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J.J. Williams amongst notable Welsh figures added to Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

09 Apr 2024 3 minute read
John James (J.J.) Williams – Image: PA

Several notable Welsh figures who died in 2020, including one of Wales’s most talented wingers have been added to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

The Oxford DNB is the national record of people who have shaped British history worldwide from prehistory to the year 2020.

From April 2024 the dictionary includes biographies of 65,230 individuals, written by over 14,000 contributors.

The latest update was published today (April 9) and adds biographies of 276 people who died in the year 2020.

J.J. Williams, Emyr Humphreys, and Jan Morris are among those added.

John James (J.J.) Williams was born in Maesteg, Glamorgan in 1948.

The talented athlete represented Wales in the 100m and 200m at the 1970 Commonwealth Games.

But it was as a rugby player for Bridgend, Llanelli, Wales and the British and Irish Lions that he will be forever remembered.

He was considered one of Wales’s most talented wingers and he was a key figure in the nation’s Grand Slam-winning teams in 1976 and 1978.


Born in Prestatyn, Flintshire in 1919 the novelist, dramatist, and writer Emyr Humphreys was a lifelong Welsh nationalist whose writings, in both English and Welsh, explored Welsh history and the modern Welsh predicament.

He was particularly acclaimed for ‘The Land of the Living’, a septet of novels exploring twentieth-century Welsh history. He also wrote short stories, poetry, and non-fiction.

Born in Somerset in 1926, Jan Morris was initially famous as James Morris as the journalist who scooped the news of the ascent of Everest in 1953, and then the author of dispatches for The Timesfrom the Middle East.

After gender reassignment she became a bestselling travel writer and historian.

Her subjects including the rise and fall of the British empire, and the history of her adopted homeland, Wales, where she lived from 1964.

In 1992 she was elected into the Gorsedd Cymru.


Also included in the updated Osford DNB is Terry Jones.

Born in Colwyn in 1942, Terry began writing and performing comedy sketches while a student at Oxford.

He appeared on The Frost Report (1966) and Do Not Adjust Your Set (1967-9) before achieving enduring fame as a member of the Monty Python team and director of three of their four films.

He also wrote many film and television scripts and adaptations, children’s books, and a serious historian and bibliophile himself, popular history books and programmes, such as The Crusades (1996).

Born in Ponthenri in 1932, the son of a coalminer, Sir John Meurig Thomas was a world-renowned scientist for his work in catalytic chemistry, solid state chemistry, and ‘crystal engineering’, with important ramifications in metallurgy and materials science.


He was a director of the Royal Institution, a master of Peterhouse, Cambridge, and a founding fellow of the Learned Society of Wales.

Born in Carmarthenshire in 1930, Sir John Cadogan was another renowned Welsh chemist and educationist, whose career spanned academia and industry, including as chief scientist at BP.

He was the first director-general of the research councils in the Office of Science and Technology, and inaugural president of the Learned Society of Wales.

Other notable Welsh figures included in the newest edition are engineer John (Shôn) Ffowcs Williams, chemist and environmental scientist Martin Williams and
atmospheric physicist and climate scientist Sir John Houghton.

You can see the full list of added notable figures here.

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Another Richard
Another Richard
1 month ago

The ODNB still hasn’t found room for Jemima Nicholas though!

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