Biography: Bishop Aubrey Spencer
Biography: Bishop Aubrey Spencer
From inspirational teachers to the most famous New World castaways, a book out today captures the portraits of many of those who have shaped Bermuda's history.

The 180-page collection, Bermuda 1609-2009...400 years...400 Portraits, is a project of the steering committee of Bermuda's 400th anniversary celebrations.

It contains 100-word sketches of 376 people who have made a significant contribution to Bermuda along with 500-word portraits of 24 families, for a total of 400 portraits.

The book's editor, Meredith Ebbin, said the project took more than a year to put together.

"The book provides thumbnail sketches of the people who have had an effect on the development of Bermuda from 1609 to 2009, from Sir George Somers to Ewart Brown," Ms Ebbin said.

"It includes governors, colonists, privateers, oligarchs, slaves, business leaders, sports figures, artists, educators, social reformers.

"The sketches sum up the salient points about their lives.

"It was a large undertaking and involved coordinating a team of writers, researchers and editorial consultants."

The book also provides the years of birth and, in the case of those no longer living, the year of death.

The subjects are arranged by centuries and there is an A to Z guide of people in the book.

"I hope the book will be an important resource for anyone wishing to find out information about key figures in Bermuda's history, past and present in one publication," Ms Ebbin said.

"So it's a useful starting point for teachers, students, researchers and scholars.

"If you read the bios from cover to cover, century by century, you should come away with a fairly good idea of the history of Bermuda.

"I also like to think the book will rescue a lot of people from obscurity.

"There are a lot of ordinary people in the book who did extraordinary things - people like Eliza Lusher, a pioneer who stood on the front lines of the two yellow fever epidemics in the 19th century; Antone Marshall, a whaler who saved people from a watery grave in the Pollockshields disaster off Elbow Beach in 1915; Captain William Meyer, the founder of Meyer and Company, whose exploits prior to being shipwrecked off Bermuda including fighting in the U.S. Civil War and being taken prisoner by the Confederacy."

Conchita Ming, Chair of the Bermuda 2009 Committee, is launching Bermuda 1609-2009: 400 Years, 400 Portraits book today at 12:30pm in the City Hall Foyer.

The book will be available in all bookstores and costs $60 for hardcover copies and $20 in soft cover.

• Bishop Aubrey Spencer (1795-1872).

Widely considered the father of Bermuda's school system, Archdeacon (later Bishop) Spencer, a grandson of the Duke of Marlborough, held office from 1821 to 1839.

He was a humanitarian who raised money to provide educational opportunities for black children and poor white children.

He donated his glebe rents to assist the initiative and to promote the building and equipping of schoolhouses and the employment of teachers.

By 1844, there were 16 schools supported by colonial grants and by contributions from the Christian societies that had been solicited by the Bishop.

• John Rolfe (1585-1622).

John Rolfe is one of the most famous of 17th-century New World arrivals. He and his wife were Sea Venture castaways and parents of the first child born in Bermuda.

In February 1610, his wife gave birth to a daughter they named Bermuda but she lived only a few weeks. Mrs. Rolfe died the same year.

Rolfe continued on to Jamestown, where, in 1614, he married Native American princess Pocahontas.

Rolfe, a farmer, spent the rest of his days in Virginia. He is credited with developing a commercially viable strain of tobacco that was key to the economic success of the Virginia colony.

• Francis Landey Patton (1843-1932).

Francis Patton's Presbyterian roots, nurtured at Christ Church in Warwick, supported his rise to academic prominence in the U.S. He was president of Princeton University for 14 years.

An ordained minister, he taught theology at seminaries, including Princeton Theological Seminary, his alma mater.

Appointed Princeton's president in 1888, he brought new professors on board, including future U.S. president Woodrow Wilson, oversaw a building expansion and presided over Princeton's 150th anniversary celebrations.

While students were fond of him, his legacy was mixed, partly because of his conservative outlook.

In Bermuda, his name lives on at Francis Patton School.

In 2007, his contribution was recognised with a "Pioneers of Progress'" commemorative stamp.

• Dr. Barbara Ball (1924-).

Physician and trade unionist Dr. Barbara Ball has devoted her life to the cause of black equality and workers' rights.

One of the Island's first female doctors, she supported the movement for universal adult suffrage.

In the early 1960s, she led a strike of hospital workers and lost her admitting privileges for a time.

Her involvement in the pivotal 1965 Bermuda Electrical Light Company strike put her at the centre of a high-profile Supreme Court trial.

A long-time Bermuda Industrial Union research officer and negotiator, she was also a Progressive Labour Party MP.

A devout Roman Catholic, she was in 2008 honoured by the Bermuda Catholic diocese with its first Peace and Justice Award.

• Warren Simmons, MBE (1893-1981).

Warren Simmons was a terrific all-rounder for Somerset's Cup Match team and the patriarch of one of the Island's most prominent sporting families.

Sons Lloyd Simmons in cricket and Allan Simmons in tennis, grandson Randy Horton, granddaughters netballer June Dill and softball player Ellen-Kate Horton and great-granddaughter diver Katura Horton-Perinchief, all excelled in their fields.

He was the first batsman to get 500 runs in Cup Match and the first Somerset batsman to score 1,000 runs in a season.