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Borden, Gail (09 November 1801–11 January 1874), surveyor and inventor, was born in Norwich, New York, the son of Gail Borden, a pioneer and landowner, and Philadelphia Wheeler. The Bordens moved at least twice in the early 1800s, first to Kennedy’s Ferry, Kentucky, which became Covington soon after their arrival, and then to New London, Indiana, in 1816, where Borden learned surveying. Borden attended school in Indiana during 1816 and 1817....

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Brattle, Thomas (20 June 1658–18 May 1713), astronomer and architect, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Thomas Brattle, a merchant, and Elizabeth Tyng. The oldest son in one of Boston’s wealthiest families, Thomas early devoted himself to mathematics and science. Harvard College, where he earned an A.B. in 1676, was in disarray because of war and bad leadership during his undergraduate years, so Brattle pursued higher education largely on his own. He wrote to Britain’s royal astronomer, John Flamsteed, in 1703 and 1705 that no one was able to teach him much mathematics at Harvard, and he had relied on whatever books were available. Young Brattle also worked with and learned from scientifically inclined locals, such as the printer-mathematician John Foster and Dr. William Avery....

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Terry S. Reynolds and Barry C. James

Burt, William Austin (13 June 1792–18 August 1858), surveyor and inventor, was born in Petersham, Massachusetts, the son of Alvin Burt and Wealthy Austin, farmers. In 1802 Burt’s father, in financial difficulties, moved his family to Freehold, New York, and a year later to Broadalbin, New York. In 1810 the family moved again, this time to Wales Center, near Buffalo, New York. Because his labor was needed on the family’s farm, Burt’s formal education effectively ended at the age of nine, save for three-week stints at the ages of fourteen and sixteen. Burt, however, avidly pursued self-education, largely teaching himself the principles of astronomy, mathematics, and navigation and inventing a shorthand system for his own use. He also developed an aptitude for mechanics. By the age of twenty he was surveying lands in western New York and erecting flour and saw mills....

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Davidson, George (09 May 1825–02 December 1911), surveyor, geodesist, and astronomer, was born in Nottingham, England, the son of Thomas Davidson, and Janet Drummond. His family emigrated to Philadelphia when he was seven, and he attended its public schools. At Central High School, ...

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See Mason, Charles

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Andrew Ellicott. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98345).

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Ellicott, Andrew (24 January 1754–20 August 1820), mathematician, astronomer, and surveyor, was born in Buckingham, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the son of Joseph Ellicott, a millwright and clockmaker, and Judith Bleaker. The family belonged to the Society of Friends. After attending a Quaker elementary school in Solesbury, Ellicott was enrolled at the age of fifteen in ...

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Freeman, Thomas (?–08 November 1821), surveyor, civil engineer, and explorer, was born in Ireland and immigrated in 1784 to America. Nothing is known of his parents, early life, or formal training, but he apparently had a background in the sciences. He may have acquired employment at Plymouth, Massachusetts, as an inspector and surveyor. In 1794 ...

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R. Buckminster Fuller. Oil on canvas, c. 1981, by Ruth Munson. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Fuller, R. Buckminster (12 July 1895–01 July 1983), inventor, designer, and environmentalist, often referred to as “Bucky,” was born Richard Buckminster Fuller, Jr., in Milton, Massachusetts, the son of Richard Buckminster Fuller, an importer of leather and tea, who died in 1910, and Caroline Wolcott Andrews. He was the grandnephew of author and literary critic ...

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Geddes, James (22 July 1763–19 August 1838), civil engineer, judge, and surveyor, was born of Scottish parents (names unknown) near Carlisle, Pennsylvania. As a youth, Geddes studied mathematics with a tutor and studied languages independently. In 1793 he visited the area that later became New York state’s Onondaga County; he moved there the following year. He organized one of the state’s first salt works, helping to establish the salt industry, which would dominate the area’s economy for many years....

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Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-1881).

