J. K.(Joanne Kathleen) Rowling was born on 31 July 1965 in Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire. She studied at the University of Exeter and after graduating in 1986, began working for Amnesty International in London. This was when the concept of the Harry Potter novels first began.
Extracts from the accompanying The Greatest Scot television programme are being added to these biographical notes as the programme is broadcast between November 9 and 13. If you live outside the UK, you will not be able to see these, but you may enjoy other videos about some of the subjects which are available via links in the text. Here is J. K. Rowling accepting an award for outstanding achievement at the South Bank Show awards.
She travelled to Portugal in the early 1990s to teach English as a foreign language, but, after a brief marriage and the birth of her daughter, returned to the United Kingdom, and settled in Scotland’s capital.
The idea for her first book Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was thought up during a delayed train journey between Manchester and London.
However, it was in Edinburgh that the real magic happened and the novel was written. J.K spent many an hour in Nicholson’s Cafe and the nearby Elephant House putting together the adventures of her young hero. And Scotland permeates the novels. Not for nothing does the Hogwarts Express leave from Kings Cross, long the departure point for The Flyng Scotsman. And not for nothing did Hollywood choose to shoot large sections of the films in the western Highlands.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published in 1997 and was an immediate success for both children and adults alike. The exciting adventures and life-like characters brought the story to life as it followed the adventures of the unlikely hero Harry Potter.
The book received numerous awards, including the British Book Award. The sequel books, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007) were all best sellers.
Her books are now available in more than 200 countries and have been translated into 60 languages, re-inventing an enthusiasm for reading among children. The first book was transferred onto the big screen in 2001 and became one of the top-grossing movies in the world.
J.K.'s own real-life fairy tale story of juggling being a single mother with writing her first novel has become a famous tale in its own right in Edinburgh.
By 2008, she was the only billionaire author to reach the Forbes world rich list, and indeed the only British woman to feature in it, coming in 1,062nd place with $1 billion (£504million).
Since then she has donated £22 million to Comic Relief and also set up a charity called the Children’s High Level Group which promotes children’s rights, particularly those of disabled children in care homes in Eastern Europe. The proceeds from her book The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which consisted of a collection of fairy tales, sold 2.6 million copies in its first week and raised £4.2 million, went towards her charity.
Other works include the companion books Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages, both of which were published in 2001, with proceeds going to charity.
Rowling was appointed an OBE in March 2001. In 2009 she was named a chevalier of the French Legion of Honour. She also received The Edinburgh Award 2008 as a thank you from the capital’s council for raising the city’s profile.