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Niles, Nathaniel (03 April 1741–31 October 1828), politician, theologian, and inventor, was born in South Kingston, Rhode Island, the son of Samuel Niles and Sarah Niles (occupations unknown). Plagued by poor health as a youth, Nathaniel spent one year at Harvard before illness forced him to drop out of school. When his health returned, he entered the College of New Jersey and graduated in 1766. Following graduation Niles made a start at several careers, teaching school in New York City, studying medicine and law, and finally taking up theology under the tutelage of ...

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Joseph Priestley. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-104753).

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Priestley, Joseph (13 March 1733–06 February 1804), theologian, scientist, and educator, was born in the parish of Birstal, West Riding, Yorkshire, England, the son of Jonas Priestley, a cloth-dresser, and Mary Swift. After his mother’s death in childbirth in 1739, Priestley was adopted in 1742 by his father’s eldest sister, Sarah Keighley. Early inclined to books, he mastered Latin and the elements of Greek, probably in Batley grammar school, and studied Hebrew with John Kirkby, a Congregationalist minister. Priestley acquiesced to Keighley’s wish that he prepare for the Presbyterian ministry, but poor health stood in the way of his education. An uncle offered him a mercantile career in Lisbon, which led Priestley to teach himself French, German, and Italian, and to take instruction in mathematics. In 1751 he returned to the original plan, enrolling in the new dissenters’ academy just opened in Daventry by Caleb Ashworth, who imposed no religious tests on the students. At Daventry, Priestley embraced the Arian view that Jesus was the highest of created beings rather than of the same substance as God and maintained a qualified belief in the doctrine of the Atonement, which he abandoned later as supported neither by scripture nor by reason. Priestley became assistant minister to a congregation in Needham Market, Suffolk, in 1755. When in a course of lectures it became clear that he was no Trinitarian, the congregation fell away. Priestley fared better in 1758, becoming minister at Nantwich in Cheshire to an Independent congregation that included many Scottish commercial travelers....

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Talmage, James Edward (21 September 1862–27 July 1933), geologist and theologian, was born in Hungerford, Berkshire County, England, the son of James Joyce Talmage and Susannah Preater. At age ten Talmage converted to Mormonism along with the rest of his family. Baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed the Mormons) on 15 June 1873 in Hungerford, Talmage’s religious beliefs would permeate his life and directly influence his career....

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Wright, George Frederick (22 January 1835–20 April 1921), theologian and geologist, was born in Whitehall, New York, the son of Walter Wright and Mary Peabody Colburn, farmers. He was reared in a deeply religious home in rural New York. His early education was in a country school; he later attended Castleton Academy in Vermont. His father became attracted to the thought of ...