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Babcock, Stephen Moulton (22 October 1843–01 July 1931), agricultural chemist, was born near Bridgewater, New York, the son of Pelig Brown Babcock and Cornelia Scott, farmers. Babcock worked from childhood on the family farm. His inquisitive mind attracted him to science, and he enrolled in Tufts College, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in 1866. He began engineering studies at Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute but returned to the farm after the death of his father. In 1872 he was a student of chemistry at Cornell University and in 1875 an instructor of chemistry. In 1877 he began graduate studies at the University of Göttingen. After receiving a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1879, he resumed his Cornell instructorship. In 1882 he became chief chemist at the newly founded New York Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York. During his six years there he devised several methods of analysis for food materials....

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Liberty Hyde Bailey Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-12222).

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Bailey, Liberty Hyde (15 March 1858–25 December 1954), horticulturist and botanist, was born near South Haven, in Van Buren County, Michigan, the son of Liberty Hyde Bailey, Sr., a farmer and fruit grower, and Sarah Harrison. From childhood he was interested in nature, observing and making collections of plants and animals in the fields near his home. During his school days he came upon copies of Charles Darwin’s ...

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Banneker, Benjamin (09 November 1731–19 October 1806), farmer and astronomer, was born near the Patapsco River in Baltimore County in what became the community of Oella, Maryland, the son of Robert, a freed slave, and Mary Banneky, a daughter of a freed slave named Bannka and Molly Welsh, a freed English indentured servant who had been transported to Maryland. Banneker was taught by his white grandmother to read and write from a Bible. He had no formal education other than a brief attendance at a Quaker one-room school during winter months. He was a voracious reader, informing himself in his spare time in literature, history, religion, and mathematics with whatever books he could borrow. From an early age he demonstrated a talent for mathematics and for creating and solving mathematical puzzles. With his three sisters he grew up on his father’s tobacco farm, and for the rest of his life Banneker continued to live in a log house built by his father....

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Phillip Drennon Thomas

Bartram, John (23 March 1699–22 September 1777), botanist, was born in Marple, Pennsylvania, the son of William Bartram and Elizabeth Hunt, farmers. His parents were members of the Society of Friends, and, although raised in this tradition, by 1757 Bartram had departed from Quaker teachings by opposing the pacifism of the society and by denying the divinity of Jesus. Excluded in that year from fellowship with the local community of Friends, he nevertheless continued to attend their Sunday services. After the death of his mother in 1701 and his father’s immigration to North Carolina with a new wife around 1709, young Bartram remained in Pennsylvania and was raised by his grandmother and an uncle, Isaac Bartram. His formal education was limited; he was handicapped throughout his career as a naturalist by his poor grammar and inadequate knowledge of Latin....

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Bartram, William (09 April 1739–22 July 1823), naturalist, artist, and explorer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Bartram, a naturalist, and Ann Mendenhall. Unlike his father, who was essentially self-taught, William Bartram benefited from a rigorous formal education at the Philadelphia Academy, where he studied history, Latin, French, and the classics. From an early age, however, his overriding interest was in nature. He spent much of his time as a young man traveling with his father to collect and draw plants and other specimens for John Bartram’s overseas patrons and scientific correspondents....

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Borlaug, Norman Ernest (25 March 1914–12 September 2009), biologist, agronomist, and humanitarian, was born in Saude, Iowa, to grandchildren of Norwegian immigrants. He grew up on his family’s working farm, where he learned to fish, hunt, raise corn and oats, and tend livestock. His grandfather encouraged him to pursue education, so Norman left the family farm in 1933 to enroll in the University of Minnesota. His college years coincided with the depths of the Great Depression. To earn money, Borlaug left school in 1935 and found employment with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). In the CCC he saw the effect of starvation first hand, and this experience affected him deeply. Long before “food security” became a common phrase, Borlaug knew its significance. In 1937 he graduated with a B.S. in forestry from the College of Agriculture and secured a job with the United States Forest Service. In 1938 he married former classmate Margaret Gibson. The couple had three children....

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George Washington Carver Photograph by Arthur Rothstein, 1942. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USW3- 000165-D).

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Carver, George Washington (1864–05 January 1943), African-American scientist and educator, was born in Diamond (formerly Diamond Grove), Missouri, the son of Mary Carver, who was the slave of Moses and Susan Carver. His father was said to have been a slave on a neighboring farm who was accidently killed before Carver’s birth. His mother was apparently kidnapped by slave raiders while he was very young, and he and his older brother were raised by the Carvers on their small farm....

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Crockett, James Underwood (09 October 1915–11 July 1979), gardener and writer, was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, the son of Earle Royce Crockett and Inez Underwood Crockett. After attending area public schools, he studied horticulture briefly at the University of Massachusetts. By 1935 he had moved to Long Island, New York, where he became an employee of Oak Park Nurseries, in East Patchogue. Four years later he moved again, this time to Texas, and became the superintendent of the Japanese Nursery Company in Houston. During his two years in Texas he studied horticulture part time at the state Agricultural and Mechanical College, now known as Texas A&M University....

