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Definition of biography

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So You've Been Asked to Submit a Biography

In a library, the word biography refers both to a kind of book and to a section where books of that kind are found. Each biography tells the story of a real person's life. A biography may be about someone who lived long ago, recently, or even someone who is still living, though in the last case it must necessarily be incomplete. The term autobiography refers to a biography written by the person it's about. Autobiographies are of course also necessarily incomplete.

Sometimes biographies are significantly shorter than a book—something anyone who's been asked to submit a biography for, say, a conference or a community newsletter will be glad to know. Often the word in these contexts is shortened to bio , a term that can be both a synonym of biography and a term for what is actually a biographical sketch: a brief description of a person's life. These kinds of biographies—bios—vary, but many times they are only a few sentences long. Looking at bios that have been used in the same context can be a useful guide in determining what to put in your own.

Examples of biography in a Sentence

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'biography.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Late Greek biographia , from Greek bi- + -graphia -graphy

1665, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Dictionary Entries Near biography

biographize

Cite this Entry

“Biography.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/biography. Accessed 27 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

Kids definition of biography, more from merriam-webster on biography.

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Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about biography

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Giorgio Vasari

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Giorgio Vasari

biography , form of literature , commonly considered nonfictional, the subject of which is the life of an individual. One of the oldest forms of literary expression, it seeks to re-create in words the life of a human being—as understood from the historical or personal perspective of the author—by drawing upon all available evidence, including that retained in memory as well as written, oral, and pictorial material.

Biography is sometimes regarded as a branch of history , and earlier biographical writings—such as the 15th-century Mémoires of the French councellor of state, Philippe de Commynes , or George Cavendish’s 16th-century life of Thomas Cardinal Wolsey —have often been treated as historical material rather than as literary works in their own right. Some entries in ancient Chinese chronicles included biographical sketches; imbedded in the Roman historian Tacitus ’s Annals is the most famous biography of the emperor Tiberius ; conversely , Sir Winston Churchill ’s magnificent life of his ancestor John Churchill, first duke of Marlborough , can be read as a history (written from a special point of view) of Britain and much of Europe during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14). Yet there is general recognition today that history and biography are quite distinct forms of literature. History usually deals in generalizations about a period of time (for example, the Renaissance), about a group of people in time (the English colonies in North America), about an institution (monasticism during the Middle Ages). Biography more typically focuses upon a single human being and deals in the particulars of that person’s life.

Both biography and history, however, are often concerned with the past, and it is in the hunting down, evaluating, and selection of sources that they are akin. In this sense biography can be regarded as a craft rather than an art: techniques of research and general rules for testing evidence can be learned by anyone and thus need involve comparatively little of that personal commitment associated with art.

A biographer in pursuit of an individual long dead is usually hampered by a lack of sources: it is often impossible to check or verify what written evidence there is; there are no witnesses to cross-examine. No method has yet been developed by which to overcome such problems. Each life, however, presents its own opportunities as well as specific difficulties to the biographer: the ingenuity with which the biographer handles gaps in the record—by providing information, for example, about the age that casts light upon the subject—has much to do with the quality of the resulting work. James Boswell knew comparatively little about Samuel Johnson ’s earlier years; it is one of the greatnesses of his Life of Samuel Johnson LL.D. (1791) that he succeeded, without inventing matter or deceiving the reader, in giving the sense of a life progressively unfolding. Another masterpiece of reconstruction in the face of little evidence is A.J.A. Symons ’ biography of the English author and eccentric Frederick William Rolfe , The Quest for Corvo (1934). A further difficulty is the unreliability of most collections of papers, letters, and other memorabilia edited before the 20th century. Not only did editors feel free to omit and transpose materials, but sometimes the authors of documents revised their personal writings for the benefit of posterity , often falsifying the record and presenting their biographers with a difficult situation when the originals were no longer extant .

The biographer writing the life of a person recently dead is often faced with the opposite problem: an abundance of living witnesses and a plethora of materials, which include the subject’s papers and letters, sometimes transcriptions of telephone conversations and conferences, as well as the record of interviews granted to the biographer by the subject’s friends and associates. Frank Friedel, for example, in creating a biography of the U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt , had to wrestle with something like 40 tons of paper. But finally, when writing the life of any person, whether long or recently dead, the biographer’s chief responsibility is vigorously to test the authenticity of the collected materials by whatever rules and techniques are available. When the subject of a biography is still alive and a contributor to the work, the biographer’s task is to examine the subject’s perspective against multiple, even contradictory sources.

Definition of Biography

Common examples of biographical subjects.

As a literary device, biography is important because it allows readers to learn about someone’s story and history. This can be enlightening, inspiring, and meaningful in creating connections. Here are some common examples of biographical subjects:

Famous Examples of Biographical Works

Difference between biography, autobiography, and memoir, examples of biography in literature, example 1:  savage beauty: the life of edna st. vincent millay  (nancy milford).

One of the first things Vincent explained to Norma was that there was a certain freedom of language in the Village that mustn’t shock her. It wasn’t vulgar. ‘So we sat darning socks on Waverly Place and practiced the use of profanity as we stitched. Needle in, . Needle out, piss. Needle in, . Needle out, c. Until we were easy with the words.’

This passage reflects the way in which Milford is able to characterize St. Vincent Millay as a person interacting with her sister. Even avid readers of a writer’s work are often unaware of the artist’s private and personal natures, separate from their literature and art. Milford reflects the balance required on the part of a literary biographer of telling the writer’s life story without undermining or interfering with the meaning and understanding of the literature produced by the writer. Though biographical information can provide some influence and context for a writer’s literary subjects, style, and choices , there is a distinction between the fictional world created by a writer and the writer’s “real” world. However, a literary biographer can illuminate the writer’s story so that the reader of both the biography and the biographical subject’s literature finds greater meaning and significance.

Example 2:  The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens  (Claire Tomalin)

The season of domestic goodwill and festivity must have posed a problem to all good Victorian family men with more than one family to take care of, particularly when there were two lots of children to receive the demonstrations of paternal love.

Example 3:  Virginia Woolf  (Hermione Lee)

‘A self that goes on changing is a self that goes on living’: so too with the biography of that self. And just as lives don’t stay still, so life-writing can’t be fixed and finalised. Our ideas are shifting about what can be said, our knowledge of human character is changing. The biographer has to pioneer, going ‘ahead of the rest of us, like the miner’s canary, testing the atmosphere , detecting falsity, unreality, and the presence of obsolete conventions’. So, ‘There are some stories which have to be retold by each generation’. She is talking about the story of Shelley, but she could be talking about her own life-story.

In this passage, Lee is able to demonstrate what her biographical subject, Virginia Woolf, felt about biography and a person telling their own or another person’s story. Literary biographies of well-known writers can be especially difficult to navigate in that both the author and biographical subject are writers, but completely separate and different people. As referenced in this passage by Lee, Woolf was aware of the subtleties and fluidity present in a person’s life which can be difficult to judiciously and effectively relay to a reader on the part of a biographer. In addition, Woolf offers insight into the fact that biographers must make choices in terms of what information is presented to the reader and the context in which it is offered, making them a “miner’s canary” as to how history will view and remember the biographical subject.

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What Is a Biography?

What is a biography?

Learning from the experiences of others is what makes us human.

At the core of every biography is the story of someone’s humanity. While biographies come in many sub-genres, the one thing they all have in common is loyalty to the facts, as they’re available at the time. Here’s how we define biography, a look at its origins, and some popular types.

“Biography” Definition

A biography is simply the story of a real person’s life. It could be about a person who is still alive, someone who lived centuries ago, someone who is globally famous, an unsung hero forgotten by history, or even a unique group of people. The facts of their life, from birth to death (or the present day of the author), are included with life-changing moments often taking center stage. The author usually points to the subject’s childhood, coming-of-age events, relationships, failures, and successes in order to create a well-rounded description of her subject.

Biographies require a great deal of research. Sources of information could be as direct as an interview with the subject providing their own interpretation of their life’s events. When writing about people who are no longer with us, biographers look for primary sources left behind by the subject and, if possible, interviews with friends or family. Historical biographers may also include accounts from other experts who have studied their subject.

The biographer’s ultimate goal is to recreate the world their subject lived in and describe how they functioned within it. Did they change their world? Did their world change them? Did they transcend the time in which they lived? Why or why not? And how? These universal life lessons are what make biographies such a meaningful read.

Origins of the Biography

Greco-Roman literature honored the gods as well as notable mortals. Whether winning or losing, their behaviors were to be copied or seen as cautionary tales. One of the earliest examples written exclusively about humans is Plutarch’s Parallel Lives (probably early 2 nd century AD). It’s a collection of biographies in which a pair of men, one Greek and one Roman, are compared and held up as either a good or bad example to follow.

In the Middle Ages, Einhard’s The Life of Charlemagne (around 817 AD) stands out as one of the most famous biographies of its day. Einhard clearly fawns over Charlemagne’s accomplishments throughout, yet it doesn’t diminish the value this biography has brought to centuries of historians since its writing.

Considered the earliest modern biography, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791) by James Boswell looks like the biographies we know today. Boswell conducted interviews, performed years of research, and created a compelling narrative of his subject.

The genre evolves as the 20th century arrives, and with it the first World War. The 1920s saw a boom in autobiographies in response. Robert Graves’ Good-Bye to All That (1929) is a coming-of age story set amid the absurdity of war and its aftermath. That same year, Mahatma Gandhi wrote The Story of My Experiments with Truth , recalling how the events of his life led him to develop his theories of nonviolent rebellion. In this time, celebrity tell-alls also emerged as a popular form of entertainment. With the horrors of World War II and the explosion of the civil rights movement, American biographers of the late 20 th century had much to archive. Instantly hailed as some of the best writing about the war, John Hersey’s Hiroshima (1946) tells the stories of six people who lived through those world-altering days. Alex Haley wrote the as-told-to The Autobiography of Malcom X (1965). Yet with biographies, the more things change, the more they stay the same. One theme that persists is a biographer’s desire to cast its subject in an updated light, as in Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair that Shaped a First Lady by Susan Quinn (2016).

Types of Biographies

Contemporary Biography: Authorized or Unauthorized

The typical modern biography tells the life of someone still alive, or who has recently passed. Sometimes these are authorized — written with permission or input from the subject or their family — like Dave Itzkoff’s intimate look at the life and career of Robin Williams, Robin . Unauthorized biographies of living people run the risk of being controversial. Kitty Kelley’s infamous His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra so angered Sinatra, he tried to prevent its publication.

Historical Biography

The wild success of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton is proof that our interest in historical biography is as strong as ever. Miranda was inspired to write the musical after reading Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton , an epic 800+ page biography intended to cement Hamilton’s status as a great American. Paula Gunn Allen also sets the record straight on another misunderstood historical figure with Pocahontas: Medicine Woman, Spy, Entrepreneur, Diplomat , revealing details about her tribe, her family, and her relationship with John Smith that are usually missing from other accounts. Historical biographies also give the spotlight to people who died without ever getting the recognition they deserved, such as The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks .

Biography of a Group

When a group of people share unique characteristics, they can be the topic of a collective biography. The earliest example of this is Captain Charles Johnson’s A General History of the Pirates (1724), which catalogs the lives of notorious pirates and establishes the popular culture images we still associate with them. Smaller groups are also deserving of a biography, as seen in David Hajdu’s Positively 4th Street , a mesmerizing behind-the-scenes look at the early years of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Mimi Baez Fariña, and Richard Fariña as they establish the folk scene in New York City. Likewise, British royal family fashion is a vehicle for telling the life stories of four iconic royals – Queen Elizabeth II, Diana, Kate, and Meghan – in HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style by style journalist Elizabeth Holmes.

Autobiography

This type of biography is written about one’s self, spanning an entire life up to the point of its writing. One of the earliest autobiographies is Saint Augustine’s The Confessions (400), in which his own experiences from childhood through his religious conversion are told in order to create a sweeping guide to life. Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the first of six autobiographies that share all the pain of her childhood and the long road that led to her work in the civil rights movement, and a beloved, prize-winning writer.

Memoirs are a type of autobiography, written about a specific but vital aspect of one’s life. In Toil & Trouble , Augusten Burroughs explains how he has lived his life as a witch. Mikel Jollett’s Hollywood Park recounts his early years spent in a cult, his family’s escape, and his rise to success with his band, The Airborne Toxic Event. Barack Obama’s first presidential memoir, A Promised Land , charts his path into politics and takes a deep dive into his first four years in office.

Fictional Biography

Fictional biographies are no substitute for a painstakingly researched scholarly biography, but they’re definitely meant to be more entertaining. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler constructs Zelda and F. Scott’s wild, Jazz-Age life, told from Zelda’s point of view. The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict brings readers into the secret life of Hollywood actress and wartime scientist, Hedy Lamarr. These imagined biographies, while often whimsical, still respect the form in that they depend heavily on facts when creating setting, plot, and characters.

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[ bahy- og -r uh -fee , bee- ]

the biography of Byron by Marchand.

  • an account in biographical form of an organization, society, theater, animal, etc.
  • such writings collectively.
  • the writing of biography as an occupation or field of endeavor.

/ baɪˈɒɡrəfɪ; ˌbaɪəˈɡræfɪkəl /

  • an account of a person's life by another
  • such accounts collectively
  • The story of someone's life. The Life of Samuel Johnson , by James Boswell , and Abraham Lincoln , by Carl Sandburg , are two noted biographies. The story of the writer's own life is an autobiography .

Discover More

Derived forms.

  • biˈographer , noun
  • biographical , adjective
  • ˌbioˈgraphically , adverb

Word History and Origins

Origin of biography 1

Example Sentences

Barrett didn’t say anything on Tuesday to contradict our understanding of her ideological leanings based on her past rulings, past statements and biography.

Republicans, meanwhile, focused mostly on her biography — including her role as a working mother of seven and her Catholic faith — and her credentials, while offering few specifics about her record as a law professor and judge.

She delivered an inspiring biography at one point, reflecting on the sacrifice her mother made to emigrate to the United States.

As Walter Isaacson pointed out in his biography of Benjamin Franklin, Franklin proposed the postal system as a vital network to bond together the 13 disparate colonies.

Serving that end, the book is not an in-depth biography as much as a summary of Galileo’s life and science, plus a thorough recounting of the events leading up to his famous trial.

The Amazon biography for an author named Papa Faal mentions both Gambia and lists a military record that matches the FBI report.

For those unfamiliar with Michals, an annotated biography and useful essays are included.

Did you envision your Pryor biography as extending your previous investigation—aesthetically and historically?

But Stephen Kotkin's new biography reveals a learned despot who acted cunningly to take advantage of the times.

Watching novelists insult one another is one of the primary pleasures of his biography.

He also published two volumes of American Biography, a work which his death abridged.

Mme. de Chaulieu gave her husband the three children designated in the duc's biography.

The biography of great men always has been, and always will be read with interest and profit.

I like biography far better than fiction myself: fiction is too free.

The Bookman: "A more entertaining narrative whether in biography or fiction has not appeared in recent years."

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Introduction

A narrative that records the actions and recreates the personality of an individual is called a biography (from a Greek term meaning “life-writing”). An individual who writes the story of his or her own life is creating an autobiography , meaning self-biography.

Biography and History

History and biography have several similarities, but they are not the same. Both the biographer and the historian search for evidence. They evaluate the information they find to decide if it is factual and relevant. History, however, is the recorded past of human societies; it tells the story of nations, wars, movements—the whole range of past human activity. Biography deals with a single life story. The historian looks for facts and events that affect many lives; the biographer seeks information that reveals the subject’s character and personality. If the subject of a biography is a well-known public figure such as a president of the United States, his life story almost becomes a historical narrative. The life of George Washington, for instance, is a significant segment of American history. But if the subject is a very private person, such as the poet Emily Dickinson, the biography is much less concerned with contemporary historical events.

Sources and Goals of Biography

Biographers gather information from many different sources. Legal documents and personal papers can reveal facts such as a person’s birthplace, income, number of children, and life span. Letters or a diary may contain valuable information about the person’s friends and activities, thoughts and feelings. All of these materials are called primary sources because they contain firsthand information—information that does not depend on the opinions or interpretations of others.

A biographer also checks secondary sources. The subject’s friends and relatives may be interviewed. If the subject died long ago, the biographer looks for anything written about him or her. Secondary sources supply secondhand information, and so a biographer must use them with care. The subject’s friends will want the biography to be favorable, while others may wish it to be unfavorable. The biographer must avoid both extremes. The biographer’s job is not to make readers like or dislike the subject, but to give as complete and truthful a picture of the person as possible. This means the biography should include both good and bad qualities, both accomplishments and mistakes. James Boswell , the author of a great biography of his friend Samuel Johnson , wrote, “And he will be seen as he really was; for I profess to write, not his panegyric, which must be all praise, but his Life; which, great and good as he was, must not be supposed to be entirely perfect.”

Much biographical writing falls short of Boswell’s standards. Ancient records of the deeds of kings and emperors were written to praise and flatter these rulers. Writers of saints’ lives in the Middle Ages were often more interested in the moral message than the events of a life. Many 19th-century biographers suppressed any improper or embarrassing details of their subjects’ lives. Though they may be interesting or uplifting, these works fail as biographies chiefly because their purpose is to point up a moral rather than describe an individual.

Early Biographies

The first great biographer was the Greek writer Plutarch ( ad 46?–120?). Plutarch’s work, Parallel Lives , is made up of 23 sets of paired biographies. Each pair includes a Greek and a Roman whose lives were alike in some way. For example, the two military leaders Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar form a pair, as do Demosthenes and Cicero, two orators. The Roman biographer Suetonius lived at about the same time as Plutarch. Whereas Plutarch focuses on the details to show a person’s good and bad qualities, Suetonius’ book Lives of the Twelve Caesars is full of gossip and anecdotes.

From ancient times until the 17th century, biography was considered to be a special kind of history. The subjects tended to be well-known public figures—rulers, generals, or religious leaders. It was believed that their fame made their lives interesting and useful as moral examples.

Biography as Literature

In the 17th and 18th centuries, biography began to emerge as a separate literary form from history. In fact, the word biography first came into the English language in the 17th century. The art of writing biography received attention in essays by the English authors Roger North and Samuel Johnson . An interest in the human personality for its own sake was beginning to develop. Samuel Johnson wrote, “I have often thought that there has rarely passed a life of which a judicious and faithful narrative would not be useful. . . . We are all prompted by the same motives, all deceived by the same fallacies, all animated by hope, obstructed by danger, entangled by desire, and seduced by pleasure.”

Johnson himself wrote a series of short biographies, ‘Lives of the English Poets’ (1779–81). However, he is best remembered as the subject of one of the greatest biographies ever written, The Life of Samuel Johnson LL.D . (1791), by James Boswell . During 20 years of friendship with Johnson, Boswell asked questions and recorded conversations, interviewed friends, and saved letters. In the biography, Boswell blends his own narrative with Johnson’s conversations and letters.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, interpretation and analysis of character became a more and more important part of biography. In 1884, James Anthony Froude (1818–94) completed a nine-volume biography of his friend, the English writer Thomas Carlyle .

Although he admired Carlyle, Froude maintained an emotional distance from his friend in writing about him. By interpreting Carlyle’s journals and letters, Froude tried to give a candid and intimate picture of the writer’s personality.

An American writer, Gamaliel Bradford (1863–1932), called his new type of biographies “psychography” because he concentrated in them on interpreting the subjects’ inner lives. During the same period of time, the work of Sigmund Freud , the founder of psychoanalysis, made psychological techniques available to biographers.

These new techniques were successfully used in the work of Lytton Strachey (1880–1932), an English writer and critic. Instead of including vast amounts of material, Strachey used a narrow selection of evidence to construct his own interpretation of his subjects. As he described it, he strove for “a brevity which excludes everything that is redundant and nothing that is significant.”

Strachey’s motive was not so much to tell an objective story of someone’s life as it was to create a new literary style for biography. He was highly selective and critical in the information he used, and he was not afraid of treating his subjects in a somewhat irreverent manner. His best biography, Queen Victoria , depicted the queen not only as a powerful monarch, but as an individual with normal human weaknesses and foibles.

