Biographical Sources

General sources for biography are listed in Finding Biographical Information.

Additional biographical sources are available in the Specialized Resources in the History of Science.See also the discipline-specific biographical sources in the disciplinary sections.

Complete Dictionary of scientific biography is the online version of the Dictionary of scientific biography and New Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Offers biographical articles on deceased scientists, including lists of primary and secondary literature. Volume 16 includes a general index and a list of scientists by field. Volumes 17 & 18 are supplements containing scientists left out of the main series and those dying between 1970 and 1981. New Dictionary of Scientific Biography contains new articles about scientists dying after 1950 and earlier figures omitted from the original Dictionary together with articles updating entries in the original. Unlike the original, psychology and anthropology are covered, with some sociology and economics.
--For more recent sources use History of Science, Technology and Medicine. For new primary works (new editions, etc.) put your person in the author field. For new secondary works, put your person in the Subject field.
--Scribner, C. 1980. Publishing the Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, v. 124, no. 5, pp. 320-322.

Barr, E. S. 1973. An Index to Biographical Fragments in Unspecialized Scientific Journals. University: University of Alabama Press, 294 pp. [Portraits are indicated. Coverage stops around 1920]

Indexes biographical material in:
  • American Journal of Science, 1819-1920
  • Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 1832-1920
  • Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 1800-1933
  • Nature, 1869-1918
  • Popular Science Monthly, 1872-1915
  • Philosophical Magazine, 1798-1902
  • Science, 1883-1919


Ladies in the laboratory?, by Mary R.S. Creese, with contributions by Thomas M. Creese. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 4 v. 1998-2015.
HOLLIS Records

  • I. American and British women in science, 1800-1900 : a survey of their contributions to research
  • II. West European women in science, 1800-1900 : a survey of their contributions to research 
  • III. South African, Australian, New Zealand, and Canadian women in science : nineteenth and early twentieth centuries : a survey of their contributions
  • IV. Imperial Russia's women in science, 1800-1900 : a survey of their contributions to research

Daintith, J. S. et al. 2009. Biographical Encyclopedia of Scientists. 3rd ed. 2 v. Boca Raton: Taylor & Francis.

Debus, A. G., ed. 1968. World Who's Who in Science: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Scientists from Antiquity to the Present. Chicago: Marquis, 1855 pp. [Brief biographical data for about 30,000 scientists, living and dead]

Ireland, N. O. 1962. Index to Scientists of the World from Ancient to Modern Times: Biographies and Portraits. Boston: Faxon, 662 pp.
--Indexes biographical sketches on around 7500 scientists physicians, inventors and engineers in 338 books in English published between 1877 and 1961. Continued by Pelletier (below).

McMurray, E. J., ed. 1995. Notable Twentieth-Century Scientists. 4 v. Detroit, MI: Gale Research.

Supplement, ed. by K. M. Krapp, 1998, 617 pp.

Ogilvie, M. and J. Harvey, eds. 2000. The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science: Pioneering Lives from Ancient Times to the Mid-20th Century. 2 v. NY: Routledge.

Very comprehensive. Short (generally 1 paragraph to 1 page) biographies. Brief lists of primary and secondary sources. Lists of scientists by occupation, time period, and country.

Pelletier, P. A. 1994. Prominent Scientists: An Index to Collective Biographies. 3rd ed. NY: Neal-Schuman, 353 pp. [Extends the coverage in Ireland (above)]

Poggendorff, J. C. 1863- Biographisch-literarisches Handwörterbuch zur Geschichte der exakten Naturwissenschaften. Leipzig: Barth; Berlin: Akademie Verlag. Reprint: Ann Arbor: Edwards, 1945.

Important source providing brief biographical information and full bibliographies for workers in the exact sciences. Includes both deceased and living scientists. Citations for one person may be in more than one volume. Best coverage is for the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Salié, H. 1966. Poggendorff and Poggendorff. Isis, v. 57, no. 3, pp. 389-392. Information on history and scope.

Köstler, M. 1997. J. C. Poggendorff, Biographisch-literarisches Handwörterbuch zur Geschichte der exakten Naturwissenschaften: Zum 200. Geburtstag der Johann Christian Poggendorff 1996. NTM, v. 5, pp. 174-176.

Slocum, R. B. 1986. Science. Pp. 1006-1024 in Biographical Dictionaries and Related Works: An International Bibliography of More than 16,000 Collective Biographies. 2nd ed. V. 2. Detroit, MI: Gale Research.

Westfall, R. S. Catalog of the Scientific Community in the 16th and 17th Centuries.

United Kingdom/Ireland

Royal Society (Great Britain). Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society of London (v. 1-9; 1932-54) and Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society of London (v. 1-; 1955- ).
--Biographical sketches of prominent British scientists, with portraits and full bibliographies. Biographical sketches of prominent British scientists, with portraits and full bibliographies. Cumulative index for both series in Biographical Memoirs v. 26 (1980) and for the Biographical Memoirs 1981-90 in Biographical Memoirs v. 36 (1991). Full text available online in JSTOR. Brief biographical information for all fellows available in the Biographical Records.

United States/Canada

American men of science; a biographical directory, 1906- . [title varies: American men & women of science, 1971- ]. 
HOLLIS Records
Internet Archive Full Text (1905-1970)
Internet Archive Full Text  (1971-2009)  Open Year on left to select your year)

Index to editions 1/14:
Cabot Science Q141 .A471 1983 CUM. Index 1-14
Widener WID-LC Q141 .A474 (At beginning)
Widener | S 120.15.5 (shelved before 14th ed.)
Internet Archive Full Text

Indexed by Biography and Genealogy Master Index (BGMI) from 12th ed. (1971/73) to present.

Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences. Washington, DC, 1877-. [Biographical sketches of prominent American scientists, with portraits and full bibliographies. Volumes since 1987 (v. 57) contain cumulative indices] Incomplete online full text version.

Elliott, C. A. 1979. Biographical Dictionary of American Science: The Seventeenth through the Nineteenth Centuries. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 360 pp.

Elliott, C. A. 1990. Biographical Index to American Science: The Seventeeth Century to 1920. NY: Greenwood Press, 300 pp.

Krapp, K. M., ed. 1999. Notable Black American Scientists. Detroit, MI: Gale, 349 pp.

Covers 254 individuals, living and dead, with their selected writings and secondary sources. Some portraits. Gender, specialty and subject indexes.