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Dictionary of World Biography
Murasaki Shikibu (usually called Lady Murasaki =
‘purple’) (978?-1026?). Japanese novelist. A member
of the Fujiwara clan, she was a court lady in Kyoto
to the Empress Akiko during the Heian period.
She wrote the long romance Genji Monogatari
(Tale of Genji), generally regarded as the world’s
oldest surviving novel, a subtle and complex picture
of aristocratic life built around the life of Prince
Genji Hiraku. First translated (1925–33) by Arthur
*Waley, more recently (2001) by Royall Tyler, Genji
Monogatari has often been compared with In Search
of Lost Time by Marcel *Proust.
Murat, Joachim (1767–1815). French marshal,
later King of Naples 1808–15. Son of an innkeeper,
he rose to prominence during the Revolutionary
Wars, being noted for his courage and brilliance as
a cavalry leader. He served in Italy and Egypt with
*Napoléon, whose sister Caroline he married (1800).
His fighting career continued, Austerlitz being one of
the many battlefields where he won renown. He was
made a marshal of France (1804) and was appointed
(1808) to succeed Joseph *Bonaparte as King of
Naples, where he proved himself capable and popular.
He accompanied Napoléon to Moscow (1812) and
commanded the retreating armies after the emperor
had returned to France. He then resumed his kingship
and after Napoléon’s escape from Elba made a vain
attempt to raise Italy on his behalf. After taking refuge
in Corsica he landed at Pizzo, in Calabria, where he
was captured and shot.
Murayama Tomiichi (1924– ). Japanese politician. He
served as a Socialist, later Social Democrat, MP in the
Diet 1972–2000 and, never having held any office, was
an unexpected choice as Prime Minister in a coalition
government with the Liberal Democratic Party (June
1994), serving until 1996. He made a formal apology
for Japanese atrocities committed in World War II,
which earned him the scorn of the Right.
Murchison, Sir Roderick Impey, 1st Baronet
(1792–1871). Scottish ‘gentleman’ geologist. He
spent a generation in the field, surveying strata
according to clear interpretative principles. He
believed in a near universal order of deposition,
indicated by fossils rather than purely lithological
features. Fossils themselves would show a clear
progression in complexity from ‘azoic’ items (i.e.
pre-life) to invertebrates, and only up to vertebrate
forms, man being created last. This progression was
aligned to the earth’s cooling. The great triumph
of these principles, and his own field-working, was
to unravel the ‘Silurian System’ (i.e. those strata
beneath the Old Red Sandstone). For Murchison the
Silurian contained remains of the earliest life (though
no fossils of vertebrates or land plants were to be
expected). Controversy over the younger end of the
Silurian led to him introducing with *Sedgwick the
fruitful concept of the Devonian, which incorporated
the Old Red Sandstone. He then, however, quarrelled
with Sedgwick over the lower limits of the Silurian,
erroneously denying there were fossiliferous systems
underlying it. Awarded the Copley Medal (1849),
he became a dogmatic opponent of Darwinian
Murdoch, Dame (Jean) Iris (1919–1999). AngloIrish writer and philosopher, born in Dublin.
Educated at Oxford, she was a civil servant in the
treasury (1942–44), an administrator with UNRRA
in Europe (1944–46) and a fellow and tutor in
philosophy at St Anne’s College, Oxford (1948). She
turned from writing philosophy and a study of J. P.
*Sartre (1953) to a series of novels notable for wit and
black humour, starting with Under the Net (1954),
including The Bell (1958), An Unofficial Rose (1962),
The Nice and the Good (1967) and The Sacred and
Profane Love Machine (1974). She won the Booker
Prize (1978) for The Sea, the Sea. Murdoch’s characters
are complex, often caught in a prism of irreconcilable
conflicts, in which the search for truth and selfknowledge appears from time to time as inevitable,
painful, selfish or irrelevant, and guilt punishes those
it is intended to protect. She also wrote plays, The
Servants and the Snow (1970) and The Three Arrows
(1972), and a study of *Plato, The Fire and the Sun.
In 1956 she married John Oliver Bayley (1925– ),
professor of English literature at Oxford and a critic.
She suffered from Alzheimer’s disease from 1995.
Bayley, J. O., Iris. 1998.
Murdoch, (Keith) Rupert (1931– ). AustralianAmerican media proprietor and executive. His
father Sir Keith Arthur Murdoch (1885–1952),
a journalist, exposed the incompetence of military
leadership at the Gallipoli landings (1915), became in
1928 chief executive of the Herald and Weekly Times,
Melbourne and proprietor of the Adelaide News.
Rupert Murdoch was Chief Executive of the News Ltd
Group and associated companies. His papers included
The Times, Sun and News of the World (London),
the New York Post, Chicago Sun, The Australian,
the Mirror-Telegraph (Sydney) and the HeraldSun (Melbourne). He exerted a powerful political
influence in Britain, the US and Australia. He also
owned the Ansett airline in Australia, bought a half
share in 20th Century-Fox and became a US citizen
in 1985. He also ran SKY television and a satellite
transmitting information and entertainment to Asia.
Murdoch’s British papers came under hostile scrutiny
after a series of phone hacking scandals (2011–12).
His mother, Dame Elisabeth Joy Murdoch, née
Greene (1909–2012) was a philanthropist, gardener
and supporter of the arts.
Shawcross, W., Murdoch 1992.
Murdoch, William (1754–1839). Scottish inventor.
He joined the Birmingham engineering firm of
*Boulton and *Watt (1777), helped Watt with the
development of his steam engine and invented a
practical slide-valve (1799). His experiments with the
production of gas from coal enabled the factory to