Oxford Dictionary of National Biography includes people who left their mark on the British Isles from the 4th century BC to the 21st century. They range from the godly to the mad, from the great to the downright naughty. What they all do have in common is that the details of their lives are here for all to see (and that they are all dead!). For example there is:
Richard Doll (1912-2005) Endocrinologist and discoverer of the link between smoking and lung cancer who was not allowed to adopt children as he and wife were atheists. At that time adoption agencies required evidence of the Christian commitment of prospective adoptive parents. Eventually he overcome this hurdle by setting up his own adoption agency.
Lita Roza (1926-2008) The first female performer to top the UK charts in 1953 with ‘How much is that doggie in the window?’ Although proud of the fact she wished it had been with another song!
Mary Anne Clarke (1776?–1852) The royal mistress to Frederick, Duke of York was paid more than £7,000 to suppress her letters and memoirs in the 1810s! (That is 238,000 pounds/NZ$470,000 in today’s money) She had used her influence with him for the acquisition of commissions and preferments. This she had achieved by adding names to the duke’s lists, which he would sign without reading.
Josiah Henson(1789–1883) The escaped slave and sole black exhibitor at the 1851 Great Exhibition. There, he displayed four huge planks of black walnut which he planed and polished until they shone like mirrors for the exhibition’s six million visitors.