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Dictionary of World Biography


Yacoub, Sir Magdi Habib (1935– ). Anglo-Egyptian cardiothoracic surgeon, born in Belbis. Working in the US, Africa and London, he developed new techniques for heart and heart-lung transplants, achieving exceptional survival rates and winning many awards, including the OM in 2014.

Yadin, Yigael (1917–1984). Israeli archaeologist, soldier and politician, born in Jerusalem. He joined the Haganah defence force in 1933 and was Chief of Staff of the Israeli army (1948–52), professor of archaeology at the Hebrew University (1963–77 and 1981–84) and Deputy Prime Minister (1977–81). He carried out valuable work on the Dead Sea Scrolls, excavated Hazor (1955–58) and Masada (1963–65), and wrote several books.

Yagoda, Genrikh Grigorievich (1891–1938). Russian (Jewish) Communist official. He used the OGPU (United State Political Directorate) to raise forced labour for *Stalin’s first Five Year Plan and became head of the NKVD (Peoples’ Commissariat for Internal Affairs) 1934–36. He was shot as a ‘Rightist’ in the ‘Great Purge’.

Yakovlev, Aleksandr Nikolayevich (1923–2005). Russian politician. He was influenced by the ideas of Aleksandr *Herzen (whose family name was also Yakovlev, but no relation). Inside the CPSU he worked in the science, culture, propaganda and journalism departments, was Ambassador to Canada 1973–83, a member of the Central Committee 1986–90 and the Politburo 1987–90. A close adviser of *Gorbachev, he concluded that the Party had no future and transferred his increasingly important support to *Yeltsin.

Yale, Elihu (1649–1721). British merchant, born in Boston, Massachusetts. He was educated in England, joined the East India Company and by 1687 was Governor of Madras. When the collegiate school of Saybrook, Connecticut, was moved to New Haven it was named after Yale (1718) in gratitude for a generous benefaction and, in 1887, renamed Yale University. It is regarded as the third oldest university in the US.

Yale, Linus (1821–1868). American inventor and industrial manufacturer. He invented various types of locks including those named after him.

Yalow, Rosalyn Sussman (1921–2011). American medical physicist. Educated at the University of Illinois, she worked on radioisotopes and radioimmunoassay methods in the Bronx and shared the 1977 Nobel Prize for Medicine for discoveries concerning peptide hormones.

Yamagata Aritomo, Prince (1838–1922). Japanese soldier and politician. One of the emperor *Mutsohito’s most influential counsellors (genro), he became War Minister in 1873 and Chief of Staff in 1878. He was responsible for modernising the organisation and equipment of Japanese forces. He served as Prime Minister 1889–91, 1898–1900 and continued the policy of modernisation that ultimately brought Japan to a position of influence. He became an Honorary OM in 1906.

Hackett, R. F., Yamagata Aritomo in the Rise of Modern Japan, 1838–1922. 1971.

Yamamoto Isoroku (1884–1943). Japanese admiral. Trained in naval aviation, he studied at Harvard, was a naval attaché in Washington and rose to be Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese combined fleet 1939–43. Although pessimistic about the outcome of war, he planned the Pearl Harbor strategy (1941) to strike a knockout blow against US naval forces. He directed the Battle of Midway (1942) and died when his plane was shot down in the South Pacific.

Yamashita Tomoyuki (1885–1946). Japanese general. He led the conquest of Singapore in 1942 and conducted the Philippines campaign. His success was ended by a counter-attack of US forces under General Douglas *MacArthur, by whom he was captured and hanged (for authorising atrocities) in Manila. His execution is now regarded as grossly excessive and vindictive.

Yang Jien see Sui Wendi

Yang Shangkun (1907–1998). Chinese politician and soldier. A member of the CPC from 1926, trained in Moscow and a veteran of the Long March 1934–35, he rose through the party apparatus but fell out with *Mao and was imprisoned 1966–79. He then rose with *Deng, although his approach to market reform was more cautious, became a Politburo member (1982) and President of the Peoples’ Republic 1988–93. His brother Yang Baibing (1920–1913) was a general in the People’s Liberation Army and another conservative who suppressed the Tiananmen Square demonstrations (1989).

Ye Jianyiang (1897–1989). Chinese marshal. He joined the Communist Party in Germany in 1924, was close to *Zhou Enlai and *Deng, controlled the PLA and arranged the coup of October 1976 which overthrew the ‘Gang of Four’ and put Deng in power.