Modern Biography

The standard for writing biographies in the 20th and early 21st centuries generally reverted to the pattern set by James Boswell in his work on Samuel Johnson: the sifting of masses of evidence and the attempt to be objective. An outstanding biographer of the modern period, the French writer André Maurois (1885–1967), stated that the ideal biography should be the result of a relentless search for truth combined with an awareness of the complexity of the human personality. He exemplified this ideal in his own works, biographies of such figures as the poet Shelley , Benjamin Disraeli , and Alexandre Dumas .

Other major biographies of the 20th century include: Marlborough , by Winston Churchill ; Henry James , by Leon Edel; James Joyce , by Richard Ellman; George Washington , by James Flexner; Catherine the Great , by Henri Troyat; Adolf Hitler , by John Toland;‘ Jefferson and His Time , by Dumas Malone; and Carl Sandburg ’s multivolume work on Abraham Lincoln entitled The Prairie Years and The War Years .

Biographical Collections and Reference Works

Several writers and editors in the 17th century pioneered in the formation of biographical collections, usually works in several volumes treating the lives of many individuals. The greatest of these collections was made by the French philosopher Pierre Bayle (1647–1706). Entitled Dictionnaire historique et critique (Historical and Critical Dictionary), it was published from 1695 to 1697.

Large collections have continued to be valuable sources of biographical information. The major English biographical work, the Dictionary of National Biography , was published between 1885 and 1901. The editors gathered information about notable Englishmen who lived in every historical period. This collection was more complete and objective than any previous comparable work.

A similar collection, the Dictionary of American Biography , was published in the United States between 1928 and 1937. Both of these works have been continuously expanded and updated. Similar biographical works have been published in many other countries.

Other useful sources of biographical information include the journal Current Biography , Webster’s New Biographical Dictionary , ‘ McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Names , Who’s Who , Who’s Who in America , and Who Was Who . To locate biographical books and articles, one can consult a bibliographical guide such as the ‘Biography Index’.

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Biographies: The Stories of Humanity

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  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
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A biography is a story of a person's life, written by another author. The writer of a biography is called a biographer while the person written about is known as the subject or biographee.

Biographies usually take the form of a narrative , proceeding chronologically through the stages of a person's life. American author Cynthia Ozick notes in her essay "Justice (Again) to Edith Wharton" that a good biography is like a novel, wherein it believes in the idea of a life as "a triumphal or tragic story with a shape, a story that begins at birth, moves on to a middle part, and ends with the death of the protagonist."

A biographical essay is a comparatively short work of nonfiction  about certain aspects of a person's life. By necessity, this sort of essay  is much more selective than a full-length biography, usually focusing only on key experiences and events in the subject's life.

Between History and Fiction

Perhaps because of this novel-like form, biographies fit squarely between written history and fiction, wherein the author often uses personal flairs and must invent details "filling in the gaps" of the story of a person's life that can't be gleaned from first-hand or available documentation like home movies, photographs, and written accounts.

Some critics of the form argue it does a disservice to both history and fiction, going so far as to call them "unwanted offspring, which has brought a great embarrassment to them both," as Michael Holroyd puts it in his book "Works on Paper: The Craft of Biography and Autobiography." Nabokov even called biographers "psycho-plagiarists," meaning that they steal the psychology of a person and transcribe it to the written form.

Biographies are distinct from creative non-fiction such as memoir in that biographies are specifically about one person's full life story -- from birth to death -- while creative non-fiction is allowed to focus on a variety of subjects, or in the case of memoirs certain aspects of an individual's life.

Writing a Biography

For writers who want to pen another person's life story, there are a few ways to spot potential weaknesses, starting with making sure proper and ample research has been conducted -- pulling resources such as newspaper clippings, other academic publications, and recovered documents and found footage.  

First and foremost, it is the duty of biographers to avoid misrepresenting the subject as well as acknowledging the research sources they used. Writers should, therefore, avoid presenting a personal bias for or against the subject as being objective is key to conveying the person's life story in full detail.

Perhaps because of this, John F. Parker observes in his essay "Writing: Process to Product" that some people find writing a biographical essay "easier than writing an  autobiographical  essay. Often it takes less effort to write about others than to reveal ourselves." In other words, in order to tell the full story, even the bad decisions and scandals have to make the page in order to truly be authentic.

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What Is a Biography? Definition & 25+ Examples

Have you ever wondered what lies beneath the surface of history’s most influential figures?

Imagine a chance to delve into the intricate tapestry of their lives, unraveling the threads that have woven together the very essence of their character, and unearthing the pivotal moments that shaped their destinies.

Welcome to the enthralling world of biographies, where you are invited to embark on a captivating journey into the lives of the extraordinary. Prepare to be captivated by the compelling tales of human resilience, ingenuity, and ambition that lie at the heart of each biography.

Table of Contents

Defining Biography

A biography is a detailed account of a person’s life, written by someone other than the subject. The term “biography” is derived from two Greek words: “bio,” which means life, and “graphy,” which signifies writing. Thus, a biography is the written history of someone’s life, offering an in-depth look at their experiences, achievements, and challenges.

Biographies typically focus on the life of notable individuals, such as historical figures or celebrities, and provide a comprehensive view of their personal and professional journey.

Biographers, the authors of these works, aim to offer an accurate, well-researched portrayal of their subjects by studying various sources and conducting interviews if possible. This thorough research and attention to detail ensure that the resulting narrative is both informative and engaging.

Biographies are a subgenre of non-fiction literature, as they chronicle the lives of real people. However, not all life stories fall under the category of biography.

Autobiographies and memoirs, for instance, focus on the author’s own experiences and are written from a first-person perspective. While autobiographies aim to present an overarching narrative of the author’s life, memoirs tend to focus on specific incidents or periods.

When crafting a biography, it is essential for the biographer to maintain a neutral tone, avoiding any judgment or personal bias. This objectivity allows readers to form their opinions based on the presented facts, gaining a broader understanding of the subject.

Elements of a Biography

A well-crafted biography contains several key elements that provide a comprehensive picture of the subject’s life. These elements help readers gain a deeper understanding of the subject while fostering an emotional connection. Below are some essential aspects of a biography:

Personal and Family Background

The personal and family background section of a biography provides an essential foundation for understanding the subject’s journey and the factors that shaped their life. By exploring the subject’s early years, readers gain insight into the environment and experiences that influenced their character, values, and aspirations.

This section typically begins with an overview of the subject’s birthplace, family origins, and cultural heritage. It delves into the family dynamics, including descriptions of the subject’s parents, siblings, and extended family, shedding light on the relationships that played a crucial role in their development.

The personal and family background section also addresses significant life events, challenges, and milestones that occurred during the subject’s upbringing. These formative experiences may include pivotal moments, such as moving to a new city, attending a particular school, or encountering a mentor who had a lasting impact on their life.

Education and Career

The education and career section of a biography is crucial for understanding the intellectual and professional development of the subject. By tracing the subject’s academic journey and career progression, readers gain a clearer picture of the knowledge, skills, and experiences that shaped their path and contributed to their success.

This section begins by outlining the subject’s educational background, including the schools they attended, the degrees or qualifications they obtained, and any specialized training they received. It also highlights the subject’s academic achievements, such as scholarships, awards, or distinctions, and any influential mentors or teachers who played a significant role in their intellectual growth.

The education and career section also delves into the subject’s professional life, chronicling their work history, job titles, and key responsibilities. It explores the subject’s career trajectory, examining how they transitioned between roles or industries and the factors that influenced their choices.

Major Events and Turning Points

The major events and turning points section of a biography delves into the pivotal moments and experiences that significantly influenced the subject’s life, shaping their character, values, and destiny.

By exploring these transformative events, readers gain a deeper understanding of the forces and circumstances that drove the subject’s actions and choices, as well as the challenges and triumphs they faced along the way.

This section encompasses a wide range of events, which could include personal milestones, such as marriage, the birth of children, or the loss of a loved one.

These personal events often provide insights into the subject’s emotional landscape and reveal the support systems, relationships, and personal values that sustained them through difficult times or propelled them to greater heights.

Influences and Inspirations

The influences and inspirations section of a biography delves into the individuals, ideas, and events that had a profound impact on the subject’s beliefs, values, and aspirations.

By understanding the forces that shaped the subject’s worldview, readers gain a deeper appreciation for the motivations driving their actions and decisions, as well as the creative and intellectual foundations upon which their accomplishments were built.

This section often begins by identifying the key figures who played a significant role in the subject’s life, such as family members, mentors, peers, or historical figures they admired.

It explores the nature of these relationships and how they shaped the subject’s perspectives, values, and ambitions. These influential individuals can provide valuable insights into the subject’s personal growth and development, revealing the sources of inspiration and guidance that fueled their journey.

The influences and inspirations section also delves into the ideas and philosophies that resonated with the subject and shaped their worldview. This could include an exploration of the subject’s religious, political, or philosophical beliefs, as well as the books, theories, or artistic movements that inspired them.

This section examines the events, both personal and historical, that impacted the subject’s life and inspired their actions. These could include moments of personal transformation, such as a life-altering experience or an epiphany, or broader societal events, such as wars, social movements, or technological innovations.

Contributions and Impact

The contributions and impact section of a biography is pivotal in conveying the subject’s lasting significance, both in their chosen profession and beyond. By detailing their achievements, innovations, and legacies, this section helps readers grasp the extent of the subject’s influence and the ways in which their work has shaped the world around them.

This section begins by highlighting the subject’s key accomplishments within their profession, such as breakthroughs, discoveries, or innovative techniques they developed. It delves into the processes and challenges they faced along the way, providing valuable insights into their creativity, determination, and problem-solving abilities.

The contributions and impact section also explores the subject’s broader influence on society, culture, or the world at large. This could include their involvement in social or political movements, their philanthropic endeavors, or their role as a cultural icon.

In addition to discussing the subject’s immediate impact, this section also considers their lasting legacy, exploring how their work has continued to inspire and shape subsequent generations.

This could involve examining the subject’s influence on their successors, the institutions or organizations they helped establish, or the enduring relevance of their ideas and achievements in contemporary society.

Personal Traits and Characteristics

The personal traits and characteristics section of a biography brings the subject to life, offering readers an intimate glimpse into their personality, qualities, and views.

This section often begins by outlining the subject’s defining personality traits, such as their temperament, values, and passions. By exploring these attributes, readers gain insight into the subject’s character and the motivations driving their actions and decisions.

