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Dictionary of World Biography
Odovacar (or Odoacer) (d.493). King of Italy 476–
493. Probably a Germanic chieftain from the Sicrii
tribe, after the abdication of *Romulus Augustulus,
last of the Roman emperors of the west, he was
proclaimed King of Italy by his troops (476). After
four years he gained full control of Italy and later
proved his ability to defend and extend the area he had
won. Alarmed by his growing power, the Byzantine
emperor Zeno encouraged *Theodoric, King of the
Ostrogoths, to invade Italy (488). After three defeats
(489–90) Odovacar retired to Ravenna, where he was
besieged until he was forced by famine to yield (493).
He is said to have been stabbed to death by Theodoric
at a feast.
Oe Kenzaburo (1935– ), Japanese novelist. His
novels included Screams (1962), A Personal Matter
(1964) and The Silent Cry (1974). He received the
Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994.
Oersted, Hans Christian (1777–1851). Danish
physicist. Professor of physics at the University of
Copenhagen 1806–29 and director of the Polytechnic
Institute, Copenhagen 1829–51, he discovered
(1820) the magnetic field created by an electric
current, showing for the first time that electricity and
magnetism are connected. This important discovery
was taken up by *Ampère and *Faraday. The unit
of magnetic field strength, the oersted, is named
after him.
Offa (d.796). King of Mercia 757–96. One of the
greatest Anglo-Saxon kings, by conquest or marriage
ties he controlled all England south of the Humber
and protected his subjects from Welsh raiders by
the mighty earthwork known as Offa’s Dyke, which
stretched from the estuary of the Dee to that of the
Wye. He was a patron of monasticism and a lawmaker.
Offenbach, Jacques (Jakob Levy Eberst) (1819–
1880). German-Jewish composer, born in Cologne.
He lived in Paris from 1833 and wrote many
successful operettas and opéras bouffes, e.g. Orpheus in
the Underworld (1858) and La Belle Hélène (1865).
The opera on which he worked for many years,
The Tales of Hoffmann, was produced posthumously
Ogden, Charles Kay (1889–1957). English
educationist. With I. A. *Richards of Harvard
University, he devised ‘Basic English’, a simplified
form of the language by which most ordinary concepts
could be expressed with a vocabulary of some 850 key
words and 18 verbs.
Oglethorpe, James Edward (1696–1785). English
soldier, colonist and philanthropist. After service
with Prince *Eugène of Savoy against the Turks
(1717), he returned to England where as an MP
1722–54 he roused public opinion against the
press gang, prison conditions and imprisonment
for debt. He obtained a charter to found the colony
of Georgia, which he peopled mainly with English
debtors and refugee Austrian Protestants. He himself
accompanied the first contingent (1733) and raised
a regiment with which he successfully defended the
colony against the Spaniards. In 1743 he returned to
England to answer charges of incompetence and was
later court-martialled for his conduct of operations
in the Jacobite rebellion (1745). Both times he was
acquitted, but his military career was ended and in
1754 he was not re-elected to parliament. Among the
many friends of this colourful general were *Johnson,
*Boswell and *Burke.
O’Higgins, Bernardo (1776–1842). Chilean
liberator. His father Ambrosio O’Higgins (1720?1801) rose in the Spanish service in South America
to be Viceroy of Peru. Bernardo went to England at
the age of 15 and joined a group of men plotting to
free South America from Spanish rule. He returned to
Chile (1802) and, after playing a prominent part in
the revolution of 1810–11, became Commander in
Chief of the Chilean forces. After military setbacks he
fled to join *San Martin, who gave him a command
in the army about to cross the Andes to liberate
Chile. When he returned with the victorious army
O’Higgins was appointed (1817) dictator of Chile,
proclaiming its independence in 1818, but his rule
proved so unpopular that he was forced to resign and
retire to Peru (1823).
Kinsbruner, J., Bernardo O’Higgins. 1968.
Ohm, Georg Simon (1787–1854). German physicist.
He did fundamental work on the mathematical
treatment of electric currents and published (1827)
the law stating that the current flowing in a conductor
is directly proportional to the potential differences
between its ends (Ohm’s Law). He also did important
work on acoustics. The unit of electrical resistance, the
‘ohm’, is named after him. His most important work
was done as a teacher at the Cologne Gymnasium.
Later he was a professor of physics at Nuremberg
1833–49 and Munich 1849–54.
Oistrakh, David Fyodorovich (1908–1974).
Russian-Jewish violinist and conductor, born in
Odessa. He graduated from Odessa Conservatory
in 1926, made his debut in Moscow in 1933, but
for many years was known in western Europe only
from recordings. He began extensive tours after
1951. His son Igor Davidovich (1931– ) was also an
outstanding player.
O’Keeffe, Georgia (1887–1986). American painter.
She achieved recognition from the 1920s for her
vivid semi-abstractions of animal bones, flowers and
landscapes. In 1924 she married the photographer
Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946). His work includes two
sets of 400 portraits of her.
O’Kelly, Sean Thomas (1882–1966). Irish politician.
A journalist, he was active in Sinn Fein and took part
in the Easter Rising (1916). He opposed the Irish