Yeats, Jack Butler (1871–1957). Irish painter, born in London. Brother of W. B. *Yeats, he became a book illustrator and later a playwright who devoted himself to oils after 1915. He was regarded as the greatest Irish painter of his time.

Yeats, William Butler (1865–1939). Irish poet and dramatist, born in Dublin. Son of a barrister, John Butler Yeats, he was born into a Protestant family and, like his father and brother Jack Butler *Yeats, studied art. However, by 1889 he had published his first book of poems, Crossways, and soon became one of the leaders of the Irish literary movement. He was closely associated with Lionel Johnson, Katherine Tynan, and G. W. *Russell and took part with Lady *Gregory in the various dramatic ventures that led to the opening of the Abbey Theatre, Dublin (1904). His lover Maude Gonne (Sean *MacBride) created some important roles. His early plays, The Countess Cathleen (1892, staged 1899) and Cathleen ni Houlihan (1902) contributed. Other plays included The Land of Heart’s Desire (1894) and Deirdre (1907). Meanwhile volumes of his poetry were appearing in steady sequence. His early work was much concerned with Irish myth and folk lore, there were delicate romantic lyrics e.g. Down by the Salley Gardens (1889) and The Lake Isle of Innisfree (1892). Prose works, e.g. The Celtic Twilight (1893), evoked similar themes. In 1893 Yeats published an edition of *Blake, and the influence of mysticism, both the occult mysticism of the east and that of *Maeterlinck and the French symbolists, becomes apparent. The publication of a second collection of poems (1910) marked the beginning of Yeats’s middle period, the twilight mists begin to disperse, imagination is tempered by reality, heroes of that violent phase in Irish history join those of myth. In 1917 he married Georgie Hyde-Lees (1892–1968) who was deeply involved in spiritualism and A Vision (1925) provides insight into his sources of poetic inspiration. Appointed as a senator of the Irish Free State 1922–28, he supported *Cosgrave’s savage repression of Republican forces, indicated sympathy for *Mussolini and Fascism and authoritarian rule and emerged as a public character. In 1923 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. In his later works, e.g. The Tower (1928), The Winding Stair (1933) and the last collections, there is greater simplicity but at the same time greater violence, of ecstasy, but also of bitterness at the inevitable consequences of old age. He edited The Oxford Book of Modern Verse (1936), died in Menton, in the south of France, and was reburied in Drumcliff, Co. Sligo in 1948. Despite his great output of plays, essays, critical, philosophical and esoteric works, he is remembered now only as a poet, especially for his disturbing imagery e.g. in Second Coming (1919), Sailing to Byzantium (1926), Byzantium (1930).

Ellmann, R. Yeats: The Man and the Masks (1949, revised 1979); Donoghue, D., Yeats. 1971; Foster, R. F., W.B. Yeats: A Life. Vol. 1. 1997, Vol 2. 2005.

Yeltsin, Boris Nikolayevich (1931–2007). Russian politician, born in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg). He graduated as a construction engineer in 1955, joined the Communist Party in 1961 and was a party official in the Sverdlovsk oblast from 1968, rising to First Secretary 1976–85. He was brought to Moscow in 1985 by Mikhail *Gorbachev and made first secretary of the Moscow city party committee until his dismissal and humiliation in 1987 after he had criticised the slow pace of reform. He used his exile from administrative responsibility to organise a major public campaign against entrenched privilege, bureaucracy and economic inefficiency. In March 1989 he was elected to the Congress of Peoples’ Deputies for the Moscow region with an unprecedented 89 per cent of the vote. Elected in May 1990 as Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic (RSFSR), this made him an alternative focus of power to *Gorbachev within the Soviet Union. Lacking the encumbrance of the CPSU, Yeltsin became immensely popular, while Gorbachev, shackled by the Party and his enemies within it, retained responsibility for economic reform. He was elected as President of the Russian Federation in June 1991 with 57 per cent of the popular vote. In August 1991, when hardliners staged a coup against Gorbachev, Yeltsin, supported by elements of the armed forces and KGB, led popular resistance in Moscow. The coup collapsed and Gorbachev returned to Moscow, increasingly dependent on Yeltsin. By December 1991, the USSR was dissolved and replaced by a loose federation, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The Russian Federation took control of the Kremlin and replaced the USSR in the UN Security Council. Yeltsin also became commander of the armed forces. He faced intractable problems in attempting to transform a command economy to a market economy and the Russian parliament was obstructive. Nationalism also became an increasingly powerful and disruptive force. In March 1993 he declared a state of emergency and ruled by decree, with strong support from President *Clinton. In October his troops crushed a coup organised by the parliament. In December 1993 Russian voters approved his new presidential constitution but elected a Duma largely hostile to reform. Russia’s invasion and destruction of Chechnya (November 1994–February 1995) was politically damaging, so were his eccentric personal behaviour and his health problems. He defeated the Communist candidate, Gennady *Zyuganov, by 54 per cent to 40 per cent in the second round of the July 1996 presidential election. After repeated illnesses, he resigned suddenly on 31 December 1999.

