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Adamski, George (17 April 1891–23 April 1965), lecturer and writer on occult subjects and on UFOs during the 1950s' flying saucer enthusiasm, lecturer and writer on occult subjects and on UFOs during the 1950s’ flying saucer enthusiasm, was born in Poland. His parents (names unknown) brought him to the United States when he was one or two. The family settled in Dunkirk, New York; their life was hard, and Adamski received little formal education. He joined the Thirteenth U.S. Cavalry Regiment in 1913 as an enlisted man, serving on the Mexican border, and was honorably discharged in 1916. On 25 December 1917 he married Mary A. Shimbersky (d. 1954). After leaving the army, Adamski worked as a painter in Yellowstone National Park, in a flour mill in Portland, Oregon, and by 1921 was working in a cement factory in California. He continued to live in California, reportedly supporting himself and his wife through a variety of jobs, including by the 1930s teaching and lecturing on occult subjects....

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Bachman, John (04 February 1790–24 February 1874), clergyman and naturalist, was born in Rhinebeck, New York, the son of Jacob Bachman, a farmer, and Eva (surname unknown but probably Shop). During his boyhood on a farm in Rensselaer County, New York, Bachman developed a keen interest in natural history and read many books on the subject. Around 1803, after tutoring by the local Lutheran minister, Anton T. Braun, Bachman entered college, evidently somewhere in Philadelphia, but a severe attack of tuberculosis compelled him to leave before he earned a degree. While recuperating, Bachman decided to enter the Lutheran ministry, and by 1810, after briefly studying theology with Braun and then with another minister in the local area, he had returned to Philadelphia for advanced training. During that time he also taught school. Upon the death of Braun in 1813, Bachman assumed his former mentor’s pastorate. Soon troubled again by tuberculosis, he decided to move to a warmer climate and accepted a call from St. John’s Lutheran Church, in Charleston, South Carolina, where he assumed his duties early in 1815....

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Banister, John (1650– May 1692), clergyman and naturalist, was born at Twigworth in Gloucestershire, England, the son of John Bannister, a commoner, occupation unknown; his mother’s name is also unknown. He was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he received his B.A. in 1671 and M.A. in 1674. He stayed on at Magdalen as a clerk and then chaplain until 1678. At Oxford, Banister trained for the clergy and studied natural history, compiling the “Herbarium siccum Jo. Banister,” an unpublished herbal with 374 folios of pressed specimens from Oxfordshire, parts of which appeared in Robert Plot’s ...

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Bressani, Francesco Giuseppe (06 May 1612–09 September 1672), priest, Jesuit missionary, and astronomer, was born in Rome, Italy. His parents’ names are unknown, and very little is known about his early life. Bressani entered the Society of Jesus as a novice on 15 August 1626. Over the next few years he requested repeatedly to be sent to Canada as a missionary. After studying in Rome and later in Claremont, France, he became an accomplished teacher of philosophy, literature, mathematics, and astronomy. In 1642 Bressani got his wish and was sent to Quebec, the seat of the Jesuit mission in New France. Finally, on 27 April 1644, having become sufficiently fluent in Huron to undertake missionary duties, he set off for Sainte-Marie in the Huron country, near the present Midland, Ontario, accompanied by six Christian Hurons and a French boy. Three days later, just east of the mouth of the Richelieu River, the group was captured by twenty-seven Mohawk warriors. Thus began Father Bressani’s ordeal....

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Curtis, Moses Ashley (11 May 1808–10 April 1872), botanist and Episcopal minister, was born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, the son of Jared Curtis, a teacher and prison chaplain, and Thankful Ashley, the daughter of revolutionary war general Moses Ashley. Young Curtis received his early education at home and at Stockbridge Academy, a private school where his father was preceptor. He first became interested in botany at the age of nine, when public lectures on the subject were given in his home town by ...

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Dorchester, Daniel (11 March 1827–13 March 1907), Methodist clergyman and statistician of American church history, was born in Duxbury, Massachusetts, the son of the Reverend Daniel Dorchester, a Methodist clergyman, and Mary Otis. He attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, for two years; in 1847 he entered the Methodist ministry. In April 1850 he married Mary Payson Davis; they had seven children. Mary died in 1874, and in 1875 Dorchester married Merial A. Whipple....

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Griffis, William Elliot (17 September 1843–05 February 1928), educator, clergyman, and author, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Captain John Limeburner Griffis, a coal dealer, and Anna Maria Hess, a pious young woman who for many years taught at an infant’s nursery school and at a Bible school for young women at the First Independent Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia....

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Gulick, John Thomas (13 March 1832–14 April 1923), missionary and naturalist, was born on Kauai Island, Hawaii, the son of Peter Johnson Gulick and Fanny Hinckley Thomas, Presbyterian missionaries. Primitive conditions made life difficult for the Gulick family. At the age of three Gulick contracted an inflammatory eye disease, and in an effort to protect his eyesight, he was often restricted to a darkened room until the age of five. For the rest of his life he suffered from impaired vision....

