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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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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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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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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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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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Wright, Benjamin (10 October 1770–24 August 1842), civil engineer and surveyor, was born in Wethersfield, Connecticut, the son of Ebenezer Wright and Grace Butler, farmers. He displayed an interest in mathematics as a student, and in his mid-twenties he was sent to live with his uncle, Joseph Wright, in Plymouth, Connecticut. There he had access to surveying instruments and was able to study both surveying and law. In 1789 he and his family moved to Fort Stanwix (now Rome), New York. Soon Wright began work as a surveyor, setting boundaries and subdividing tracts for newly sold lands on the frontier. During 1792–1796 he plotted 500,000 acres in Oneida and Oswego counties and surveyed an additional 2 million acres in parts of northern New York. In 1798 he returned to Plymouth to marry Philomela Waterman. They settled in Fort Stanwix and eventually had nine children, eight of whom survived their parents. In 1830 the family relocated to New York City, where Philomela died in 1835....