These qualities could include their perseverance, curiosity, empathy, or sense of humor, which may help explain their achievements, relationships, and outlook on life.

The personal traits and characteristics section also delves into the subject’s views and beliefs, offering a window into their thoughts and opinions on various topics. This could include their perspectives on politics, religion, culture, or social issues, providing readers with a clearer understanding of the context in which they operated and the factors that shaped their worldview.

Anecdotes and personal stories play a crucial role in illustrating the subject’s personality and characteristics, as they offer concrete examples of their behavior, actions, or interactions with others.

Quotes and first-hand accounts from the subject or those who knew them well can also be invaluable in portraying their personal traits and characteristics. These accounts offer unique insights into the subject’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences, allowing readers to see the world through their eyes and better understand their character.

Types of Biographies

Biographies come in various forms and styles, each presenting unique perspectives on the lives of individuals. Some of the most common types of biographies are discussed in the following sub-sections.

Historical Fiction Biography

Historical fiction biographies artfully weave together factual information with imaginative elements, creating a vibrant tapestry of the past. By staying true to the core of a historical figure’s life and accomplishments, these works offer a unique window into their world while granting authors the creative freedom to delve deeper into their emotions, relationships, and personal struggles.

Such biographies strike a delicate balance, ensuring that the essence of the individual remains intact while allowing for fictional embellishments to bring their story to life. This captivating blend of fact and fiction serves to humanize these iconic figures, making their experiences more relatable and engaging for readers who embark on a journey through the pages of history.

Here are several examples of notable historical fiction biographies:

  • “Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel (2009)
  • “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain (2011)
  • “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Tracy Chevalier (1999)
  • “The Other Boleyn Girl” by Philippa Gregory (2001)
  • “Loving Frank” by Nancy Horan (2007)

Academic Biography

Academic biographies stand as meticulously researched and carefully crafted scholarly works, dedicated to presenting an accurate and comprehensive account of a subject’s life.

Authored by experts or researchers well-versed in their field, these biographies adhere to rigorous standards of accuracy, sourcing, and objectivity. They delve into the intricacies of a person’s life, achievements, and impact, scrutinizing every aspect with scholarly precision.

Intended for an educated audience, academic biographies serve as valuable resources for those seeking a deeper understanding of the subject’s contributions and influence. By placing the individual within the broader context of their time, these works illuminate the complex web of factors that shaped their lives and legacies.

While academic biographies may not always carry the same narrative flair as their fictional counterparts, their commitment to factual integrity and thorough analysis make them indispensable resources for scholars, students, and enthusiasts alike

Here are several examples of notable academic biographies:

  • “Einstein: His Life and Universe” by Walter Isaacson (2007)
  • “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson (2011)
  • “John Adams” by David McCullough (2001)
  • “Alexander the Great” by Robin Lane Fox (1973)
  • “Marie Curie: A Life” by Susan Quinn (1995)

Authorized Biographies

Authorized biographies offer a unique perspective on the lives of their subjects, as they are written with the explicit consent and, often, active participation of the individual in question.

This collaboration between the biographer and the subject can lead to a more accurate, detailed, and intimate portrayal of the person’s life, as the author is granted access to a wealth of personal information, documents, and anecdotes that might otherwise be inaccessible.

When working on an authorized biography, the biographer is typically given permission to access personal documents, such as letters, diaries, and photographs, which can provide invaluable insights into the subject’s thoughts, emotions, and experiences.

This primary source material allows the biographer to construct a narrative that is grounded in fact and captures the essence of the individual’s life and personality.

Here are several examples of notable authorized biographies:

  • “Mandela: The Authorized Biography” by Anthony Sampson (1999)
  • “Marilyn Monroe: The Biography” by Donald Spoto (1993)
  • “Joni Mitchell: In Her Own Words” by Malka Marom (2014)
  • “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life” by Alice Schroeder (2008)
  • “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg” by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik (2015)

Fictionalized Academic Biography

Fictionalized academic biographies merge the best of both worlds, combining the rigorous research and scholarly integrity of academic biographies with the engaging storytelling of historical fiction.

Authors of these works expertly navigate the delicate balance between maintaining factual accuracy and venturing into the realm of imagination.

This approach allows them to explore the subject’s personal life, relationships, and the broader historical context in a compelling manner, while ensuring the narrative remains firmly rooted in well-researched facts.

Here are several examples of notable fictionalized academic biographies:

  • “The Women” by T.C. Boyle (2009)
  • “Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald” by Therese Anne Fowler (2013)
  • “The Marriage of Opposites” by Alice Hoffman (2015)
  • “Vanessa and Her Sister” by Priya Parmar (2014)
  • “The Last Days of Night” by Graham Moore (2016)

Prophetic Biography

Prophetic biographies delve into the rich and profound narratives of religious figures or prophets, meticulously weaving together insights from sacred texts, religious traditions, and historical accounts.

By providing a comprehensive portrayal of the individual’s life, teachings, and impact on society, these biographies serve as an invaluable resource for understanding the pivotal role these figures played in shaping the course of religious history and the lives of the faithful.

Here are several examples of notable prophetic biographies:

  • “Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources” by Martin Lings (1983)
  • “The Life of Moses” by F.B. Meyer (1893)
  • “The Life of the Buddha: According to the Pali Canon” by Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli (1972)
  • “The Quest of the Historical Jesus” by Albert Schweitzer (1906)
  • “The Lives of the Saints” by Alban Butler (1756)

Biography Development Process

A biography is a comprehensive written account of an individual’s life, and the development process involves several essential components to ensure the biography’s accuracy and readability.

A biographer’s primary responsibility is to conduct extensive research in order to gather a comprehensive array of facts about the subject. This meticulous process involves reviewing various documents and sources that shed light on the individual’s life and experiences, as well as the historical context in which they lived.

Key documents, such as birth and death certificates, provide essential information about the subject’s origins and family background. Personal correspondence, letters, and diaries offer invaluable insights into the subject’s thoughts, emotions, relationships, and experiences. News articles, on the other hand, can reveal public perceptions of the subject, as well as their impact on society and culture.

Archives often serve as treasure troves of information for biographers, as they contain a wealth of primary sources that can help illuminate the subject’s life and times. These archives may include collections of personal papers, photographs, audio recordings, and other materials that offer first-hand accounts of the individual’s experiences or shed light on their accomplishments and impact.

Consulting relevant books and articles is another crucial aspect of a biographer’s research process, as these secondary sources provide context, analysis, and interpretation of the subject’s life and work.

By delving into the existing scholarship and engaging with the works of other researchers, biographers can solidify their understanding of the individual and the historical circumstances in which they lived.

Interviewing people who knew the subject personally is a vital component of a biographer’s research process, as it allows them to access unique insights, personal stories, and firsthand accounts of the individual’s life.

Friends, family members, co-workers, and colleagues can all offer valuable perspectives on the subject’s character, relationships, achievements, and challenges, thereby enriching the biographer’s understanding of their life and experiences.

While subjective anecdotes offer a more intimate glimpse into the subject’s personality and personal life, it is essential for biographers to balance these accounts with factual research.

By corroborating and contextualizing personal stories with objective information gleaned from primary and secondary sources, biographers can ensure that their portrayal of the individual’s life remains accurate and well-rounded.

This process of balancing subjective anecdotes with factual research also allows biographers to present a more nuanced and comprehensive view of their subject. By weaving together personal stories with historical context, biographers can create a richer and more engaging narrative that captures the complexity and multifaceted nature of the individual’s life.

In addition, by considering various perspectives and sources of information, biographers can address potential biases or discrepancies in their account, resulting in a more reliable and credible portrayal of the subject.

This careful attention to detail and commitment to accuracy not only enhances the quality of the biography but also helps establish trust between the biographer and their readers.

Chronological Narration

Organizing a biography in a chronological manner is a highly effective approach, as it allows readers to follow the subject’s life events in a logical and coherent sequence.

By presenting the information in a linear fashion, the biographer enables readers to trace the subject’s journey from their early years to their later accomplishments, making it easier to understand the context and progression of their life.

To effectively arrange a chronological narrative, the biographer should begin by highlighting significant milestones and accomplishments in the subject’s life. These key events serve as anchor points in the story, helping to structure the narrative and maintain the reader’s interest.

By focusing on these pivotal moments, the biographer can illustrate the subject’s growth, development, and achievements over time, providing a clear and engaging overview of their life’s trajectory.

Contextualization

Contextualizing the subject within their historical and cultural framework is a crucial aspect of biographical writing, as it enables readers to gain a deeper understanding of the individual’s life, choices, and significance.

Embedding the subject within their historical context involves examining the political, social, and economic landscape of the time. This includes exploring major events, trends, and issues that affected the subject’s life and decisions, such as wars, social movements, technological advancements, or cultural shifts.

Additionally, considering the subject’s cultural context is essential for understanding their beliefs, values, and creative expression. This involves examining the artistic, intellectual, and philosophical currents of the time, which may have influenced the subject’s work, ideas, or relationships.

Moreover, contextualizing the subject within their historical and cultural framework can help to humanize them, revealing the complexities, contradictions, and struggles that are often inherent in the human experience.

This approach offers readers a more nuanced and empathetic understanding of the subject, allowing them to see the person as a product of their time and circumstances, rather than as an isolated figure.

Famous Biographies and Biographers

The life of samuel johnson, ll.d. by james boswell (1791).

“The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.” is a biography of the English writer and literary critic Samuel Johnson, written by his friend and contemporary James Boswell. Published in 1791, it is often considered one of the greatest biographies in the English language and a pioneering work in the development of modern biography as a literary genre.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) was a prominent figure in 18th-century English literature, known for his wide-ranging knowledge, wit, and moral authority. He is best remembered for his dictionary, “A Dictionary of the English Language,” published in 1755, which became the standard English dictionary for over a century. He was also a prolific essayist, poet, and critic.

James Boswell (1740-1795) was a Scottish lawyer, diarist, and author who became friends with Johnson in 1763. Over the course of their friendship, Boswell made detailed notes of their conversations and observations, which he later used as the basis for his biography.

“The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.” is a comprehensive and vivid portrait of Johnson’s life, character, and work. Boswell covers Johnson’s early years, education, and struggles with poverty and illness, as well as his rise to prominence as a writer and his involvement in the vibrant literary circles of 18th-century London.

