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Abbot, Francis Ellingwood (06 November 1836–23 October 1903), Unitarian clergyman and philosopher, was born in Boston, the son of Joseph Hale Abbot and Fanny Ellingwood Larcom. The senior Abbot was a schoolmaster and amateur scientist who reflected the strict moralism of early nineteenth-century Unitarianism, while his wife displayed a strong poetical bent, and Abbot’s life and career were influenced by both. After being educated at the Boston Latin School he entered Harvard College and graduated in 1859. While there he underwent a strong religious conversion, at least partly through the influence of his college friend ...

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Abeel, David (12 June 1804–03 September 1846), missionary, was born at New Brunswick, New Jersey, the son of Captain David Abeel, a U.S. naval officer, and Jane Hassert. At age fifteen he applied to West Point Military Academy, but, doubtful of success in the competition for places, he withdrew and began the study of medicine. Feeling a deep sense of sin, he found faith that Christ was his savior and determined to enter the ministry....

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Ralph Abernathy Photograph by Warren K. Leffler, 1968. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (U.S. News and World Report Collection: LC-U9-19265).

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Abernathy, Ralph David (11 March 1926–17 April 1990), civil rights leader and minister, was born David Abernathy in Linden, Alabama, the son of William L. Abernathy and Louivery Valentine Bell, farmers. A sister’s favorite professor was the inspiration for the nickname “Ralph David,” and although Abernathy never made a legal change, the name remained with him from age twelve....

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Acrelius, Israel (04 December 1714–25 April 1800), Lutheran clergyman and author, was born in Öster-Âker, Sweden, the son of Johan Acrelius, a pastor, and Sara Gahm. At the age of twelve he entered the University of Uppsala, where he trained for the ministry and received his ordination in 1743. Acrelius then served as a domestic chaplain until 1745, when he became the pastor of Riala, Kulla, and Norra Ljusterö....

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Adams, William (25 January 1807–31 August 1880), minister and seminary president, was born in Colchester, Connecticut, the son of John Adams, an educator, and Elizabeth Ripley. Adams grew up in Andover, Massachusetts, where his father was the principal of Phillips Academy. He entered Yale College in 1824, where he received his A.B. in 1827. After college he returned home to study at Andover Theological Seminary and to assist his father in teaching. He completed his seminary training in 1830 and was ordained a Congregational minister. He began service as the pastor of a church in Brighton, Massachusetts, in 1831. He married Susan P. Magoun in July 1831. His wife’s illness forced him to resign from the Brighton pastorate in early 1834, but following her death in May, he accepted a ministerial call to the Broome Street (later Central) Presbyterian Church in New York City. Since the Congregational and Presbyterian denominations then enjoyed a spirit of mutual respect and cooperation, Adams switched denominations and was installed as pastor in November 1834. In August 1835 he married Martha B. Magoun, the sister of his first wife....

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Adamski, George (17 April 1891–23 April 1965), lecturer and writer on occult subjects and on UFOs during the 1950s' flying saucer enthusiasm, lecturer and writer on occult subjects and on UFOs during the 1950s’ flying saucer enthusiasm, was born in Poland. His parents (names unknown) brought him to the United States when he was one or two. The family settled in Dunkirk, New York; their life was hard, and Adamski received little formal education. He joined the Thirteenth U.S. Cavalry Regiment in 1913 as an enlisted man, serving on the Mexican border, and was honorably discharged in 1916. On 25 December 1917 he married Mary A. Shimbersky (d. 1954). After leaving the army, Adamski worked as a painter in Yellowstone National Park, in a flour mill in Portland, Oregon, and by 1921 was working in a cement factory in California. He continued to live in California, reportedly supporting himself and his wife through a variety of jobs, including by the 1930s teaching and lecturing on occult subjects....

