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Buick, David Dunbar (17 September 1854–06 March 1929), inventor and businessman, was born in Arbroath, Scotland, the son of Alexander Buick and Jane Roger. The family emigrated from Scotland to Detroit, Michigan, two years after Buick was born; his father died three years later. Buick attended elementary school, but the poverty of his single-parent family forced him to find full-time employment when he was just eleven years old. By the time he was fifteen, he had delivered newspapers, worked on a farm, and served as a machinist’s apprentice at the James Flower & Brothers Machine Shop (the same firm where ...

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Bushnell, David (30 August 1740–1826), inventor, was born in Saybrook, Connecticut, the son of Nehemiah Bushnell and Sarah Ingham, farmers. By the time Bushnell entered Yale, he had developed concepts for both a submarine and an underwater explosive. At college, he experimented with gunpowder and proved that it could explode underwater. During the summer of 1775, the year he graduated, the thirteen colonies were in the throes of revolt against Great Britain, and Bushnell felt that an offensive weapon would be a useful tool against the Royal Navy in the ensuing conflict. With that in mind, he constructed his submarine in Saybrook during the spring and summer of 1775. Although he was secretive about his work, several colonial notables knew of it, including ...

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Cass, George Washington (12 March 1810–21 March 1888), engineer and business leader, was born near Dresden, Muskingum County, Ohio, the son of George W. Cass and Sophia Lord, farmers.

Cass received a good education. His parents sent him to Detroit at the age of fourteen, and from 1824 to 1827 he attended the highly regarded Detroit Academy while living with his uncle, ...

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Champion, Albert (02 April 1878–27 October 1927), inventor and businessman, was born in Paris, France, the son of Alexander Champion. Available sources reveal no other information about his family or his early life. No doubt he received an early education in Paris. When he was about twelve years old, he obtained employment as an errand boy for a bicycle manufacturer....

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Colley, Russell (22 July 1897–04 February 1996), inventor, designer, and aeronautical engineer, was born Russell Sidney Colley in Stoneham, Mass., the son of Frank S. Colley, a druggist, and Florence Vesta Hopkins Colley. Russell spent several summers in high school serving as an apprentice electrician. After he revealed his desire to become a women's fashion designer, his art teacher directed him out of her freehand drawing class into what she considered more appropriate, a mechanical drawing class. He was accepted into Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, Massachusetts, and in 1918 completed the two-year machine construction and tool design course....

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Glenn H. Curtiss. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-106325).

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Curtiss, Glenn Hammond (21 May 1878–23 July 1930), aeronautical inventor and manufacturer, was born in Hammondsport, New York, the son of Frank R. Curtiss, the owner of a harness shop, and Lua Andrews. After the death of his father in 1883, Curtiss was raised by his mother and his strong-willed grandmother Ruth Curtiss in the bucolic Finger Lake region of western New York. After graduating from the eighth grade in 1892, Curtiss secured a job stenciling numbers on the backing of photographic film for the Eastman Dry Plant and Film Company (later Eastman Kodak Company) of Rochester. The next year he purchased a bicycle and found employment as a messenger for Western Union....

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Duryea, Charles Edgar (15 December 1861–28 September 1938), inventor and manufacturer of bicycles and automobiles, was born near Canton, Fulton County, Illinois, the son of George Washington Duryea and Louisa Melvina Turner, farmers. From Canton the family moved successively to farms in Woodford and Stark counties, Illinois, where Duryea grew up with a bent toward mechanics. At the age of eighteen his first inventive effort was a bicycle....

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Duryea, Frank (08 October 1869–15 February 1967), inventor and manufacturer of automobiles, was born James Frank Duryea near Washburn, Illinois, the son of George Washington Duryea and Louisa Melvina Turner, farmers. From Washburn the family moved to a farm near Wyoming, Illinois, where Frank grew up and graduated from Wyoming High School. Frank Duryea’s career was linked closely with that of his brother ...

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Ericsson, John (31 July 1803–08 March 1889), inventor and engineer, was born in Langbanshyttan, province of Wermland, Sweden, the son of Olof Ericsson, a mine proprietor and inspector, and Brita Sophia Yngstrom. His earliest education was instruction by his parents and private tutors. John often spent his days drawing and building models of the machinery in his father’s mine. His father was well educated, but John’s strong character traits were attributed to the influence of his mother. Sweden’s war with Russia ruined John’s father financially, but he was able to secure a position as an inspector on a canal project and to obtain appointments for his two sons as cadets in the Corps of Mechanical Engineers. Thus at age thirteen John began his first formal education, and his natural aptitudes for mechanical drawing and solving engineering problems were encouraged and developed....