The biography also delves into Johnson’s friendships and relationships, including his long association with Hester Thrale, a prominent society hostess, and writer.

What sets Boswell’s biography apart is his skill in capturing Johnson’s personality, wit, and conversation. By presenting Johnson’s thoughts and opinions on a wide range of topics, as well as anecdotes and reminiscences from those who knew him, Boswell creates a vivid and engaging portrait of his subject.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010)

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” is a non-fiction book written by Rebecca Skloot, published in 2010. The book tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman whose cancer cells were taken without her knowledge or consent during a biopsy in 1951. These cells, known as HeLa cells, became the first immortal human cell line, reproducing indefinitely under laboratory conditions.

HeLa cells have been used extensively in medical research, contributing to significant scientific breakthroughs, such as the development of the polio vaccine, gene mapping, and cancer research.

Henrietta Lacks was a young mother of five when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cervical cancer at the age of 31. She received treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where a sample of her cancerous tissue was taken without her knowledge. Henrietta passed away in 1951, but her cells continued to live on, revolutionizing medical research.

Rebecca Skloot spent more than a decade researching Henrietta Lacks’ life and the scientific history of HeLa cells. Skloot also interviewed Lacks’ surviving family members, who were unaware of Henrietta’s contribution to science until the 1970s.

The book explores the ethical issues surrounding the use of human tissue in research, the question of consent, and the lack of compensation for the Lacks family.

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (2004)

“Alexander Hamilton” is a comprehensive biography of the American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, written by historian and biographer Ron Chernow. Published in 2004, the book provides an in-depth look into Hamilton’s life, from his humble beginnings in the West Indies to his significant contributions as a statesman, economist, and influential figure in early American history.

Chernow’s biography delves into Hamilton’s early life as an orphan in the Caribbean, his immigration to the American colonies, and his education. It also explores his involvement in the American Revolutionary War, where he served as an aide to General George Washington and later as an artillery officer.

The book details Hamilton’s role in the development of the United States Constitution and his work as the first Secretary of the Treasury under President Washington, where he was instrumental in establishing the nation’s financial system.

“Alexander Hamilton” also examines Hamilton’s personal life, including his relationships, marriage, and infamous extramarital affair, as well as his longstanding political rivalries with figures such as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Aaron Burr. The biography concludes with the story of Hamilton’s tragic death in a duel with Burr in 1804.

It received critical acclaim and won several awards, including the George Washington Book Prize. The biography also inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to create the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton,” which premiered in 2015 and went on to achieve widespread popularity and numerous accolades, further solidifying Alexander Hamilton’s place in popular culture and history.

Notable Biographies in Different Fields

Science and technology.

Biographies in the field of science and technology offer fascinating insights into the lives and minds of extraordinary individuals who have made significant advancements in their respective fields.

These biographies often provide an in-depth look at the personal and professional lives of scientists, inventors, engineers, and other innovators, highlighting their discoveries, inventions, and contributions to human knowledge and progress.

Arts and Literature

Biographies of artists, actors, and writers often provide captivating and inspiring accounts of the lives of these creative individuals. By examining their personal and professional journeys, these biographies allow readers to gain a deeper understanding of the inspirations, motivations, and challenges that have shaped their subjects’ artistic achievements.

These biographies often delve into the early lives of their subjects, exploring formative experiences that may have influenced their creative paths. They also examine the artistic processes and the development of the subjects’ distinctive styles, providing valuable insights into their creative methodologies, influences, and inspirations.

Sports and Athletics

Biographies of athletes provide riveting accounts of the lives and careers of remarkable individuals who have achieved greatness in the world of sports. These stories often serve as powerful sources of inspiration, showcasing the dedication, perseverance, and triumphs of athletes who have overcome obstacles and pushed the boundaries of human potential.

These biographies delve into the formative experiences of their subjects, exploring how early influences, innate talent, and personal motivations led them to pursue athletic excellence. They also provide insights into the rigorous training regimens, discipline, and sacrifices that athletes make to achieve their goals, highlighting the incredible determination and work ethic that underpin their success.

Additionally, biographies of athletes often touch on the personal challenges and setbacks these individuals have faced, such as injuries, controversies, or personal struggles.

Historical Figures

Biographies of historical figures offer a unique window into the lives, personalities, and experiences of individuals who have left lasting impacts on the world. By delving into the stories of these influential people, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the political, social, and cultural contexts that shaped their actions and decisions, as well as the lasting legacies they left behind.

These biographies often provide richly detailed accounts of their subjects’ lives, including their upbringing, education, relationships, and personal struggles. By exploring the complex facets of these individuals, biographies help to humanize historical figures, providing a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of their motivations, beliefs, and actions.

In addition to personal narratives, biographies of historical figures often weave together broader historical contexts and events. This allows readers to gain valuable insights into the social, political, and cultural forces that influenced their subjects’ lives and decisions.

Writing a Compelling Biography

A captivating biography requires more than just a simple retelling of a person’s life events. It delves into their personal experiences, relationships, and accomplishments, while maintaining an objective and authentic approach.

Being Objective and Authentic

An essential aspect of a well-written biography is its objectivity. The narrative should portray the real person, depicting their experiences and beliefs accurately.

While it can be tempting to embellish facts or minimize flaws, striving for authenticity is crucial in presenting a credible account. This involves thorough research and verification of facts, even when they contradict the author’s initial assumptions.

Authenticity also extends to the respectful portrayal of a subject’s relationships and exploration of their inner world, while avoiding speculation or gossip.

Balancing Personal and Public Life

When writing a biography, one must strike a balance between the subject’s personal and public life. This includes weaving together stories from their childhood, personal relationships, and major life events that may have shaped their character. The integration of both personal and public aspects contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of their vita.

However, careful consideration must be given to privacy concerns, and it is important to determine which aspects of the individual’s life are appropriate to disclose. Ultimately, the reader should gain insight into the person’s journey without feeling intrusive.

Creating Engaging Storylines

Just as in a novel, a great biography should feature engaging storylines that keep readers interested. This can be achieved by organizing the narrative around important events, challenges, and accomplishments that are relevant and compelling. To maintain a smooth flow, strategically transitioning between these key moments helps maintain reader interest.

The use of different perspectives, anecdotes, and historical context can also enhance the storyline. Paint vivid pictures of the settings, allowing readers to immerse themselves in the subject’s world. Furthermore, showcasing the subject’s resilience, growth, and impact, can contribute to a powerful and memorable biography.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can biographies be fictional or purely factual.

Biographies usually aim to present an accurate and factual representation of someone’s life. However, some authors might take creative liberties and incorporate fictionalized elements for dramatic or storytelling purposes.

It is crucial for readers to be aware of the author’s intentions and approach when reading such biographical works.

Can biographies be biased?

Biographies, like any form of writing, can be subject to biases depending on the author’s perspective, beliefs, or intentions.

It is essential for readers to critically evaluate biographies by considering factors such as the author’s credentials, potential biases, and the sources used in the research process.

By comparing multiple biographies on the same subject or cross-referencing with other sources, readers can develop a more comprehensive and balanced understanding of the individual’s life and achievements.

Are biographies always based on famous or historical figures?

While biographies often focus on famous or historical figures, they can also be written about lesser-known individuals with compelling stories or unique experiences.

These “everyday” biographies can provide valuable insights into the lives of ordinary people and the challenges they face, offering a broader understanding of the human experience and fostering empathy and connection among readers.

Are there any ethical considerations when writing a biography?

Yes, ethical considerations play a significant role in writing biographies.

Biographers must respect the privacy and dignity of their subjects, particularly when dealing with sensitive or personal information. They should also strive for accuracy and fairness, avoiding sensationalism or misrepresentation of facts.

Additionally, biographers should acknowledge and address any potential biases or conflicts of interest that may affect their portrayal of the subject.

Biographies offer us unparalleled access to the lives and legacies of remarkable individuals, spanning diverse genres and approaches.

From historical fiction to academic rigor, prophetic accounts to fictionalized narratives, biographies captivate our imagination and enrich our understanding of the human experience. These literary gems remind us that behind every great achievement lies a story of struggle, triumph, and unwavering determination.

So, let us continue to explore these remarkable journeys, as we delve deeper into the pages of history and the hearts of those who have shaped our world.

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Biographical Information

What is a biography, general suggestion for finding biographical information, general sources - biography databases, general sources - reference books, biographical master indexes.

  • by Nationality
  • Multicultural
  • Regional (Ohio / Toledo)
  • Arts & Entertainment
  • A biography is an account of the special and important events in a person's life
  • Not to be confused with bibliography , which is a listing of books and articles on a topic
  • Biographies may be brief and cover only basic information about a person's life such as dates of birth and death, education and vocation
  • A biography may also be very detailed, and cover the cultural background, outstanding accomplishments, and historical significance of an individual.
  • Biographical sources cover living and deceased persons, notable persons in particular countries, persons in specific occupations, celebrities, and civil and government leaders
  • The person's full name and correct spelling (for example: Smith, Smyth or Smythe)
  • date of birth
  • date of death (when applicable)
  • nationality or country of residence
  • occupation or profession

For basic facts about a person (e.g.,"When was Napoleon born?"):

  • General encyclopedias

Can’t find biographical information in general encyclopedias or need more information? Check:

  • One of the general sources listed on this page
  • The specialized biographical reference books listed on the other tabs in this guide

Can’t find the person you are looking for or get enough information from a biographical reference book? Check:

  • One of the biographical master indexes listed on this page. These guide you to books, periodical articles or other reference sources. Please note that sometimes you will be referred to another index.

For highly detailed information :

  • Search UToledo’s online library catalog for books on the person:
  • Perform a subject search by typing the person's last name followed by their first name, e.g., Whitman, Walt
  • Execute the search and look for the subheading --Biography. The complete heading in this example is: Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892 – Biography
  • You can also use the UToledo catalog to search for the titles of books and periodicals found in the biographical master indexes

If UToledo does not own a title you want :

  • Use the OhioLINK Library Catalog to directly borrow books from other college libraries in Ohio. Books arrive within three to five business days
  • There is generally no charge for this service
  • The library may need two to three weeks to get the item you need
  • For assistance with the library catalog, OhioLINK, or interlibrary loan forms, consult a reference librarian at the Information/Reference Desk.

