Who's who

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Who's Who is the title of an encyclopedia of persons founded by the Scottish publisher Adam Black in Edinburgh in 1847 and published annually by the publishing house A&C Black from 1849 onwards. For the first time in 1897 biographical data were published in alphabetical order. This lexicon is now published by Bloomsbury Publishing and is also available as an e-book.

In a figurative sense ( metaphorically ) the title Who's who is used in German (as well as in English) as a term that designates a group of people who are important or who are leaders in a field; in journalism, for example: "The list of participants in the congress read like a who's who of cardiac surgery".


A&C Black was also the publisher of the 7th to 10th editions of the Encyclopædia Britannica . The Who's Who was founded because the short entries in the printed works made it impossible to depict detailed portraits of important personalities. At the same time, not all personalities could be taken into account. In 1848, the first 250-page Who's Who was devoted to the British royal family , the nobility , politicians, judges and officers. Within a few years, the reference work , the following editions of which was devoted to different groups of people, became a renowned lexicon .

While still alive, Adam Black sold the Who's Who , with all trademark rights, to the Chicago-based publishing group Sears Roebuck. Today the publishing rights of the Who's Who are held by the US publisher James Finkelstein , who controls the Washington political paper The Hill and, since 2009, the publications of the US music magazine Billboard .

The popularity of the name attracted countless imitators, most of whom were criticized for dubious business practices. This brand abuse was made possible by adding names or designations such as Huebner 's Who is Who or WHO'S WHO in business - online, which significantly alienated the brand. The original and protected name is only WHO'S WHO . Other publishers have no relationship with the original.

After Adam Black's death in 1874, the editions of Who's Who appeared in the USA and Australia from 1899 onwards . In 1936 the Hungarian Szabo Taylor published WHO'S WHO in Central and Eastern Europe in Zurich , the first WHO'S-WHO edition with a classic red cover and structured biographies in English on the European continent. At the same time, the name of the lexicon developed into a symbol for a selected group of people, which means that the proverbial z. For example, there is talk of the “Who's Who of Business”. After the Second World War, numerous European countries followed. Since 1978 the publisher Friedrich Sutter and Theodor Doelken have published the titles WHO'S WHO in Germany , ... in Austria , ... in Italy , ... in Medicine , ... in Arts and Literature , ... in Fashion and ... in technology .

The Marquis Who's Who is a registered trademark of Marquis Ventures LLC in Berkeley Heights , New Jersey . Entries were free until around 2005, but required professional references. Since the business model apparently no longer pays off, the registered persons now also have to pay for it, which is sometimes considered dubious. However, the people receive something in return, for example through access to the extensive database, which enables international contacts.

Issues in Germany

From 1905 to 2015 a German equivalent was created under the title Wer ist's? (since 1951 who is who? ) published. In Germany in 1978 a new registration of the Who's Who brand was rejected by the German Patent and Trademark Office , as the expression “Who's Who” had established itself as a generic term . The word and image trademark of the Who's Who remained, however, and the rights to it are now owned by Theodor Doelken. The Who's Who brand is also used by other providers and publishers in a modified version of the Who's Who .

Thus, the term for the use of those who use Who's Who with the connection of another name, e.g. B. The Mustermann Who's Who of Communication , free. At the same time, the written "Who is Who" was introduced as a variant. These registers are often in the national language of the publisher and differ considerably in the lack of inclusion criteria for the persons represented. The classic WHO'S-WHO editions since 1849 have in common the red book cover, the free admission according to defined criteria and structured biographical texts in English. There is currently no organizational connection between the publishers in Germany and the traditional publishers in other countries for the annual book editions.

The last book edition of Who's Who in English was published in Germany in 2001 by Theodor Doelken in cooperation between Who's Who MediaMarketing GmbH and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . The book was replaced by the CD-ROM Who’s Who European Business , which is published every 3 months, and the largest biographical economic database who-database.com.

Personal encyclopedias in different countries

The British reference work Who's Who with biographies of well-known people since 1849 has led to corresponding personal encyclopedias in other countries:

  • Denmark: Kraks Blå Bog (since 1910) annually
  • Germany: who is it? (1905–1935) and Who is who? (since 1951)
  • Norway: Hvem er Hvem? (since 1912) with 14 issues in the 20th century
  • Sweden: Vem är det? (since 1912) every 2 years
  • Switzerland: Swiss Who's Who

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Website of the publishing house A&C Black ( Memento of the original from July 5, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.acblack.com
  2. https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/special-interest/reference/whos-who
  3. US music magazine "Billboard" sold to group of investors . In: Der Standard , December 11, 2009.
  4. https://www.marquiswhoswho.com/pages/listees
  5. ^ Vernon, David (2007), "What Price Fame? Be a Very Important Person - all it takes is money," The Skeptic, 27 (2), p. 16.
  6. https://www.marquiswhoswho.com/products/the-2017-albert-nelson-marquis-lifetime-achievement-award
  7. Reinhold Rühl: Who is Who vs. Who's Who - The Vanity Business. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung . August 25, 2011, accessed March 12, 2016 .
  8. Theodor Dölken: WHO'S WHO European Business Edition. Cedar Tree, 2001, ISBN 3-925306-26-9 .
    Who's who. Edition European business and industry in the catalog of the DNB.