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Hill, Thomas (07 January 1818–21 November 1891), Unitarian clergyman, college president, and scientist, was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, the son of Thomas Hill, a judge, and Henrietta Barker. Hill’s father died when Hill was ten, leaving the family only a modest amount of money. In his early years, Hill apprenticed himself to a printer and to an apothecary, but he was not happy in either of these professions. With the financial help of his older brothers, Hill hired a tutor in Latin and Greek and was accepted into Harvard in 1839. In his senior year he published a pamphlet, ...

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Jones, Amanda Theodosia (19 October 1835–31 March 1914), inventor, poet, and Spiritualist, was born in East Bloomfield, New York, the daughter of Henry Jones, a master weaver, and Mary Alma Mott, a woman noted for her powers of memory and “splendid intellect.” Her family, though of modest means, considered books “more necessary than daily bread,” and Amanda, like her brothers and sisters, was reading the New Testament by age seven. In 1845 the family moved to Black Rock, New York, near Buffalo, where Amanda attended classes at the East Aurora (N.Y.) Academy (then the Normal School at East Aurora). She graduated by 1850 and at age fifteen began teaching at a country school, attending Buffalo High School during the summers. In 1854, exhausted from her rigorous schedule and encouraged by her father to become a poet, she abandoned teaching when her first poems were accepted by the ...

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Macelwane, James Bernard (28 September 1883–15 February 1956), geophysicist and Jesuit priest, was born near Port Clinton, Ohio, the son of Alexander Macelwane, a fisherman and farmer, and Catherine Agnes Carr. He obtained his early education on the benches of a rural schoolhouse, often interrupted by seasonal chores to assist the frugal fortunes of his family. In response to his desire to become a priest and missionary, his parents managed to enroll him at age eighteen in St. John’s College in Toledo. Two years later, in 1903, he entered the Society of Jesus, where he followed the usual course of studies in the humanities, science, and theology....

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Morris, John Gottlieb (14 November 1803–10 October 1895), Lutheran pastor, entomologist, and Baltimore cultural leader, was born in York, Pennsylvania, the son of John Samuel Gottlieb Morris, a physician, and Barbara Myers. Raised in a pious middle-class household, Gottlieb, following his father’s death in 1808, lived much of his life in unusually close relationship to his mother and his brother, Charles. After studying at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) and graduating from Dickinson College in 1823, he studied theology at Princeton Seminary and at the infant Gettysburg Seminary. He married Eliza Hay in 1827; they had three children....

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Muhlenberg, Henry (17 November 1753–23 May 1815), Lutheran clergyman and botanist, was born Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst Muhlenberg in Trappe, Pennsylvania, the son of Heinrich (Henry) Melchior Muhlenberg, a patriarch of the Lutheran church in America, and Anna Maria Weiser, the daughter of the Indian interpreter Conrad Weiser. Henry Muhlenberg, as he signed his letters in English and as he was known to his friends, attended school at his birthplace, later in Philadelphia when the family moved there in 1761, and when only nine was sent with his two older brothers to Halle, in Saxony, at whose orphanage his father had been a teacher. There Muhlenberg learned Latin, Greek, and Hebrew but had only a year at the university. Although the University of Halle had a famous botanical garden, his studies focused on theology and ecclesiastical history....

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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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Ruffner, William Henry (11 February 1824–24 November 1908), educational reformer, clergyman, and geologist, was born in Lexington, Virginia, the son of Henry Ruffner, an educator and clergyman, and Sarah Lyle. Ruffner spent much of his childhood on the campus of Washington College in Lexington, where his father was president and where he earned a bachelor’s degree (1842) and a master’s degree (1845). The elder Ruffner, a Presbyterian minister and an outspoken opponent of slavery, stimulated his son’s lifelong interest in religion and the education of African Americans....

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Schweinitz, Lewis David von (13 February 1780–08 February 1834), Moravian clergyman and botanist, was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the eldest son of Hans Christian Alexander von Schweinitz and Anna Dorothea Elisabeth de Watteville, who had come to Pennsylvania in 1770 from Saxony. The elder Schweinitz, who administered the property belonging to the church, was a baron from an ancient family in Silesia; his wife was the daughter of Baron (later Bishop) John de Watteville and granddaughter of ...

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Shoup, Francis Asbury (22 March 1834–04 September 1896), Confederate soldier, clergyman, and educator, was born in Laurel, Indiana, the son of George Grove Shoup, a merchant and politician, and Jane Conwell. He attended Asbury College (now DePauw University), before deciding on a military career. Given his family’s local prominence, he easily secured an appointment to West Point, from which he was graduated in 1855. As an artillery subaltern, he did garrison duty in Florida and South Carolina and served in the Seminole War of 1856–1858. During these formative tours of duty, Shoup forged close friendships with many southern-born soldiers and civilians, whose aristocratic pretensions he shared; apparently he came to consider himself a southerner at heart if not by birthright. When he resigned from the army in 1860, he returned to his native state but the following year settled in St. Augustine, Florida, where he practiced law....

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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....