Biographical information may not be available for all individuals. In these cases:

  • Information about an author can sometimes be found by checking the preface or introduction of an author's work for scholarly background and academic achievements
  • Perform an author search in the library catalog by typing in the last name followed by the first name

OhioLINK Users Only

Master Indexes provide a name index to books, periodical articles, and other references where you might find a biography or obituary of someone.  Usually, you can search by name (last, first) and then be given a code for a title, volume, and page number.  Consult the key at the beginning of the book to decipher the title you need.  Search by Title in the UToledo Library Catalog to see if we have the book or periodical, or order it from another OhioLINK library.

what is biography info

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  • Last Updated: Mar 23, 2023 4:21 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.utoledo.edu/biography

Look up a word, learn it forever.

/baɪˈɑgrəfi/, /baɪˈɒgrəfi/.

Other forms: biographies

A biography is an account of somebody's life written by somebody else, complete with details of the most important parts.

These days, anyone, of any age, can be the subject of a biography: Justin Bieber, at the tender age of 17, had one written about his life. A biography is not to be confused with an autobiography, an account of someone's life written by the subject himself. You'll find biographies in printed form (remember books?), but also increasingly in the form of e-books, TV dramatizations, and cinematic "bio-docs."

  • noun an account of the series of events making up a person's life synonyms: life , life history , life story see more see less examples: Parallel Lives a collection of biographies of famous pairs of Greeks and Romans written by Plutarch; used by Shakespeare in writing some of his plays types: show 4 types... hide 4 types... autobiography a biography of yourself hagiography a biography that idealizes or idolizes the person (especially a person who is a saint) profile biographical sketch memoir an account of the author's personal experiences type of: account , chronicle , history , story a record or narrative description of past events

Vocabulary lists containing biography

view more about the vocabulary list

Are you ready to learn the facts of life? Then review these words from the Greek root bio , meaning "life" or "way of living."

Practice this vocabulary list and explore words that contain the Greek roots graph ("write/writing") and gram ("written thing").

To improve your fluency in English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR), learn this academic vocabulary list that includes words selected from the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) state standards.

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Whether you’re a teacher or a learner, vocabulary.com can put you or your class on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement..

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How to Write a Biography

Last Updated: May 28, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Stephanie Wong Ken, MFA . Stephanie Wong Ken is a writer based in Canada. Stephanie's writing has appeared in Joyland, Catapult, Pithead Chapel, Cosmonaut's Avenue, and other publications. She holds an MFA in Fiction and Creative Writing from Portland State University. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 1,867,398 times.

Writing a biography can be a fun challenge, where you are sharing the story of someone’s life with readers. You may need to write a biography for a class or decide to write one as a personal project. Once you have identified the subject of the biography, do your research so you know as much about them as possible. Then, dive into the writing of the biography and revising it until it is at its finest.

Researching Your Subject

Step 1 Ask the subject for permission to write the biography.

  • If the subject does not give you permission to write the biography, you may want to choose a different subject. If you decide to publish the biography without the subject’s permission, you may be susceptible to legal action by the subject.
  • If the subject is no longer alive, you obviously do not need to ask permission to write about them.

Step 2 Look for primary sources about the subject.

  • You may create research questions to help focus your research of the subject, such as, What do I find interesting about the subject? Why is this subject important to readers? What can I say that is new about the subject? What would I like to learn more about?

Step 3 Conduct interviews with the subject and those close to them.

  • For in person interviews, record them with a tape recorder or a voice recorder on your computer or phone.
  • You may need to interview the subject and others several times to get the material you need.

Step 4 Visit locations that are important to the subject.

  • You may also want to visit areas where the subject made a major decision or breakthrough in their life. Being physically in the area can give you a sense of how the subject might have felt and help you write their experiences more effectively.

Step 5 Study the time and place of the subject’s life.

  • When researching the time period ask yourself: What were the social norms of that time? What was going on economically and politically? How did the social and political climate affect the subject?

Step 6 Make a timeline...

  • You may also include historical events or moments that affected the subject on the timeline. For example, maybe there was a conflict or civil war that happened during the person’s life that affected their life.

Writing the Biography

Step 1 Go for a chronological structure.

  • You may end up focusing on particular areas of the person’s life. If you do this, work through a particular period in the person’s life chronologically.

Step 2 Create a thesis for the biography.

  • For example, you may have a thesis statement about focusing on how the person impacted the civil rights movement in America in the 1970s. You can then make sure all your content relates back to this thesis.

Step 3 Use flashbacks....

  • Flashbacks should feel as detailed and real as present day scenes. Use your research notes and interviews with the subject to get a good sense of their past for the flashbacks.
  • For example, you may jump from the person’s death in the present to a flashback to their favorite childhood memory.

Step 4 Focus on major events and milestones.

  • For example, you may focus on the person’s accomplishments in the civil rights movement. You may write a whole section about their contributions and participation in major civil rights marches in their hometown.

Step 5 Identify a major theme or pattern in the person’s life.

  • For example, you may notice that the person’s life is patterned with moments of adversity, where the person worked hard and fought against larger forces. You can then use the theme of overcoming adversity in the biography.

Step 6 Include your own opinions and thoughts about the person.

  • For example, you may note how you see parallels in the person’s life during the civil rights movement with your own interests in social justice. You may also commend the person for their hard work and positive impact on society.

Polishing the Biography

Step 1 Show the biography to others for feedback.

  • Revise the biography based on feedback from others. Do not be afraid to cut or edit down the biography to suit the needs of your readers.

Step 2 Proofread the biography.

  • Having a biography riddled with spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors can turn off your readers and result in a poor grade if you are handing in the text for a class.

Step 3 Cite all sources...

  • If the biography is for a class, use MLA , APA , or Chicago Style citations based on the preferences of your instructor.

Biography Help

what is biography info

Community Q&A

Community Answer

  • Be careful when publishing private or embarrassing information, especially if the person is not a celebrity. You may violate their "Right of Privacy" or equivalent. Thanks Helpful 31 Not Helpful 5
  • Have the sources to back up your statements about the subject's life. Untruthful written statements can lead to litigation. If it is your opinion, be clear that it is such and not fact (although you can support your opinion with facts). Thanks Helpful 16 Not Helpful 15

what is biography info

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Write an Autobiography

  • ↑ https://grammar.yourdictionary.com/writing/how-to-write-a-biography.html
  • ↑ https://au.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/how-to-write-a-bio
  • ↑ https://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/3-tips-for-writing-successful-flashbacks
  • ↑ https://www.grammarly.com/blog/how-to-write-bio/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/editing-and-proofreading/
  • ↑ https://www.plagiarism.org/article/how-do-i-cite-sources

About This Article

Stephanie Wong Ken, MFA

Before you write a biography, gather as much information about the subject that you can from sources like newspaper articles, interviews, photos, existing biographies, and anything else you can find. Write the story of that person’s life, including as much supporting detail as you can, including information about the place and time where the person lived. Focus on major events and milestones in their life, including historical events, marriage, children, and events which would shape their path later in life. For tips from our reviewer on proofreading the biography and citing your sources, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Meaning of biography in English

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  • This biography offers a few glimpses of his life before he became famous .
  • Her biography revealed that she was not as rich as everyone thought .
  • The biography was a bit of a rush job .
  • The biography is an attempt to uncover the inner man.
  • The biography is woven from the many accounts which exist of things she did.
  • exercise book
  • novelistically
  • young adult

biography | Intermediate English

  • biographical

Examples of biography

Translations of biography.

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Biographical information is information about a particular person's life including

  • date of birth
  • date of death
  • accomplishments
  • occupations

Find biographies of people, searching by occupation, nationality, ethnicity, birth and death date, and of course by name.  

Search hundreds of reference sources - dictionaries, bilingual dictionaries, thesauri, encyclopedias, quotations and atlases - for topic overviews and links to our other online resources. Includes mind map/concept map search feature.

  • Gale Ebooks - Biography Explore Biography Reference sources in the Gale Ebooks Collection.
  • Nexis Uni This link opens in a new window Use the Research People box to search for biographical information for national and international persons.

Note:  Access to library databases is restricted to current student , faculty and staff ONLY .

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What Is a Passport Biographic Page? [Explained]

what is biography info

When discussing passports, visas, or international travel, you’ll often hear “passport biographic page.”

But what is it, and why is it important?

This article explains it all.

Passport Biographic Page: What Information Can You Find?

How do you take a photo of your passport bio page.

The passport biographic page, or bio page, holds your essential personal information.

Typically, the first page includes:

  • Your legal name
  • Unique 12-digit identifier
  • Your birth date
  • Your city and country of birth
  • Your citizenship
  • When the passport was issued
  • When the passport expires
  • The issuing government body
  • A recent photo of you
  • A text strip for machine scanning

Below is an example of a US passport biometric page:

A US passport biographic page sample

While passports differ by country, the bio page is usually a thick, plastic page with your photo. Each detail on this page is crucial for identity verification and international travel.

That’s not all. 

Biographic Page Data for a Visa Application

When applying for a visa, such as a  DV Lottery visa , you’ll need to provide the biographic page of your passport. 

Authorities use this information to verify your identity and assess your eligibility.

That’s why it’s important to ensure all details on your biographic page are accurate and current. Otherwise, you might face delays or rejections.

If you plan to apply for a visa soon, you must provide a compliant photo. Luckily, you can get one with  PhotoAiD® on iOS  or  PhotoAiD® on Android . Simply take a self-portrait photo with your smartphone, and one of our experts will make sure it meets  official visa requirements .

A graphic showing a visa photo taken with PhotoAiD, a passport photo service for taking compliant ID photos

If you don’t have a scanner at home, don’t worry. You can photograph the biographic page with your phone and print it.

Below are four tips for taking a photo of the bio page:

  • Set to high resolution:  Low quality may lead to rejection.
  • Capture the entire page:  Ensure the corners are visible.
  • Hold the phone directly above:  Avoid angled shots to prevent distortion.
  • Use daylight:  Avoid glare, shadows, and reflections.

Note that from 2024 onward, applicants don’t need to upload  supporting documents for the Diversity Visa program  online. Once selected, the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) will inform you about the required documents and submission process.

Where is the biodata page of a passport?

