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History of Technology: Biography

Reference Assistance

Linda Hall Library Research Specialists are available all hours that the Library is open.  9-5 Central Time, Monday through Friday.

Call: 800.662.1545 or 816.926.8701

Email us at reference@lindahall.org  or use the Reference Request Form.

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Sample Biographical Finding Aids

Where to Start

Searching for biographical information on technologists and engineers can be a simple process for the most prominent subjects, or a long and frustrating effort for the many less known but still important engineers. Some basic strategies are suggested here.

For the most well known engineers and technologists, try any of these strategies.

  • Search the catalog using the subject’s name in the search box. This method will uncover book length biographies as well as those that include your subject as a full chapter or major subject of a work.
  • Biographical Dictionaries such as those listed on this page are also a good starting point.
  • The database, History of Science, Technology, and Medicine indexes biographical articles and book reviews of biographies.

If the engineer is less prominent, try the following resources, as well as those listed for famous technologists.

  • Obituaries and Memoirs may be helpful for those who were active in their professional societies. Many societies published these in their publications. You will need an approximate date of death to search for memoirs.  For example, the ASCE publishes Memoirs in their Transactions.  Search the CEDB Database on the publication type, "Memoirs" for references to biographies of members back to 1970.  Check apropriate volumes for pre-1970 Memoirs.
  • Try a specialty biographical article or monograph on the engineer's field. Several samples are listed in this guide.
  • If the engineer has a less common name, try searching Google Books for the name using quotations marks and trying name variations.  Once you've identified potential sources, check the catalogs of Linda Hall Library and other libraries for copies of the works.
  • Try an appropriate Who's Who volume or other biography reference work.
  • Many newspaper obituaries and archives can now be searched.  Searches of the New York Time, which include many articles and obituaries of engineers can be searched back to 1851.  See this search for information about Octave Chanute.

Biographical Dictionaries