Yersin, Alexandre Émile John (1863–1943). Swiss-French bacteriologist. He studied under *Pasteur and worked at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, where, with Pierre Roux, he did research on diphtheria serum. In Hong Kong he isolated (1894) bacillus for bubonic plague (Yersiania pestis) and prepared an effective serum for it (1895). He lived in Indochina from 1895 and set up branches of the Pasteur Institute in China (*Kitasato).

Deville, P., Plague and cholera. 2012.

Yesinin, Sergei Aleksandrovich (1895–1925). Russian poet. Of peasant origin, he celebrated ‘wooden Russia’ and attacked the impact of the iron age and urban industrialisation. He briefly welcomed the 1917 Revolution, and soon became a leader of the Russian Imagist poets. He become a heavy and destructive drinker, married the American dancer Isadora *Duncan, visited the US, suffered a nervous breakdown and hanged himself. His poetry was popular, held in low regard by Soviet officials, but republished in the 1960s.

Yevtushenko, Yevgeny Aleksandrovich (1933–2017). Russian poet. His poems first appeared in the USSR in 1952. He quickly became the most prominent of the young writers who rejected ‘socialist realism’ in literature. He incurred much criticism for his poem Babiy Yar, which pilloried Soviet hypocrisy and anti-Semitism. *Shostakovich used Babiy Yar and four other Yevtushenko poems (including A Career, about Galileo) in his Symphony No. 13 (1962). He continued courageously to maintain his critical attitude in his autobiography, which was published in Paris (1963). His reputation fell sharply in the 1980s.

Yezhov, Nikolai Ivanov (1895–1939?). Russian Communist official. He directed the NKVD (Peoples’ Commissariat for Internal Affairs) 1936–38, when thousands of ‘Old Bolsheviks’ disappeared in the ‘Great Purge’, disappearing himself in 1939. In 1956 *Khrushchev denounced him as a ‘degenerate’.

Yongle (‘perpetual happiness’: personal name Zhu Di) (1360–1424). Chinese emperor 1402–24, third of the *Ming dynasty. Fourth son of the *Hongwu emperor, he displaced his nephew Zhu Yunwen after a brief civil war, transferred the capital from Nanjing to Beijing, drained, reopened and enlarged the Grand Canal, began construction (1406) of ‘The Forbidden City’ and sent his favourite *Zheng He on extensive voyages of exploration with large fleets. He designed the Porcelain Tower of Nanjing and commissioned the huge Yongle Encyclopedia. He created a spy agency, killed off many relatives and servants and was succeeded by his son Zhu Gaozhi, known as the *Hongxi emperor.

York, Henry Benedict Maria Clement Stuart, Cardinal Duke of (1725–1807). British cardinal and pretender, born in Rome. Younger son of James Edward *Stuart, he was created Duke of York in the Jacobite peerage by his father in 1725, made a cardinal in 1747 by Pope *Benedict XIV and served as Bishop of Frascati 1761–1803. The last male in direct descent from the Stewart/Stuart kings, on the death of his elder brother Charles Edward *Stuart in 1788, he proclaimed himself as Henry IX. Impoverished by loss of property after *Napoléon’s invasion of Italy, he was granted a pension of £4,000 by *George III in 1800. He died in Frascati and was buried with his father and brother in St Peter’s, Rome.

