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Asch, Moses (02 December 1905–19 October 1986), sound engineer and record company executive, was born in Warsaw, Poland, the son of Sholem Asch, a world-renowned Yiddish novelist and playwright, and Matilda Spiro. Since Asch’s father acquired literary fame early in life, the family lived in material comfort. But they moved frequently, and Asch often was left in the care of others, notably his mother’s sister Basha, a Social Democrat and revolutionary. Additionally, although a prominent figure in international Jewish intellectual circles, Asch’s father was an iconoclast by nature, and as a consequence Asch was never bar mitzvahed. In 1912 the persecution of Jews in Poland rendered life intolerable for the Asches, and they moved to a villa in the suburbs of Paris. When in 1915 war’s violence engulfed France as well, the family resettled in New York City....

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Emile Berliner. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-110946).

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Berliner, Emile (20 May 1851–03 August 1929), inventor, was born Emil Berliner in the city of Hannover in the kingdom of Hannover (later a Prussian province), the son of Samuel Berliner, a merchant, and Sarah Fridman. His formal education ended in 1865 with four years at Samsonschule boarding school in Wolfenüttel, where he excelled in penmanship and drawing and evinced an early passion for classical music, a love that remained with him throughout his life. After graduation, his parents being hard pressed to provide for their large family, Berliner took employment in a print shop and then as clerk in a dry goods store. There, watching the handling of bolts of colored fabric, he took an interest in the weaving process and designed a weaving machine—the earliest evidence of his genius for invention....

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Clark, Frederic Horace (?1860–27 January 1917), and Anna Steiniger (19 April 1848– December 1891?), pianist, were born, respectively, in Liebeshain, Illinois, and Magdeburg or Potsdam, Prussia. Clark (whose literary pseudonym was Leopold St. Damian) claimed in Liszts Offenbarung (Liszt’s revelation [1907]) that he was born in Liebeshain, but the town, supposedly near Chicago, is not to be found on any historical map. Little is known about their parents except that Clark’s father was apparently a member of the governing board of the Northwestern Railways, Steiniger’s father was a captain in the Prussian army and an instructor at (later also in charge of) the Royal Artillery School, and her mother was the daughter of a Lutheran preacher....

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Doane, William Howard (03 February 1832–24 December 1915), industrialist, inventor, and composer and editor of gospel hymns, was born in Preston, Connecticut, the son of Joseph Doane and Frances Treat. His father was a partner in the cotton manufacturing firm of Doane and Treat, in nearby Voluntown. As a child, William displayed an early aptitude for music. He attended country singing schools with his brothers and sisters, and by age ten he was playing flute with the local church choir. He next mastered the violin and the double bass. In 1846 he enrolled at Woodstock Academy, a Congregationalist school, to complete his high school education. The teenage William served as choir director at Woodstock and attended Sunday meetings at the nearby Baptist meetinghouse, where in 1847 he made a full conversion, forsaking the Congregationalism of his father for his mother’s religion. In 1848, the year he graduated, William Doane composed his first musical piece, “The Grave beneath the Willow.”...

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Goldmark, Peter Carl (02 December 1906–07 December 1977), inventor, was born in Budapest, Hungary, the son of Alexander Goldmark, a hatmaker, and Emmy (maiden name unknown). In 1919 Goldmark’s family fled to Vienna, Austria, to escape the Communist revolution in Hungary. Goldmark studied for a year at the Berlin Technische Hochschule in Charlottenburg, Germany, and then transferred to the Physical Institute of Vienna, where he received his B.Sc. in 1930 and his Ph.D. in physics in 1931....

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Grainger, Percy Aldridge (08 July 1882–20 February 1961), composer, pianist, and musical experimenter, was born George Percy Grainger in Brighton, Australia, the son of John Harry Grainger, an English-born architect, engineer, and amateur painter and musician, and Rosa Annie Aldrich, an amateur musician. His father’s philandering and alcohol abuse and his mother’s harshly domineering manner probably contributed to the emergence of a number of unusual traits in their son as he grew into manhood. These included immature emotional ties to his mother that lasted until her suicide in 1922, masochism, rigid self-discipline that included strenuous exercise, pervasive freneticism, comically bizarre behavior, and virtually uninhibited flights of creative fantasy....

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Hammerstein, Oscar (08 May 1848–01 August 1919), inventor, operatic impresario, and theatrical manager, was born in Berlin, Germany (although his family lived in Stettin, Prussia), the son of Abraham Hammerstein, a well-to-do, German-Jewish merchant, and Bertha Valentine, from a musically oriented French Huguenot family. Hammerstein was educated by private tutors, but at age sixteen, after a severe and unwarranted punishment from his father, he ran away from home. He fled to England and then boarded a ship bound for America, paying for his passage by selling his violin. Arriving at New York, Hammerstein found employment filling rush orders for the U.S. Army at a Pearl Street cigar factory. Within two years he had mastered the process well enough to invent a machine that greatly improved cigar production. Patented in July 1865, the invention revolutionized cigar making but brought only about $6,000 to the young inventor. However, subsequent similar labor-saving inventions reportedly brought him more than $1 million. In 1884 he invested his first royalties in the ...

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Johnson, Eldridge Reeves (06 February 1867–14 November 1945), inventor and business leader, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of Asa S. Johnson, a carpenter, and Caroline Reeves. Johnson spent the first three years of his life in Dover, Delaware. After the death of his mother in 1870, his father sent him to live on a relative’s farm in Collins Landing, Delaware. He returned to Dover at the age of ten, when his father married Frances Smith....

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Mannes, Leopold Damrosch (26 December 1899–11 August 1964), pianist, educator, and scientist, was born in New York City, the son of David Mannes and Clara Damrosch Mannes, musicians. Mannes’s musical precociousness became apparent at age three. According to his mother, Eugène Ysaÿe called the youngster “the reincarnation of Mozart.” However, his parents carefully prevented his exploitation as a child prodigy. While he studied the piano in New York City with Elizabeth Quaile and Guy Maier, he also developed an avid interest in photography. In his last year of attending Riverdale Country School, he met Leopold Godowsky, Jr., a violinist and the son of the famous pianist, who also shared his keen interest in photography. Together they began physics experiments with color photography at the school and at the Mannes home. While attending Harvard College Mannes studied physics and music and continued his photography experiments....

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Warren, Josiah (c. 1798–14 April 1874), social reformer, inventor, musician, and America's first philosophical anarchist, was born in Boston. The names of his parents are not known, although accounts indicate that he was a distant relative to James Warren, husband of Mercy Otis Warren...