The biographic page, or bio-data page, is usually the first page inside your passport. It contains your personal information and a photo.

What’s the biographic page of the passport?

The biographic biometric page includes your personal information and machine-readable biometric data. This enhances security and speeds up processing by immigration officers checking your identity and passport validity.

How to upload the bio-data page of your passport:

– Use a high-resolution scanner or quality phone camera:  Ensure every detail is clear and legible. – Follow file requirements:  Check for specific file formats (e.g., JPEG, PDF) required by the institution. – Submit via official channels:  Use the official portals or email addresses provided by the authorities or relevant institutions.

  • https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrate/diversity-visa-program-entry/diversity-visa-if-you-are-selected/diversity-visa-prepare-supporting-documents.html
  • https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/photos.html

Sylwia

Sylwia is a skilled writer with a BA in English Studies and a knack for storytelling. For the past two years, she’s been writing captivating articles for international companies, turning her lifelong passion into a career.

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  • Services & Software

This AI Biographer Wants to Help You Tell Your Life Story

Autobiographer's AI prompts you, instead of the other way around.

what is biography info

Britney Spears' The Woman in Me was the best autobiography of 2023, according to book recommendation site GoodReads. Prince Harry's Spare was No. 2.

And while we all have stories to tell, few of us have the resources of a pop star or a member of the royal family, which include both the time to write a memoir and the funds to hire a collaborator to help us draw out our memories and connect the dots.

That's where a year-old AI startup called Autobiographer comes in. It's developed an AI interviewer, which asks questions to help you record your life story over time.   

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It's AI content generation with a twist: Most of the generative AI tools on the market today, including ChatGPT , Claude , Copilot and Gemini , generate text and other content types based on the prompts we provide — from " Help me perfect my resume to land the job of my dreams" to "Please write a song about Detroit in the style of a popular Motown artist" — Autobiographer provides prompts, which guide you to generate your own outputs. 

It's one of the few gen AI products, if not the only one, where the "AI asks you questions as opposed to you asking it questions," CEO Matt Bowman said.

After downloading the iOS app from Apple's App Store and signing up for a $199 annual subscription, you see on your iPhone what appears to be a rock floating between pink clouds.

"Searching for your next memory," the app says. And then, "Memory ready to be explored."

When I clicked on "Start Conversation," the AI interviewer asked me to tell a story about an adventure I've had. 

"There is no right answer, just go with your gut and tell a cool story from your memories," the AI interviewer added. "What's the adventure that comes to mind and what made it special?"

No single adventure immediately stuck out for me, but I have lived in eight US states and England, so I audibly told the AI interviewer you could argue that my entire life has been a series of adventures — some good, some bad. But one of the good ones was taking a leap in my early 20s and moving to New York to start a career.

"What inspired you to make that bold move at such a young age?" the AI interviewer asked next. "Paint a picture of what those early days in the city were like for you."

Since this was just an experiment, I ended the interview there. The app gave me conversation notes, with highlights of "our" discussion and the option to confirm the accuracy of the summary or to edit it.

"Autobiographer helps you discover, preserve and tell your story to those you love," said Bowman. "By having an adaptive AI conversation with a really curious and very specifically trained AI biographer, you can rediscover your own story."

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Your conversations with the AI interviewer are stored in what Autobiographer calls the Memory Vault, which Bowman described as "a deeply encrypted biometric and protected private space where you can see the storyboard of all your memories and your life's journey come together."

The iOS app debuted in May. It has "a small but growing user base," CTO James Barnes said. He didn't disclose figures.

The Bay Area-based startup is developing apps for "platforms beyond iOS" but has no release dates, a spokesperson added.

Autobiographer uses Anthropic's Claude 3 model , which Bowman said is because "of its emotional connectivity and its ability to ask great questions and understand you."

Authors and biographers have helped Autobiographer fine-tune its AI interviewer's personality.

"We've just tuned [Claude 3] into a biographer that's curious about mostly pulling unique stories out of your life, asking how the background of your life equates to a great story, what the hero's journey or the arc or narrative with that is, and being curious to pull the elements out," Bowman said. "Not only from a timeline perspective and getting all the biographical facts correct, but also asking about what it felt like internally, what the significance of what it meant to you is."

Each subscription comes with unlimited conversations, lifetime storage and the ability to create up to 250 pages of content per year. That includes gratitude letters for loved ones and other content types.

The startup envisions users making progress on full-length autobiographies — another content type offered — by having 20-minute conversations with the AI interviewer each week.

Autobiographer is continuing to develop its AI interviewer, including the types of questions it asks, how it follows up and how it memorializes these things, Barnes said.

"The value of a good question, or many good questions, allowing you to paint that picture with your words, is really profound," Barnes added. "And it's something I think we don't often get the opportunity to do, because we don't have an endlessly patient, attentive, curious listener."

This is one of a series of short profiles of AI startups, to help you get a handle on the landscape of artificial intelligence activity going on. For more on AI, see our new  AI Atlas  hub, which includes product reviews, news, tips and explainers.

Editors' note: CNET used an AI engine to help create several dozen stories, which are labeled accordingly. The note you're reading is attached to articles that deal substantively with the topic of AI but are created entirely by our expert editors and writers. For more, see our  AI policy .

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What did Julian Assange do? WikiLeaks' most significant document dumps

By Haley Ott

Updated on: June 26, 2024 / 6:44 AM EDT / CBS News

WikiLeaks founder  Jullian Assange pleaded guilty  Wednesday to a single charge of publishing U.S. military secrets in a U.S. court on the remote Northern Mariana Islands, ending his long legal battle with the U.S. government. Assange broke down in tears in the courtroom after the judge granted him his freedom, and he then boarded a flight and returned to his home country of Australia for the first time in nearly 14 years.

Assange had been imprisoned in the U.K. since 2019 and, before that, had been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for seven years, where he sought but failed to gain political asylum.

What did Julian Assange do?

Assange founded the  WikiLeaks website, which published thousands of confidential leaked documents from sources including the U.S. government, large corporations and personal emails.

AUSTRALIA-US-COURT-ASSANGE

A federal grand jury in Virginia  indicted Assange in 2019 on more than a dozen charges alleging that he had illegally obtained classified information about America's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and disseminated it on WikiLeaks. Prosecutors accused him of recruiting individuals to "hack into computers and/or illegally obtain and disclose classified information."

The United States had sought Assange's extradition from the U.K., and he could have faced a potential 175-year prison sentence in the U.S. if convicted.

What are some of Wikileaks most significant dumps?

Video of gunfire from U.S. helicopter killing civilians in Iraq

In 2010, WikiLeaks published video taken from a U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad that showed, among others, Reuters news photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and his assistant Saeed Chmagh being killed by American fire.

When a van arrived to pick up the wounded, the video showed it being fired on as well.

A voice could be heard on the recording of the attack saying: "Light them all up."

Former army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning was later arrested for releasing the video along with other classified material about the war.

Documents pertaining to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of documents, many of which were leaked by Manning, which related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The documents included evidence there had been scores of civilians killed by the U.S. in unreported incidents, and that Iraqi forces had tortured prisoners. They also included details about the hunt for Osama bin Laden and NATO concerns over Pakistan and Iran potentially aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan.

At the time of their release in 2010, the Obama White House criticized the publication of the files and said they could endanger the lives of Americans and U.S. partners.

Emails from top Democrats

In 2016, WikiLeaks released around 20,000  Democratic National Committee emails , many of which seemed to show acrimony toward Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders and favoritism toward Hillary Clinton. The leaked emails raised concerns that alienated Sanders supporters would not support Clinton once she won the nomination.

Then, about a month before the election, Wikileaks said it had  50,000 emails from the account of Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, and began releasing them in batches. WikiLeaks said it would release more emails every day until Election Day.

The emails touched on a range of topics, including how to deal with correspondence with President Obama on Hillary Clinton's private server while she was secretary of state and advice from Jennifer Granholm, who served as Michigan governor from 2003-2010, on how Clinton might get "out of the bubble" and engage with Americans.

One leaked email suggested that Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile tipped off the Clinton campaign about a question ahead of a town hall. 

Another email contained what were said to be transcripts of Clinton's three Wall Street speeches to Goldman Sachs, though her campaign declined to confirm their authenticity. Primary opponent Bernie Sanders attacked her over the speeches and demanded that she release the transcripts.

It is difficult to say whether the daily release of the Podesta emails affected the outcome of the 2016 campaign, because there were also other explosive news stories in that same month. On the first day WikiLeaks began publishing its trove of Podesta emails, an "Access Hollywood" tape of then-candidate Donald Trump speaking disparagingly about women with Billy Bush was released. A few days before the election, the FBI revealed it had found emails related to Clinton's State Department tenure on a laptop belonging to the estranged husband of aide Huma Abedin, former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner. 

In an interview with " Frontline " about a month after the election, Podesta noted later that in those thousands of emails, there were no "earth-shattering revelations." But there was, he said, a secondary effect: "It kind of obliterates your ability to have a positive message." It was the end of the campaign, and "I think what people want to hear about is the future," he said. "But we were stuck in a cycle in which the dominant coverage was either, again, something outrageous [Trump] had said or something they had leaked."

  • Julian Assange

Haley Ott is the CBS News Digital international reporter, based in the CBS News London bureau.

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Julian Assange walking to a plane after being released

Julian Assange plea deal: what does it mean for the WikiLeaks founder, and what happens now?

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Adjunct Professor in Law, The University of Western Australia

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Holly Cullen receives funding from a Deakin University HDR scholarship. She has been a volunteer for the Australian Labor Party.

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After years of appeals and litigation, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has entered into a plea deal with the US government, according to court documents .

He was facing one count of computer misuse and multiple counts of espionage stemming from his work with WikiLeaks, publishing sensitive US government documents provided by Chelsea Manning. The US government had repeatedly claimed that Assange’s actions risked its national security .

Documents filed in the US Federal Court in Saipan, in the Northern Mariana Islands, show Assange will plead guilty to one count under the US Espionage Act . The rest of the charges would be dropped and the request for his extradition to the US would be withdrawn. The US is yet to publicly confirm the deal.

The deal is subject to a hearing and sentencing in Saipan on Wednesday morning, where outlets are reporting Assange will appear in person. He’s been released from London’s Belmarsh prison, with WikiLeaks sharing vision of him en route to London’s Stanstead Airport.

