I know, I know, Google has become the go-to place to look someone up, but can you really get everything you need? For background information on a person—author, politician, actor, etc.—take a look at our resources in Biographies.
If you’re reading Madison Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race and wondering what qualified him to make his outrageous pronouncements, look him up in American National Biography Online (rule of thumb for entrants—Dead American).
Curious about dead people from Great Britain? Look up anyone from the British Isles in the grandaddy of biographical sources, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (fun fact—the first edition was edited by Sir Leslie Stephen, father of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell).
And, we don’t ignore the living—search Biography Resource Center for figures both alive and deceased, regardless of nationality.
Questions? Ask a librarian!