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Latrobe, Benjamin Henry (01 May 1764–03 September 1820), architect and civil engineer, was born in Fulneck, Yorkshire, England, the son of Benjamin Latrobe, an English Moravian clergyman, and Anna Margaretta Antes, an American born in Pennsylvania. From 1776 until 1783 Latrobe attended Moravian schools in Germany, initially the Paedagogium at Niesky and later the seminary at Barby in Saxony, where he received a broad liberal education in the arts and sciences. Latrobe seems to have traveled extensively in eastern Germany, perhaps visiting Vienna, during his school years. Architectural drawings signed by Latrobe for buildings erected in 1784 and 1785 for a Moravian community near Manchester, England, complement his student architectural drawings of existing Moravian communities. Latrobe held a position in the Stamp Office in London from 1785 to 1794; he received an additional appointment as surveyor of the London police offices in 1792....

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Leeds, John (18 May 1705– March 1790), public official, surveyor, and mathematician, was born at Bay Hundred, Talbot County, Maryland, the son of Edward Leeds and Ruth Ball. Leeds, apparently self-educated, developed an expertise in mathematics and an interest in astronomy. He married Rachel Harrison in a Quaker ceremony in 1726; the couple had three daughters. He resided in Talbot County for his entire life and held a variety of public offices, beginning in 1734 as a justice of the peace....

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Mason, Charles ( April 1728–25 October 1786), and Jeremiah Dixon (27 July 1733–22 January 1779), British astronomers and surveyors, were responsible for establishing the Mason-Dixon Line. Charles Mason was born at Wherr (now Weir) Farm, Oakridge Lynch, Gloucestershire, England, the son of Charles Mason, a baker and miller, and Anne Damsel Mason. He attended Tetbury Grammar School and received additional tutoring from mathematician Robert Stratford. He lived near the astronomer royal, Dr. James Bradley, and Reverend Nathaniel Bliss, Savilian Professor at Oxford. It was through these local connections that Mason's prowess as a mathematician came to the attention of Bradley, who in 1756 offered him the position of assistant (or “labourer”) at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, with a salary of £26. At about this time Mason married Rebekah (maiden name unknown), with whom he had two sons....

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Mills, Robert (12 August 1781–03 March 1855), architect, engineer, and writer, was born in Charles Town (Charleston), South Carolina, the son of William Mills, a tailor, and Ann Taylor. Raised a Presbyterian, he was educated privately in Charleston, possibly in part by his brother Thomas. Mills studied architecture with ...

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Pond, Irving Kane (01 May 1857–29 September 1939), architect and structural engineer, was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the eldest son of Elihu Bartlit Pond, a newspaper publisher and Michigan public school advocate, and Mary Barlow Allen. He was educated in Ann Arbor public schools, and he graduated from the University of Michigan in 1879 with a degree in civil engineering....

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Strickland, William (1788–06 April 1854), architect and engineer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Strickland, a carpenter, and Elizabeth Wilson. Strickland’s formal education began at the age of twelve, when he entered Mr. Lyttle’s school in Philadelphia, which he attended from 1800 to 1803. Later, owing to his father’s work with ...

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Taylor, Richard Cowling (18 January 1789–26 October 1851), mineral surveyor and practical geologist, was born at Hinton in Suffolk (not Banham Haugh, Norfolk), England, the son of Samuel Taylor, a farmer and Unitarian, and Jane Cowling. After schooling at Halesworth, Taylor began his English career in July 1805, when he was articled to Edward Webb of Stow on the Wold, Gloucestershire. Here he was taught the elements of land surveying and draftsmanship, just as Webb’s most famous pupil, the geologist William Smith, had been. Surveying involved the use of pantagraphs, theodolites, scales, compasses, and engineering to determine the application of the power of water and the planning of machinery. Taylor’s connection with Webb then led to his becoming “an admiring pupil” of Smith himself, that “extraordinary man and original genius.” In 1811 they worked together in the Bristol Coal Field and the Kidwelly harbor project in South Wales....

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Willard, Solomon (26 June 1783–27 February 1861), sculptor, architect, inventor, and educator, was born in Petersham, Massachusetts, the son of William Willard, a carpenter and joiner, and Katherine Wilder. After completing an apprenticeship with his father, Willard left for Boston in 1804 to find work as a carpenter. There he may have studied architectural drawing with ...