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Adger, John Bailey (13 December 1810–03 January 1899), Presbyterian missionary and seminary professor, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of James Adger, a merchant and banker, and Sarah Elizabeth Ellison. His father was one of Charleston’s most affluent citizens. A graduate of Union College in Schenectady, New York (1828), and of Princeton Theological Seminary (1833), Adger married Elizabeth Keith Shewsbury of Charleston in June 1834. They would have eight children. Five weeks later the couple sailed to Smyrna, Asia Minor (now Izmir, Turkey), where Adger began his work as a missionary under the sponsorship of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Adger’s primary work was among the Armenians as a translator and manager of a printing press. During the late 1830s and early 1840s he translated the New Testament, the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and ...

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Adler, Cyrus (13 September 1863–07 April 1940), academic administrator and Jewish communal leader, was born in Van Buren, Arkansas, to Samuel Adler, a merchant and planter, and Sarah Sulzberger. At an early age Adler’s family moved to Philadelphia and then to New York, where his father died in 1867. The family returned to Philadelphia, where his mother’s brother, David Sulzberger, became head of the household and was a great influence on Adler’s upbringing. As a boy, Adler received an intensive education in Judaic subjects from a consortium of Philadelphia rabbis, headed by ...

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Andrew R. Heinze

Adler, Morris (30 March 1906–11 March 1966), rabbi, was born in Slutsk, Russia, the son of Joseph Adler, a and Jennie Resnick. Adler arrived in the United States with his mother and brother in 1913, joining his father who had settled in New York City two years earlier. A shy and bookish boy, Adler grew up on the Lower East Side, attending a Hebrew elementary school and the DeWitt Clinton High School. He studied at the Hebrew Teachers’ Institute, at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Yeshiva (later Yeshiva University), and at the City College of New York, from which he graduated in 1928. In 1929 he married Goldie Kadish; the couple had one daughter. By this time Adler had developed a fascination with the idea of helping troubled people, and his wife recalled that he probably would have studied psychiatry if he had not entered the rabbinate. After brief service officiating at an Orthodox synagogue in St. Joseph, Missouri, he decided to enter the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS). His father, who was the principal of an Orthodox school in Brooklyn, nevertheless supported his son’s decision to seek ordination within the Conservative branch of Judaism. Adler was ordained at the JTS in June 1935....

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Ahlstrom, Sydney Eckman (16 December 1919–03 July 1984), American religious historian, was born in Cokato, Minnesota, the son of Joseph T. Ahlstrom, a dentist, and Selma Eckman, a teacher. He received the B.A. from Gustavus Adolphus College in 1941. After serving as a captain in the army during World War II, he took an M.A. at the University of Minnesota in 1946 and the Ph.D. in American history at Harvard under Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., in 1952. In 1953 Ahlstrom married Nancy Ethel Alexander, an editor and the daughter of an Episcopal priest; together they had four children....

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Albright, Jacob (01 May 1759–18 May 1808), founder of the Evangelical Association, a denomination now constitutive of the United Methodist church, was born near Pottstown, Pennsylvania, in Montgomery County, the son of John Albright (German spelling Albrecht); his mother’s identity is unknown. The Albrecht family were German-speaking Lutherans, and Albright was baptized and confirmed. His schooling was rudimentary. He served in the Revolution and lost a brother to the American cause. In 1785 he married Catherine Cope. They settled in Lancaster County, where Albright established a brick and tile business, a trade that he pursued even after taking up the ministry and that earned him a reputation as the “Honest Tilemaker.”...

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A. Bronson Alcott. At age fifty-three. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-54729).

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Alcott, A. Bronson (29 November 1799–04 March 1888), Transcendentalist and reformer, was born Amos Bronson Alcox in Wolcott, Connecticut, the son of Joseph Chatfield Alcox and Anna Bronson, farmers. Farming the rocky Connecticut soil was not lucrative, and Alcott worked hard with his parents to help support seven younger siblings, thereby limiting his opportunities for a formal education. He attended the local district school until age ten, but thereafter his intellectual growth largely depended on his own reading and discussions with friends of a similar scholarly bent, the first being his cousin William Andrus Alcott. William later attended Yale College and established a career as a physician and popular author of health manuals, but continuing poverty prevented Bronson from obtaining a college education. At age fifteen he, like many of his young Connecticut contemporaries, began peddling small manufactured goods, first in Massachusetts and New York, then in Virginia and the Carolinas....

