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Thomas Edward Lawrence (16 August 1888 – 19 May 1935) was an archaeologist and British Army officer renowned especially for his liaison role during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, and the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule of 1916–18. 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 which was later used for the 1962 film based on his First World War activities.
Lawrence was born out of wedlock in Tremadog, Wales, in August 1888 to Sir Thomas Chapman and Sarah Junner, a 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 in 1907–10 young Lawrence studied History and graduated with First Class Honors.
He became a practicing archaeologist in the Middle East, working at various excavations with David George Hogarth and Leonard Woolley. In 1908, he joined the Oxford University Officers’ Training Corps and underwent a two-year training course. In January 1914, before the outbreak of the Great War, Lawrence was commissioned by the British Army to undertake a military survey of the Negev Desert while doing archaeological research.
Lawrence’s public image resulted in part from the sensationalized reportage of the Arab revolt by an American journalist, Lowell Thomas, as well as from Lawrence’s autobiographical account Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1922). In 1935, Lawrence was fatally injured in a motorcycle accident. Lawrence was portrayed by Peter O’Toole in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia.