Page last updated at 00:14 GMT, Thursday, 8 January 2009

Best added to National Biography

George Best
George Best is regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time

Footballer George Best and comedian Ronnie Barker are among the big names to have been added to the online Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

They were among 215 men and women who died in 2005 whose lives were included.

Other famous names include ex-prime ministers Sir Edward Heath and Lord Callaghan, Labour MPs Robin Cook and Mo Mowlam, and actor Sir John Mills.

The dictionary can be found at and it is freely available in most UK public libraries.

Belfast-born Best joined Manchester United as a teenager. His speed and control of the ball allowed him to pass defenders with ease.

His boyish good looks and taste for the high life were his downfall in the 1970s and the story of his descent into alcoholism became part of national life for two decades.

Barker was a master of characterisation as Fletcher in Porridge and the grocer Arkwright in Open All Hours.

He came to public attention in the Frost Report and made his lasting impression partnering Ronnie Corbett in the Two Ronnies, which won fans young and old over its 15-year history.

Political giants

Comedian Dave Allen, photographer Lord Lichfield and Soviet spy Melita Norwood, have also been placed added to the biography, which says it aims to chronicle "all the men and women who have left a mark on British history".

It currently contains 56,600 biographies and runs to 65 million words. Based on an average reading speed of 200 words a minute, it would take 226 solid days of reading to peruse all of its material.

Edinburgh-born sculptor Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, American-born car manufacturer John DeLorean and pantomime dame Jack Tripp are among the biography's latest additions.

Ronnie Barker
Ronnie Barker was one of Britain's greatest comedy talents

Sir Edward's biography was written by his former private and political secretary Douglas Hurd.

Talking about Sir Edward's time at the Oxford Union, he wrote: "At the union he developed the style he retained through his life.

"His speech-making fell short of greatness. He possessed neither a majestic voice (like Gladstone) nor the ability to coin a witty or dramatic phrase (like Disraeli)... he relied on intellectual honesty, a mastery of detail, and an aptitude for organising that detail in a lucid, persuasive way."

Lord Callaghan died on the eve of his 93rd birthday. His biography was written by his former cabinet colleague Lord Hattersley.

Mr Cook resigned when Britain joined the US in the invasion of Iraq.

Ms Mowlam's role in the Northern Ireland peace process and her personal struggle against illness made her a well-loved and admired figure.

Print Sponsor

Obituary: George Best
25 Nov 05 |  UK
Obituary: Ronnie Barker
04 Oct 05 |  Entertainment
Obituary: Sir Edward Heath
17 Jul 05 |  UK Politics
Obituary: Lord Callaghan
26 Mar 05 |  UK Politics
Obituary: Robin Cook
06 Aug 05 |  UK Politics
Obituary: Mo Mowlam
19 Aug 05 |  UK Politics
Comedian Dave Allen dies aged 68
11 Mar 05 |  Entertainment
Obituary: Sir John Mills
23 Apr 05 |  Entertainment
Obituary: Lord Lichfield
11 Nov 05 |  UK
Obituary: Sir Eduardo Paolozzi
22 Apr 05 |  Arts & Culture

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific