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Babcock, Ernest Brown (10 July 1877–08 December 1954), geneticist, was born in Edgerton, Wisconsin, the son of Emilius Welcome Babcock and Mary Eliza Brown. He developed an early interest in botany by working in his mother’s conservatory and his own flower garden. He attended Lawrence College in Appleton, Wisconsin, for one year (1895) and while there became intrigued by the wild plants that flourished along the banks of the Fox River. When his parents moved to California after his freshman year, he accompanied them and attended the state normal school in Los Angeles for two years. In 1898 he took a teaching position in a grammar school in order to earn enough money to complete his education and in 1901 matriculated at the University of California’s College of Agriculture with the intention of becoming a plant breeder. Unfortunately, the school offered no such course of study, and so he supplemented the standard agriculture curriculum with as many botany courses as he could take. A series of lectures presented by the visiting Hugo De Vries, the principal promoter of Gregor Mendel’s work with plant heredity, piqued his interest in the evolution of plants. He received a B.S. in 1906....

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George Wells Beadle. Courtesy of the Clendening History of Medicine Library, University of Kansas Medical Center.

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Beadle, George Wells (22 October 1903–09 June 1989), geneticist and university president, was the son of Hattie Albro and Chauncey Elmer Beadle, farmers near Wahoo, Nebraska. He was raised on a small farm that was noteworthy for its sound agricultural practices. After the early death of his mother and the accidental death of an older brother, it was assumed that he would take over the farm. Instead, thanks to the beneficent influence of Bess MacDonald, a high school teacher, he went to college. Further encouraged by the mentoring of Franklin D. Keim, an agronomy professor at the Nebraska College of Agriculture, Beadle entered graduate school at Cornell University in 1927 to pursue a career in biology....

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Bridges, Calvin Blackman (11 January 1889–27 December 1938), geneticist, was born in Schuyler Falls, New York, the only child of Leonard Bridges and Charlotte Amelia Blackman. His mother died when he was only two, and his father when he was three, leaving young Bridges to be raised by his paternal grandmother on a small farm near Plattsburgh, New York. Because he worked at various jobs through his early years, Bridges did not finish high school until 1909, when he was twenty. Nevertheless, he did well enough to win scholarships to both Cornell and Columbia Universities. He entered Columbia and graduated in three years (B.S., 1912). During his second and third years (1910–1912) he began work on the genetics of the fruit fly, ...

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Clausen, Jens Christen (11 March 1891–22 November 1969), botanist, geneticist, and ecologist, was born in Eskilstrup, Denmark, the son of Christen Augustinus Clausen and Christine Christensen, farmers and house builders. Clausen was educated at home until he was eight years old, when he enrolled in a country school and then a private secondary school. When he was ten, his younger brother died, leaving Clausen an only child. At the age of fourteen he took on the responsibility of managing the family farm and also began to read widely in the sciences, showing a special interest in the new field of genetics. Over the next eight years he continued to educate himself in the basic sciences, and with the aid of a supportive schoolteacher, he studied Mendelian genetics and Darwinian evolutionary theory. He also gained linguistic proficiency in German and English....

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Clausen, Roy Elwood (21 August 1891–21 August 1956), geneticist, was born in Randall, Iowa, the son of Jens Clausen and Mathilda Christianson, farmers. In 1900 his family moved to Newkirk, Oklahoma, where he completed his secondary education. He studied animal husbandry at the Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College and received a B.S. in agriculture in 1910. After graduation, he turned down the opportunity to run the family farm and instead entered the University of California at Berkeley, where he studied plant pathology. He received a second B.S. in agriculture in 1912 and a Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1914....

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Davenport, Charles Benedict (01 June 1866–18 February 1944), geneticist, eugenicist, and science administrator, was born at his family’s farm, “Davenport Ridge,” near Stamford, Connecticut, where four generations of Davenports had lived, the son of Amzi Benedict Davenport, a real estate agent, and his second wife, Jane Joralemon Dimon. Because of the nature of his father’s business, the family spent winters in Brooklyn. Davenport’s mother, a religious skeptic and avid naturalist, helped cultivate these characteristics in her son. His father’s stern and uncompromising Protestantism was also a strong influence, and young Charles was tutored at home where he could learn the values of discipline and hard work and also serve as janitor and errand boy for his father’s business. Davenport developed a quiet, even taciturn demeanor, but from an early age he communicated voluminously in journals and diaries....

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East, Edward Murray (04 October 1879–09 November 1938), geneticist, was born in Du Quoin, Illinois, the son of William Harvey East, an engineer, and Sarah Granger Woodruff. The given names “Isaac Newton” and “William Harvey” appeared in several generations on East’s father’s side, which reflected the family’s scientific orientation and its belief that Newton was an ancestor. East graduated from high school at fifteen and worked for two years in a machine shop. In 1897 he enrolled in the Case School of Applied Science in Cleveland, transferring a year later to the University of Illinois....

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Goldschmidt, Richard Benedict (12 April 1878–24 April 1958), geneticist, was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, the son of Solomon Goldschmidt, a coffee and confectionery shopkeeper and wine merchant, and Emma Flürscheim, who assisted with the family business. After attending the Gymnasium in Frankfurt, Goldschmidt studied medicine at Heidelberg University, where he was influenced by the noted zoologist Otto Bütschli, the comparative anatomist Carl Gegenbaur, and the biochemist Albrecht Kossel. In 1898 he transferred to the University of Munich, where he abandoned medicine for zoology, studying under Richard Hertwig. Returning to Heidelberg in 1899, Goldschmidt completed a dissertation describing egg maturation, fertilization, and early development of the trematode ...

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Lerner, I. Michael (14 May 1910–12 June 1977), geneticist, was born Israel Michael Lerner in Harbin, Manchuria, the son of Russian parents, Michael Lerner, a merchant, and Cecilia Sudja. During the Russian revolution in 1917, waves of émigrés, including university professors, musicians, and actors, sought work in Harbin. As a result, Lerner was exposed to specialized subjects, such as political economy, philosophy, literary criticism, and history, from a particularly early age and developed a deep and lasting interest and love for the performing arts, especially opera. Lerner attended the Harbin Public Commercial School from 1922 to his graduation in 1927. Deciding to immigrate to Canada for his higher education, he landed in Vancouver, British Columbia, without a passport, visa, or funds....

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Little, Clarence Cook (06 October 1888–22 December 1971), scientist and educator, was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, the son of James Lovell Little, a Boston merchant, and Mary Robbins Revere. Little enrolled at Harvard University in 1906 to study zoology. He obtained a B.A. in 1910 with Phi Beta Kappa honors, and took a masters degree (M.S., 1912) and a doctorate (Sc.D., 1914) in the same subject under ...

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Luria, Salvador Edward (13 August 1912–06 February 1991), geneticist, was born in Turin, Italy, the son of David Luria, an accountant and printer, and Ester Salvadore. After receiving his early education in local schools in Turin, Luria enrolled in the medical school of the University of Turin in 1929. At the Turin Medical School, while studying anatomy under Giuseppi Live, Luria developed a technical facility for cultivating living cells. He was a medical officer in the Italian army for three years after receiving his medical degree summa cum laude in 1935. While in the army, Luria began studying physics and mathematics, and upon discharge from the army he continued this interest by studying medical physics and radiology for a time at the Curie laboratory at the Radium Institute in Paris....

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Lush, Jay Laurence (03 January 1896–02 May 1982), animal scientist and geneticist, was born in Shambaugh, Iowa, the son of farmers (names unknown). He studied animal husbandry at Kansas State Agricultural College (now Kansas State University), receiving a B.S. in 1916 and an M.S. in 1918, with a year off in between to teach high school. After brief stints in the U.S. military and at another Kansas high school, he entered the University of Wisconsin in 1919 to continue graduate study in genetics. After earning a Ph.D. in 1922, he researched animal husbandry at the Texas Experiment Station for eight years, until he joined the faculty of Iowa State College (now University) in 1930. He married Adaline Lincoln, a second cousin once removed of ...