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Alemany, Joseph Sadoc (13 July 1814–14 April 1888), first Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco, was born in Vich, Spain, one of twelve children of Antonio Alemany y Font, a blacksmith, and Micaela de los Santos Cunill y Saborit. Alemany entered the diocesan seminary in 1824, and six years later he entered the Dominican order. In 1835, when the secularization laws closed the religious houses in Spain as a result of the anticlerical party in power, he went to Italy to complete his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1837 in Viterbo, Italy....

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Alexander, Archibald (17 April 1772–22 October 1851), theological scholar, was born in what is today Rockbridge County, Virginia, near Lexington, the son of William Alexander and Ann Reid, farmers. Alexander’s father was also a merchant. By local standards, the Alexanders enjoyed a solid affluence....

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Alexander, Joseph Addison (24 April 1809–28 January 1860), Presbyterian scholar and minister, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Janetta Waddel and Archibald Alexander, a Presbyterian minister. Alexander, who was always called Addison, grew up in Princeton, New Jersey, where in 1812 his father was called to be the first professor at Princeton Theological Seminary. At an early age, Alexander displayed the ability in languages that would make him a marvel throughout his life. By the time he began formal instruction with local tutors, his father had taught him the rudiments of Latin and Greek and also introduced him to Semitic languages. By the time he graduated from the College of New Jersey as a seventeen-year old in 1826, he had read the Koran in Arabic, made considerable progress in Persian and Syriac, and begun the wide-ranging study of contemporary European languages that he never stopped. It was his habit, begun before entering college and continuing to the week of his death, to read the Bible daily in at least six languages. Alexander’s nephew and biographer, Henry Carrington Alexander, concluded that he read, wrote, and spoke Latin, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese; that he read without helps and wrote Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Greek, Romaic, and Chaldean; that he could read Ethiopic, Dutch, Sanskrit, Syriac, Coptic, Danish, Flemish, and Norwegian; and that he knew enough Polish, Swedish, Malay, Hindustani, and Chinese to peruse works in these languages. The linguistic marvel was also a social recluse who never married and who, despite great interest in travel and world affairs, lived contentedly in Princeton as a student and professor his whole life. ...

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Alger, William Rounseville (28 December 1822–07 February 1905), author and religious leader, was born in Freetown, Massachusetts, the son of Catherine Sampson Rounseville and Nahum Alger, a teacher. Apprenticed at seven to a New Hampshire farmer, Alger worked at a variety of menial jobs during his hardscrabble boyhood. He earned a ministerial diploma from the Harvard Divinity School in 1847 and became pastor of All Souls’ Unitarian Church in Roxbury, Massachusetts. The same year, he married Ann Langdon Lodge; they had seven children. In 1855 Alger moved to the Bulfinch Street Church in Boston, where he gained a reputation as an orator. The next year, he published ...

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Ali, Noble Drew (08 January 1886–20 July 1929), religious leader, was born and raised in poverty in rural North Carolina. The names of his parents are not known, but he grew up with the name Timothy Drew. Although he had very little formal education, he studied the teachings of Islam and claimed to have traveled in the Middle East in the early part of the twentieth century. He also said that he had been given the title “Ali” during a visit to Mecca (in modern-day Saudi Arabia). He came to prominence in 1912 when he asked President ...

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Alison, Francis (1705–28 November 1779), Presbyterian minister and educator, was born in the parish of Leck, County Donegal, in the province of Ulster in Ireland, the son of Robert Alison, a weaver. His mother’s name is not known. Circumstantial evidence suggests that he was educated at one of the clandestine Presbyterian academies, probably that of Francis Hutcheson in Dublin. He received the bulk of his collegiate instruction before attending the University of Edinburgh, where he was awarded an M.A. in January 1733. He then studied divinity for two years, probably at the University of Glasgow, which awarded him a doctor of divinity degree in 1756, an honor that was usually extended only to an alumnus. Alison returned to Ireland and was licensed by the presbytery of Letterkenny in June 1735. He immediately sailed to Pennsylvania....