish Academy served as Secretary for this effort and authored 605 of the entries; her husband, Professor James Lunney of Trinity College authored 2 of the entries; and Sheila Lunney, also from Dublin, authored 18 of the entries.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s