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Dabney, Charles William (19 June 1855–15 June 1945), educator, college president, and agrichemist, was born in Hampden-Sydney, Virginia, the son of Robert Louis Dabney, a Presbyterian theologian, and Margaretta Lavinia Morrison. His mother and father were both from prominent southern families, and his father served as chaplain to ...

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Davenport, Eugene (20 June 1856–31 March 1941), agricultural educator, was born near Woodland, Michigan, the son of George Martin Davenport and Esther Sutton, farmers. His parents were Universalists. He attended local schools, taught school briefly, and graduated from Michigan Agricultural College (later Michigan State University) with a B.S. in 1878. For ten years he helped his father operate the family farm. In 1881 he married Emma Jane Coats; they had one child who survived infancy....

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Robert F. Erickson

Douglas, David (25 June 1799–12 July 1834), botanist, was born in Scone, Perthshire, Scotland, the son of John Douglas, a stonemason, and Jean Drummond. He spent a few years in the parish schools and was then apprenticed, at the age of eleven, at the earl of Mansfield’s gardens. Through reading, field studies, and practical gardening, Douglas developed an enthusiasm for natural history, especially botany, which would be the single passion of his life. In 1820 he obtained a post at the botanical garden in Glasgow, and there met the famous botanist William Jackson Hooker. Hooker became his mentor and then his close friend, and the two went on many botanizing expeditions in the Scottish Highlands and Islands....

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Elliott, Stephen (11 November 1771–28 March 1830), planter and botanist, was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, the son of William Elliott and Mary Barnwell. Orphaned as a child, he grew up in Beaufort in the home of his brother William. He graduated from Yale College on 14 September 1791, being elected to Phi Beta Kappa and selected to deliver an oration. He spoke “On the Supposed Degeneracy of Animated Nature in America,” challenging some ideas of Georges de Buffon, a French naturalist....

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Elliott, William (27 April 1788–03 February 1863), planter, writer, and sportsman, was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, the son of William Elliott, a planter, and Phoebe Waight. Elliott was educated in the schools at Beaufort and at Beaufort College. He entered the sophomore class at Harvard in 1806. He withdrew from Harvard in 1808 because of ill health; he was later awarded a B.A. in 1810 and an A.M. in 1815 from the school. After leaving Harvard, he returned to Beaufort and devoted himself to the management of the family rice and cotton plantations. In 1817 Elliott married Ann Hutchinson Smith; they had nine children....

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Gouverneur Emerson. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B06655).

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Emerson, Gouverneur (04 August 1795–02 July 1874), physician, statistician, and agriculturalist, was born near Dover, Delaware, the son of Jonathan Emerson and Ann Bell, well-to-do farmers. After education at the Quaker Westtown School in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and the classical school of the Reverend Stephen Sykes in Dover, Emerson began the study of medicine in 1811 with Sykes’s physician brother James, also of Dover, and then entered the School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania in 1813. He was graduated in 1816, offering a dissertation on hereditary diseases. For two years Emerson practiced in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania; then in 1818 he went to Canton, China, as surgeon on a merchant vessel. He opened his practice in Philadelphia on 4 August 1820....

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Fairchild, David Grandison (07 April 1869–06 August 1954), agricultural explorer and botanist, was born in Lansing, Michigan, the son of George Thompson Fairchild, a college professor and administrator, and Charlotte Pearl Halsted. Fairchild attended Kansas State College of Agriculture and graduated in 1888 with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture. He began his graduate work at Iowa State College (later Iowa State University), studying plant pathology under the guidance of his uncle, Byron D. Halsted. When Halsted accepted a professorship at Rutgers University in New Jersey, Fairchild moved east to continue his graduate studies....

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George William Featherstonhaugh. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-114323).

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Featherstonhaugh, George William (09 April 1780–27 September 1866), gentleman-farmer, scientist, and diplomat, was born in London, England, the son of George Featherstonhaugh, a manufacturer, and Dorothy Simpson, a shopkeeper. Educated at Stepney House, a private school near Scarborough, Featherstonhaugh spent his youth traveling in Europe and until 1804 was the commercial agent on the Continent for several British import-export firms. After two years working in the London office of Thomas Dickason & Co., Featherstonhaugh moved in 1806 to New York City, where he met Sarah Duane, daughter of a former mayor of New York and owner of a large estate near Schenectady. After their marriage in November 1808, they moved to a country mansion on the estate—now named “Featherston Park”—at Duanesburg, where Featherstonhaugh farmed 2,000 acres, concentrating on sheep and cattle breeding. He and Duane had two sons and two daughters....