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Thomas Edward Lawrence CB DSO FAS (16 August 1888 – 19 May 1935) was a British author, archaeologist, military officer, and diplomat. He was renowned for his liaison role during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign and the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. The breadth and variety of his activities and associations, and his ability to describe them vividly in writing, earned him international fame as Lawrence of Arabia—a title used for the 1962 film based on his wartime activities.
Lawrence was born out of wedlock in Tremadog, Wales in August 1888 to Thomas Chapman (who became, in 1914, Sir Thomas Chapman, 7th Baronet), an Anglo-Irish nobleman from County Westmeath, and Sarah Junner, a Scottish governess who was herself illegitimate. Chapman had left his wife and first family in Ireland to live with Junner, and they called themselves Mr and Mrs Lawrence. In the summer of 1896, the Lawrences moved to Oxford, where Lawrence attended high school, then in 1907-1910 studied History at Jesus College. Between 1910 and 1914 he worked as an archaeologist, chiefly at Carchemish, in what is now Syria.
Soon after the outbreak of war he joined the British army and was stationed in Egypt. In 1916, he was sent to Arabia on an intelligence mission and quickly became involved with the Arab Revolt, serving, along with other British officers, as a liaison to the Arab forces. Working closely with Emir Faisal, a leader of the revolt, he participated in and sometimes led military activities against the Ottoman armed forces, culminating in the capture of Damascus in October 1918.
After the war, Lawrence served until 1922 as a diplomat, working both with the British government and with Faisal. In 1922, he retreated from public life and spent the years until 1935 serving as an enlisted man, mostly in the Royal Air Force, with a brief stint in the Army. During this time, he wrote and published his best-known work, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, an autobiographical account of his participation in the Arab Revolt. He also translated books into English and completed The Mint, which was published posthumously. He corresponded extensively and was friendly with well-known artists, writers, and politicians. For the RAF, he participated in the design of rescue motorboats.
Lawrence's public image resulted in part from the sensationalised reporting of the Arab revolt by American journalist Lowell Thomas, as well as from Seven Pillars of Wisdom. In 1935, Lawrence was fatally injured in a motorcycle accident in Dorset.