York, House of. English dynasty, a branch of the *Plantagenets descended, through *Richard, Duke of York, from Lionel, Duke of Clarence, second son of *Edward III. Yorkist kings were *Edward IV, *Edward V and *Richard III. Later the Duke of York became a common title in the British royal family, e.g. the kings *James II, *George V and *George VI. *George III’s second son, Frederick Augustus, Duke of York and Albany (1763–1827), had a career in the army, fought in Flanders during the French Wars, and was appointed Commander-in-Chief 1798–1809; 1811–27, the two years break due to investigation of charges that his mistress had sold commissions. However, he is credited with effecting some significant reforms.

Green, V. H. H., The Later Plantagenets. 1955.

Yoshida Shigeru (1878–1967). Japanese Liberal politician. A diplomat, he was Ambassador to Great Britain 1936–39 opposed extremist policies during World War II and was imprisoned (1945) until the Americans released him. He was Foreign Minister (1945–46) and twice Premier 1946–47, 1948–54, largely setting the pattern of post-war Japanese politics.

Yoshihito (regnal name Taisho, i.e. ‘great righteousness’) (1879–1926). Emperor of Japan 1912–26. Son of *Mutsohito, father of *Hirohito, he was insane from 1921.

Young, Arthur (1741–1820). English agriculturist and writer, born in London. His father, a clergyman, owned an estate at Bradfield, Suffolk, which his son began to farm in 1763. As a farmer he was a failure, but he gradually gained success as an agricultural writer, basing his work on information gathered during a series of tours (from 1767) through the agricultural districts of England. In 1776 he went to Ireland where as estate factor to Lord Kingsborough he renewed his practical experience. Meanwhile he had begun to publish his observations, which, e.g. in Political Arithmetic (1774), extended to social and political comment. Elected FRS in 1774, he edited the periodical Annals of Agriculture (1784–1809), contributors including *George III (writing as ‘Ralph Robinson’). He visited France in 1787 and 1789, observing the outbreak of the Revolution, which he deplored; his Travels in France appeared in 1792, expanded in 1794. Secretary to the newly formed Board of Agriculture 1793–1820, after 1804 his work deteriorated due to failing sight (total blindness by 1811), melancholia and religious obsession. Larger farms, enclosures of unfarmed land, the use of fertilisers, improvement of stock and secure tenure were among the things he advocated, supporting his arguments with statistics and surveys. The ‘agricultural revolution’ was in fact largely of his making.

Young, Brigham (1801–1877). American Mormon leader, born in Whitingham, Vermont. A carpenter, painter and glazier by trade, his life was completely changed when, in 1830, he saw the Book of Mormon and was later converted by a brother of the prophet Joseph *Smith. In 1835 he became one of the ‘twelve apostles’ of the Mormon Church and after Smith’s murder (1844)—the result of his claim of divine sanction for polygamy—he led his people to Utah where he founded Salt Lake City. As President of the Church he was made territorial Governor (1849). Though deposed by the US government for adhering to polygamy he retained his hold over his co-religionists who under his guidance became a self-contained and prosperous community. He was survived by 27 wives and 56 children, to whom he bequeathed $US2.5 million. The Mormons (Church of Latter Day Saints) renounced polygamy in 1890.

Young, Francis Brett (1884–1954). English novelist. Trained as a doctor, he won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize with Portrait of Clare in 1927, but did not afterwards attain the same quality. His books were charming chronicles of life in his native rural Worcestershire, which he described with great affection.

Young, Thomas (1773–1829). English physicist and Egyptologist. Trained in medicine but interested mainly in physics, he was elected FRS in 1794 and became professor of physics at the Royal Institution 1801–03 and secretary of the Royal Society 1803–29. From 1801 he did much to establish the wave theory of light, particularly in attributing phenomena such as ‘Newton’s rings’ to ‘interference’ between trains of light waves. He also put forward a theory of colour vision which was later improved by *Helmholtz. He first used the term ‘modulus of elasticity’ in its modern sense, and introduced what is now known as ‘Young’s modulus’. He was also an outstanding linguist, attempted to decipher the inscriptions on the Rosetta Stone (*Champollion), and, following on the work of William *Jones, coined the term Indo-European (1813).

Younghusband, Sir Francis Edward (1863–1942). British soldier and explorer. As the culmination of a long period of difficult relationships and unsatisfactory negotiations, Colonel Younghusband, accompanied by an armed escort, advanced into Tibet (1904) and, after being attacked, reached Lhasa, the capital. An agreement resulted which marked the opening of Tibet to British trade. He explored and wrote about many parts of Central Asia and vainly tried to reach the summit of Everest.