What’s in the deal?

Assange has been granted bail by the UK High Court.

Upon his guilty plea, Assange will be sentenced to 62 months in prison: time he’s already served in Belmarsh. It puts an end to all the ongoing legal action, including the proceedings in the UK High Court and the extradition order from the UK Home Secretary.

The plea deal seems largely consistent with rumours circulating earlier this year. It was widely assumed Assange would plead guilty to one charge, which was expected to be a misdemeanour charge of mishandling documents rather than under the US Espionage Act. The initial rumours also indicated that he would be able to complete the process remotely, whereas he will appear in person before the court.

This is significant as it’s a national security offence for which he’s served more than five years behind bars. This will place limitations on his future travel, including to the US, which is unlikely to grant him a visa.

A poster of Julian Assange with the American flag over his mouth outside a historic building

It also sets a practical precedent, if not necessarily a legal one, that a publisher can be convicted under the Espionage Act in the US. While the devil will be in the details of the deal, this is what many journalists were afraid of.

It means somebody who did nothing more than receive and publish information has been convicted under major US national security laws. If the deal had been about the Computer Misuse Act, this scenario wouldn’t have arisen. The concern may be that now it’s been done once, it could happen again.

Why is there a deal after all this time?

We may never know the US’ full reasoning, but there are several possibilities as to why it decided to go to a plea deal and not continue with litigation.

The Australian government has been pushing hard for a couple of years now for this case to end. The case for stopping prosecution has had bipartisan support here.

Although not confirming or denying the existence of a plea deal just yet, a spokesperson for the government reiterated Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s position that there was “nothing to be gained from his [Assange’s] continued incarceration”.

A group of eight people in corporate dress stand outside

The fact the government has been consistent on this for about two years has changed the political environment for this prosecution.

There’s a growing consensus in the US, even among some Republicans , that it’s not in the public interest to continue.

The UK general election will be held next week, and given the anticipated change of government there, the extradition order may have been reconsidered anyway. All of this would likely have informed the US’ cost-benefit analysis to ultimately bring the Assange saga to an end.

What happens now?

Following the hearing in Saipan, Assange will be free to return to Australia. The court was chosen because of Assange’s opposition to travelling to the continental US, as well as its proximity to Australia.

Assange will likely find it difficult to travel in the future, given his serious criminal conviction. This may also apply in the UK, where he has also been convicted of absconding from bail, for which he was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment.

Looking further ahead, it’s entirely possible he will be pardoned by the US president, whomever it ends up being after the US election in November. The US allows much more discretion than most in the use of pardons.

For now, Assange will face court in Saipan and come home to Australia, albeit with a serious criminal record.

  • National security
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  • Julian Assange
  • Whistleblowing
  • Press freedom
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  • US federal law
  • Julian Assange plea deal

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The Episcopal Church Has Elected Its Youngest Leader in Centuries

Bishop Sean Rowe, 49, called for the church to be resilient heading into what he described as an “existential crisis” caused by a changing world.

A portrait of Bishop Sean Rowe.

By Ruth Graham

The Episcopal Church elected its youngest top leader since the 18th century at the denomination’s national meeting in Louisville, Ky., on Wednesday.

Bishop Sean Rowe of the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania, 49, was elected to a nine-year term as presiding bishop from a slate of five candidates. Bishop Rowe also serves as bishop provisional of the Diocese of Western New York.

Bishop Rowe will succeed Bishop Michael Curry, who emphasized evangelism, racial justice, and the power of love in his tenure as the denomination’s first Black presiding bishop. Bishop Curry’s term concludes at the end of October, and Bishop Rowe’s installation ceremony will be held on Nov. 2.

The Episcopal Church, based in New York, is the American branch of the Anglican Communion, a global body whose head is the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. The U.S. branch of the church has been the faith home of many presidents, including George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt, and George H.W. Bush.

Bishop Rowe became the youngest Episcopal priest in the United States upon his ordination in 2000, and the youngest bishop seven years later. Originally from western Pennsylvania, he has served in a number of leadership roles in the national denomination.

Addressing his fellow bishops and delegates to the meeting after his election, Bishop Rowe called for the church to be courageous and resilient heading into what he described as an “existential crisis” caused by a changing world. He suggested he would encourage the denomination to focus on local dioceses and congregations, and streamline its national structure so it doesn’t “collapse under its own weight.”

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WikiLeaks launched an era of hacking, leaking and influence operations

Born at least in part of idealism, Julian Assange’s aid to a Russian influence operation succeeded so well that it ushered in a golden era of hacking and leaking.

what is biography info

WikiLeaks swiftly declined after it slid into an undeclared but unprecedented alliance with Russia — a fall hastened by the prosecution and pursuit of founder Julian Assange .

Even so, the anti-secrecy platform transformed how information reaches the public, twice. It launched an era in which documents from whistleblowers and hackers can draw a broad audience without the mainstream media. Then it paved the way for massive geopolitical influence operations that exploit stolen material with agitation over social media.

Born out of populist frustration with the secrecy around military operations and powerful, unaccountable corporations, the early WikiLeaks released millions of military files in 2010, exposing video of U.S. troops killing civilians in Iraq and diplomatic cables revealing candid assessments of unsavory U.S. allies.

By 2016, Assange’s goals had shifted. He published emails from top Democrats that had been hacked from Russia ahead of the U.S. election that year, spurring conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Some staffers and fans of the early WikiLeaks have gone on to work at other sites that follow the idealistic model, adapting to a new era of widespread hacking and serving as a partial stand-in for traditional media.

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The best-known successor is DDoSecrets , for Distributed Denial of Secrets, which has hosted documents spirited away from Myanmar, Iran and U.S. police departments and has prompted reforms in multiple countries.

The site verifies what it publishes, withholds files that would make innocent people vulnerable, and either declines to host documents that it suspects were hacked by a national government or else warns viewers of the likely source.

“We started DDoSecrets because at the moment there weren’t any good leak platforms that were publishing,” said founder Emma Best. “WikiLeaks was at the end of their publication cycle, and there had been a lot of concerns about source safety and the ethics of WikiLeaks.”

Journalists also chose more transparency, posting databases full of secret files. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists registered as a nonprofit in 2017 and has since offered troves including the Panama Papers for searching.

But WikiLeaks’ second, Russia-aligned act was even more successful than its first. It fueled countless stories about Democratic Party infighting and sneakiness, becoming a critical link between Russian intelligence operatives who would later be indicted and an eagerly participatory U.S. public and media .

It saved then-candidate Donald Trump from a withering news cycle devoted to his taped remarks on sexually assaulting women by publishing thousands of emails from the hacked account of Clinton adviser John Podesta. Pizzagate conspiracy promoters pored over those emails and found imaginary evidence of sex crimes against children, spreading the precursor to the QAnon movement.

That performance opened a new era of subterfuge that shows no signs of abating eight years later, said Thomas Rid, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and author of a history of disinformation, “Active Measures.”

“Influence operations, which were obviously big in the Cold War, were in a hiatus in the 1990s and into the early 2000s. We had this golden period of optimism where the internet seemed unabashedly a good thing,” Rid said.

“But it’s obvious that a leak site, where the contributors are anonymous, is a dream come true for influence operators.”

As Assange hid from prosecutors in a London embassy, focused on winning back his freedom, influence operators turned to less visible sites and channels on social media.

“If you were a malicious operator, an intelligence agency or someone else, and you wanted to pass on something you have, you have to somehow seed it into the public domain,” said Rid.

State actors expanded from sites such as WikiLeaks using artificial social media accounts and partisan news outlets to generate attention.

“There has been no shortage of political hack and leaks after 2016, but many supposed leak sites are part of state influence operations,” said James Shires, co-director of the European Cyber Conflict Research Initiative.

Many military conflicts now include an information component that comprises hacking and influence operations that sometimes combine . The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency under the Trump administration secured a presidential finding allowing it to hack foreign entities and leak what it wants.

While Russia has paved the way in such ventures, it has also been subjected to a surprising number of hacks since invading Ukraine in 2022, some of which have been publicized by purported domestic activist groups. Russian and Chinese intelligence contractors have both been subject to major breaches that were alleged to be leaks.

Carving another path for government hacks, ransomware gangs have shifted to demanding money not to post hacked files on the internet.

In some cases, researchers say, that was the plan all along: Gangs are working with intelligence agencies that want the documents out, and they are using ransomware to throw off investigators.

“Cyberespionage operations disguised as ransomware activities provide an opportunity for adversarial countries to claim plausible deniability,” a team from security companies Recorded Future and SentinelOne wrote in a report released Wednesday. The companies suspect that Chinese espionage groups were behind what appeared to be 2022 ransomware attacks on the office of the Brazilian president and on the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

The added distance from intelligence agencies could also help ward off the sort of Espionage Act charges that felled Assange, despite his defense that he acted as a journalist.

The evolutions in hacking and leaking make it unlikely that they will become a less significant factor in global and domestic politics for the foreseeable future, according to Best, who argues that the best fix would be more openness.

“People as individuals and as a society aren’t doing the things necessary to reduce the number of leaks, on the security front and on the transparency front,” Best said. “Because that has always been a major driver for leaks that aren’t financially driven.”

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  26. What did Julian Assange do? WikiLeaks' most significant document dumps

    WikiLeaks founder Jullian Assange pleaded guilty Wednesday to a single charge of publishing U.S. military secrets in a U.S. court on the remote Northern Mariana Islands, ending his long legal ...

  27. Julian Assange plea deal: what does it mean for the WikiLeaks founder

    After years of appeals and litigation, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has entered into a plea deal with the US government, according to court documents. He was facing one count of computer ...

  28. Who is Julian Assange? Here's what we know about his US plea deal

    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange pled guilty to a single espionage charge in front on a US judge Wednesday and walked free after his 12-year battle against extradition to the United States ended ...

  29. Bishop Sean Rowe Elected Leader of the Episcopal Church, the Youngest

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  30. How Wikileaks changed the internet, from Clinton's emails to the Iraq

    5 min. 0. WikiLeaks swiftly declined after it slid into an undeclared but unprecedented alliance with Russia — a fall hastened by the prosecution and pursuit of founder Julian Assange. Even so ...