Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Celebrating Bicycle Day

By Amanda Feilding
Albert Hofmann was one of the most important scientists of our time, who through his famous discovery of LSD, crossed the bridge from the world of science into the spiritual realm, transforming social and political culture in his wake. He was both rationalist and mystic, chemist and visionary, and in this duality we find his true spirit.

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The challenges and rewards of biographical essays

By Susan Ware
One of the first things I did after being appointed general editor of the American National Biography was to assign myself an entry to write. I wanted to put myself in the shoes of my contributors and experience first-hand the challenge of the short biographical form.

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This April fools’ day, learn from the experts

As the First of April nears you may be planning the perfect joke, hoax or act of revenge. If so—and if you’re looking for inspiration—may we recommend some of British history’s finest hoaxers, courtesy of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. So this year, how about …

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Erasmus Darwin: sex, science, and serendipity

By Patricia Fara
The world, wrote Darwin, resembles ‘one great slaughter-house, one universal scene of rapacity and injustice.’ Unexpectedly, that fine image of competitive natural selection was created not by Charles Darwin (1809-1882), but by his grandfather Erasmus (1731-1802)

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Mothering Sunday and Mother’s Day

This Sunday, if you give (or receive) cards, flowers, and gifts for Mothering Sunday, spare a thought forConstance Adelaide Smith. In 1913 Constance read an article in a local newspaper which described plans to introduce to Britain an American ‘Mother’s Day’ celebration. The aim, as devised by the Philadelphian Anna Jarvis, was to establish a celebration to be held annually on the second Sunday in May

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Mary and Joan on International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day has grown since the 1900s to become a global occasion to inspire women and celebrate achievements. Perhaps two of the most inspirational female figures from history are the Virgin Mary and Joan of Arc. We spoke with Marina Warner, author of the seminal titles, Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism and Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary, about these women and their historical and personal impact.

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Stalin’s curse

By Robert Gellately
My interest in the Cold War has developed over many years. In fact, as I look back, I would say that it began around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis in the early 1960s when I was still in high school. Over the years, as a college student and then as a university professor, I began to look more closely at the vast literature that developed on the topic and to examine the bitter controversies that had raged since 1945.

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An Oxford guide to women’s history: quiz

In the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography you’ll currently find biographies of 6340 women who’ve shaped British history and culture between the 1st and 21st century — making it one of the most extensive accounts of women’s contribution to national life. Who are these women?

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Five things you might not know about Bobby Moore

By Daniel Parker
From the iconic image of Bobby Moore holding the World Cup trophy aloft to the famous embrace between him and Pele during the 1970 World Cup, from his loyalty to West Ham United Football Club to his brave struggle against bowel cancer in his later years, Bobby Moore represents a significant chapter in the history of world football. But what about the man behind the bronze? Here are five things you might not have known about the man known as Mooro:

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‘And the Oscar went to …’

In his acceptance speech at the 1981 Oscars (best original screenplay, Chariots of Fire), Colin Welland offered the now famous prediction that ‘The British are coming!’ There have since been some notable British Oscar successes: Jessica Tandy for Driving Miss Daisy (1989); director Anthony Minghella for The English Patient (1996); Helen Mirren (in The Queen, 2006).

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A Valentine’s Day Quiz

It’s that time of the year again where the greeting cards, roses and chocolates fly off the shelves. What is it about Valentine’s Day that inspires us (and many of the great literary authors) to partake in all kinds of romantic gestures? This month Oxford Reference, the American National Biography Online, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and Who’s Who have joined together to create a quiz to see how knowledgeable you are in Valentine traditions. Do you know who grows some of the sweetest roses or hand-dips the sweetest treats? Find out with our quiz.

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Who was Dorothy Wrinch?

Remembered today for her much publicized feud with Linus Pauling over the shape of proteins, known as “the cyclol controversy,” Dorothy Wrinch made essential contributions to the fields of Darwinism, probability and statistics, quantum mechanics, x-ray diffraction, and computer science. The first women to receive a doctor of science degree from Oxford University, her understanding of the science of crystals and the ever-changing notion of symmetry has been fundamental to science.

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On this day: the 50th anniversary of Sylvia Plath’s death

Philip Carter
Today, 11 February 2013, marks the 50th anniversary of the death of the poet Sylvia Plath (1932-1963). It is an event that has significantly shaped biographies and critical studies of her work — particularly following the publication of Ariel (1965), her posthumous collection edited and prepared by Ted Hughes. Then, as now, many reviewers regarded these poems as foretelling the circumstances of her death. Plath’s biography in the Oxford DNB offers an alternative perspective.

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‘Dr. Murray, Oxford’: a remarkable Editor

Dictionaries never simply spring into being, but represent the work and research of many. Only a select few of the people who have helped create the Oxford English Dictionary, however, can lay claim to the coveted title ‘Editor’. In the first of an occasional series for the OxfordWords blog on the Editors of the OED, Peter Gilliver introduces the most celebrated, Sir James A. H. Murray.

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Five facts about Thomas Bodley

This week marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Sir Thomas Bodley, diplomat and founder of the Bodleian Library. After retiring from public life in 1597, Bodley decided to “set up my staff at the library door in Oxon; being thoroughly persuaded, that in my solitude, and surcease from the Commonwealth affairs, I could not busy myself to better purpose, than by reducing that place (which then in every part lay ruined and waste) to the public use of students.”

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Who was Harry Hopkins?

By David Roll
He was a spectral figure in the Franklin Roosevelt administration. Slightly sinister. A ramshackle character, but boyishly attractive. Gaunt, pauper-thin. Full of nervous energy, fueled by caffeine and Lucky Strikes. Hopkins was an experienced social worker, an in-your-face New Deal reformer. Yet he sought the company of the rich and well born. He was a gambler, a bettor on horses, cards, and the time of day.

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