Fleming, P., Bayonets to Lhasa: The First Full Account of the British Invasion of Tibet in 1904. 1961, repr. 1984; French, P., Younghusband: the Last Great Imperial Adventurer. 1994.

Yourcenar (de Crayencourt), Marguerite (1903–1987). French author, born in Brussels. She lived in the US from 1937 and became a citizen in 1947. Her Memoirs of Hadrian (1951), a critical and popular success, was followed by a novel on *Zeno, The Abyss (1968). She published a collection of Greek poetry La Couronne et la Lyre (1979) and in 1980 became the first woman elected to the Académie française.

Yousafzay, Malala see Malala Yousafzay

Ypres, 1st Earl of see French, John (Denton Pinkstone)

Yrigoyen, Hipóleto (in full, Juan Hipóleto del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús Yrigoyen Alem) (1852–1933). Argentinian politician, born in Buenos Aires. A teacher by profession, he became (1896) leader of the Radical Civic Union party and in 1905 unsuccessfully attempted a revolution. After a change in the corrupt electoral system, providing for a secret ballot and universal male suffrage, he was elected President 1916–22, and, although splitting his party by his autocratic rule, he carried through considerable social reform. He maintained the neutrality of his country in World War I. In 1928, he was again elected President, but the ineffectiveness of his administration provoked a military coup and his deposition (1930).

Ysaÿe, Eugène (1858–1931). Belgian violinist, conductor, composer and teacher. He toured extensively, founded a famous string quartet, and wrote concertos and sonatas for violin.

Yuan. Chinese dynasty, also called Mongol, founded by *Kublai Khan, which had its capital in Beijing (then called Dadu) and ruled 1279–1368.

Yuán Shìkai (1859–1916). Chinese general, president and emperor, born in Henan. As a soldier, he gained the highest honours under the dowager empress *Cixi in her last years, proposed some modest reforms similar to Japan and Germany and was Secretary for Foreign Affairs 1907–08, falling from favour after her death. On the outbreak of revolution he was recalled to office, serving as Prime Minister 1911–12. He gained some success over the revolutionaries, but, backed by the only fully trained troops in the country, was soon playing a double game. He persuaded the imperialists to accept the necessity for the abdication of the young Xuantong emperor (*Pu’yi) and at the same induced *Sun Yatsen, who had already been elected President, to stand down in his favour. He was President of China 1912–15; 1916. The next step to supreme power was abolishing parliament, but he soon over-reached by restoring the monarchy and proclaiming himself as the Hongxian Emperor (December 1915 – March 1916). Confronted with the threat of civil war, defection of his own commanders and refusal of recognition by foreign powers, he was forced to withdraw. This ‘loss of faith’ probably contributed to his death from uraemia 10 weeks later, in Beijing.

Ch’en, J., Yüan Shih-Kai: Brutus Assumes the Purple. 2nd ed. 1972.

Yudhoyono, Susilo Bambang (known as SBY) (1949– ). Indonesian soldier and politician, born in Java. An army general, he was a Minister under Abdurrahman *Wahid and defeated *Megawati Soekarnoputri to become President of Indonesia 2004–14.

Yukawa Hideki (1907–1981). Japanese physicist. While a lecturer at Osaka University, he evolved a theory of nuclear forces and predicted (1935) the existence of a particle (the meson) having a mass 200–300 times that of the electron. Mesons were observed in cosmic rays in 1936, but in 1947 these were found to be of a different type from those predicted by Yukawa, which were then observed. He became the first Japanese Nobel Prize winner when he was awarded the Prize for Physics (1949). In 1953 he was made director of the new Research Institute for Fundamental Physics in Kyoto, retiring in 1970.

Yunus Emre (1238?–1321?). Turkish poet. A member of a Sunni dervish sect, he was a travelling mystic and humanist, generally regarded as Turkey’s greatest poet, having some parallels with *Omar Khayyam.

Halman, T. S. (ed.), Yunus Emre and His Mystical Poetry. 1981.

Yunus, Muhammad (1940– ). Bangladeshi social activist, economist and banker. In 1983 he founded the Grameen Bank, dedicated to providing microcredit, without collateral, to impoverished people, especially women, to enable them to become economically independent. The 2006 Nobel Prize for Peace was jointly awarded to Yunus and the Grameen Bank ‘for their efforts through microcredit to create economic and social development from below’.

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