Valéry Giscard d’Estaing

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing was born in Germany during the French occupation of the Rhineland. An early graduate of Michel Debré’s post-war Ecole Nationale d’Administration, Giscard was a member of the prestigious Finance Inspectorate until he entered the National Assembly as an Independent in 1956, inheriting his grandfather’s seat for Puy-de-Dôme. He served as finance minister(…)

Vivienne Westwood

Original and outrageous, British designer Vivienne Westwood is one of the most recognised and influential designers of the late twentieth century. By her mid twenties, Vivienne Westwood’s life seemed to be passing in a distinctly unremarkable way. At 25, she was married to an air steward, she lived in Willesden, went to church and taught(…)

Walter Cronkite

The commentary of former CBS Evening News anchorman Walter Cronkite defined issues and events in America for almost two decades. Cronkite, whom a major poll once named the “most trusted figure” in American public life, often saw every nuance in his nightly newscasts scrutinised by politicians, intellectuals, and fellow journalists for clues to the thinking(…)

Wendy Richard

Wendy Emerton – later to take the stage name Richard – was born in Middlesbrough on 20 July 1943. Later, her parents moved to London to manage a Mayfair pub, and she attended St George’s school in Mount Street. Her father, who had been a master mason, committed suicide when she was 11. With Masonic(…)

William McMahon

1 9 0 8 – 1 9 8 8 McMahon was born in Sydney, Australia. He graduated in law and economics from Sydney University and was a socially prominent solicitor before military service in World War II, when he reached the rank of major. Elected to the House of Representatives in 1949, he held a(…)

Winston Churchill

On his 75th birthday Churchill had said, “I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the ordeal of meeting me is another matter”.

Wolfman Jack

Wolfman Jack

1 9 3 9 – 1 9 9 5 With the on-air cool of Alan Freed and the smokestack growl of Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Weston Smith – a young white man from Brooklyn – remade himself as DJ legend Wolfman Jack. Broadcasting from super-power Mexican transmitters from 1958 to 1966, Jack covered the US with his lawless mix(…)

Yasser Arafat

Born Muhammad Abed Ar’ouf Arafat. Palestinian nationalist politician, cofounder of al-Fatah in 1957, president of the Palestinian Authority, and leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) from 1969. In the 1970s Arafat’s activities in pursuit of an independent homeland for Palestinians made him a prominent figure in world politics, but in the 1980s the growth(…)

Yitzhak Rabin

Israeli Labour politician and prime minister from 1974 to 1977 and 1992 to 1995. As a former soldier, Rabin was a national hero in the Arab-Israeli Wars (he also served as minister for defence under the conservative Likud coalition government between 1984 to 1990). His policy of favouring Palestinian self-government in the occupied territories contributed(…)

Yoko Ono

Born in Japan on 13 February 1933, Yoko Ono finished her education in the USA and became a well-known figure during the 1960s in New York avant-garde art circles, making films and organizing “happenings”. She met John Lennon at an art exhibition in London, and Yoko (previously married with one child, Kyoko) married him on(…)

Yorkshire Ripper

The ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ killings started in July 1975 and continued until November 1980, during which time 13 women were murdered in the north of England by a Jack The Ripper-style killer. The killer struck by night, smashing his victims’ heads with a hammer and usually mutilating the bodies. The women ranged in age from 16(…)


What rich 1980s white collar workers were called in the decade when the western world revelled in unapologetic materialism. Yuppies (an acronym for “Young Urban Professionals”) ostentatiously stocked their New York-style apartments with the most expensive designer appliances and the latest in high-end stereo and video gear, and drove to work in shiny new Benzes(…)

Yuri Gagarin

1 9 3 4 – 1 9 6 8 Yuri Gagarin literally rocketed to fame when he became the first man in space in April 1961. Strapped into a tiny spherical space capsule, Gagarin made a complete orbit of the earth, before landing safely less than two hour after blastoff. By demonstrating that humans could(…)

Zodiac Killer

Cheri-Jo Bates walked from her campus library into the darkness towards her car. The battery was flat. A man appeared and offered to help her. He tinkered with the engine but having no luck he offered to take her home. He led Cheri-Jo to an alleyway between two houses, where the pair spent at least(…)

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