Biographies in ECI are of two different kinds:
1) Biography of individuals who lived outside the timeframe covered by ECI—i.e. more than two hundred years ago—who have played a significant role in the intellectual developments of the past two centuries.
2) Biography of individuals who lived in the past two centuries and have been amongst political, social and cultural activists, and have played crucial roles in the development of a school of thought, political or social movement, or revolution.
For the first group, the biography should include a brief account of the individual’s life, information on social and cultural circumstances of his or her time, his or her childhood, education, names of professors and students where applicable, published works, and an account of his or her influence on a school of thought or political and cultural movement.
For the second group, the account of the individual’s life is very much intermingled with his or her influence, while these two aspects can be well distinguished for the first group.
Different Parts of a Biographical Article:
1. The name of the individual whose biography you are writing.
The challenge with articles on an individual’s biography is determining which part of the individual’s name would be used as the entry. In Iran, names of famous figures are divided into two groups:
a)Those who have passed away prior to 1304SH/1925G (the year of enacting the law for birth certificates in Iran): For these people, we will use the individual’s “better known name” as the entry. The “better known name” could be the individual’s first name, father’s name, nickname, title, nom de plume or penname. In order to determine which of these names would be the “better known name,” one should refer to several important sources to determine what the individual was called by credible sources of his or her time and his or her contemporaries. The most important source in Persian is the documented list of famous figures published by the National Library of Iran. Regarding non-Iranian famous figures, one can use Iranian or non-Iranian encyclopedias or other credible references. It is recommended to refer to at least three sources.
b) Those who have passed away after 1304SH/1925G: For these people, we will use the individual’s surname according to his or her birth certificate. We will omit nicknames and titles in this case. In some Arabic or sub-continental countries where surnames are uncommon and people are known by their father’s first name, the second part of their name will be considered as their family name and surname. Other credible encyclopedias (such as the Encyclopedia of Islam (Leiden: BRILL), Encyclopedia Iranica, The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World (Esposito)) use the same technique. For example:
Nāini, Muhammad Husayn
Said Halim Pasha, Mehmed
There are those who are best known by their nickname, and most users would not recognize them by their surname. In that case, the individual’s nickname would be used as the entry. In addition, the reader should be referred to the individual’s nickname when looking up his or her surname.
2. Place and date of birth, and place and date of death: In most encyclopedias, the year of birth and death are placed in parenthesis right after the individual’s name. However, it is now common to mention the place of birth and death after the corresponding dates. This method not only helps the user, but also omits superfluous words.
Where the place of birth is not well known, or there are a few cities with that name in other states, the name of the state should also be mentioned after the city. Since ECI will be published in English, Gregorian dates should be used as well.
3. Descriptor: A descriptive sentence which provides key facts and figures, and reveals the living conditions of the individual. For example:
Nāini, Muhammad Husayn (Nāin 1860G/1277LH– Najaf 1936G/1355LH), a leading theorist of the Constitutional movement in Iran, a leader of the anti-colonial movement of Iraq.
4. A brief description of the individual’s life such as education, professors, social, cultural and political activities, published works and death (if applicable). In case of Nāini, the followings should be mentioned:
His life is divided into three stages: (i) The Constitutional Revolution era (1905G 1909G); (ii) the leadership of the Iraqi revolution against the British (1920G); and (iii) seclusion, research and teaching at the theological schools (madrasahs).
During the first stage, he served as an apprentice to Muhammad Feshāraki Isfahāni, Muhammad Hasan Shirāzi, and Muhammad Kāzem Khorāsāni. He played a major role in the Constitutional Revolution in Iran. He authored Tanbih al-ummah va Tanziah al-Mellah* in response to Sheikh Fazl al-Allah Nūrī’s Lavayeh. When writing this book, he was under the influence of Kavākebi.
In the second stage, he played a crucial role in the Iraqi revolution of 1920G. In the third stage, disenchanted with the Constitutional Revolution, he dedicated himself to research and teaching at the madrasahs. Nāini’s influences should also be mentioned in this biography.
It is common for Western encyclopedias to mention the individual’s books and works of literature in his or her biography. However, in Iran, this technique is dismissed, so an independent entry is dedicated to the individual’s literary work.
In some cases, it might be essential to describe the individual’s influence in a few independent paragraphs (or perhaps, under a subheading). If the individual has had a profound influence on later thinkers and philosophers, the names of his or her followers should be mentioned in the article to the extent possible.