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Mangelsdorf, Paul Christoph (20 July 1899–22 July 1989), botanist, geneticist, and agronomist, was born in Atchison, Kansas, the son of August Mangelsdorf, a commercial seed merchant, and Marie Brune. Mangelsdorf later recalled that he had developed an intense curiosity about corn ( Zea mays...

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McClintock, Barbara (16 June 1902–02 September 1992), geneticist, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the daughter of Thomas Henry McClintock, a physician, and Sara Handy. McClintock spent most of her early years in semirural Brooklyn, New York. As a child she was a tomboy, demonstrating early in her play the traits of independence and total absorption that were to characterize her later work in genetics....

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Marianne Fedunkiw Stevens

Muller, Hermann Joseph (21 December 1890–05 April 1967), geneticist, was born in New York City, the son of Hermann Joseph Muller, a manufacturer of objects of art in metal, and Frances M. Lyons. Muller attended Morris High School in the Bronx; he was interested in science and helped organize a science club in high school and a biology club in college. He went on to Columbia University, obtaining his bachelor’s degree in zoology in 1910 and his master’s degree in physiology a year later. While at Columbia, Muller studied with the Nobel Prize–winning geneticist ...

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Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis

Sax, Karl (02 November 1892–08 October 1973), botanist and geneticist, was born in Spokane, Washington, the son of William L. Sax and Minnie A. Morgan, pioneer farmers. Sax’s father was a well-known local figure who involved himself in politics, business, and education and became mayor of Colville, Washington; his mother was an artist with a lifelong interest in botany. Sax’s interest in plants, genetics, and agriculture developed early as a result of family influence and his fondness for the Washington environment, a rich agricultural state. Following schooling in Colville, he entered Washington State College in 1912 to major in agriculture. While there, he came under the influence of wheat breeder Edward Gaines, who encouraged him to pursue graduate study. He also met and married his teacher of cytology, Dr. Hally Jolivette, in 1915; they would have three sons. In 1916 she accepted an offer of an instructorship at Wellesley College. Having obtained a B.S. in agriculture, Sax followed her to the East Coast. He enrolled in the doctoral program at Harvard’s Bussey Institution Graduate School of Applied Biology, where he worked with the noted quantitative agricultural geneticist ...

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Schultz, Jack (07 May 1904–29 April 1971), geneticist, was born in Astoria, New York, the son of Morris Schultz, a merchant, and Bessie Krones. Raised on Long Island, Schultz attended the public schools in Astoria and received religious training in the community Jewish schools. Despite some financial problems, his father managed to send him and his brothers to college as well as finance some of Schultz’s graduate studies. At Columbia University during his first two years, Schultz enjoyed New York life: the theater, art, literature, and music. It was not until his junior year that Schultz became interested in planning his career. His decision to study medicine was diverted by his spending of his tuition money to purchase books and concert tickets. To improve his financial condition, he answered a bulletin board advertisement seeking someone to do menial work in the laboratory of ...

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Shull, George Harrison (15 April 1874–29 September 1954), botanist and geneticist, was born on a farm near North Hampton, Ohio, the son of Harrison Shull and Catherine Ryman, farmers. A devout member of the Old German Baptist Church, Shull’s father was also an unpaid lay minister; his mother, an avid reader, eventually became an accomplished horticulturist after her children were raised. Shull’s formal education was sparse. It is estimated that he only spent 46.5 months in formal school before he entered college and never spent a full year in school at a time. Despite these trying circumstances, George and his seven siblings were educated with the help of their mother, who encouraged study. Stimulated by a rural background that provided him proximity to both wild and agricultural plants, Shull’s interest in plants was apparent by the age of sixteen....

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Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis

Stadler, Lewis John (06 July 1896–12 May 1954), geneticist, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Henry Louis Stadler, a banker, and Josephine Ehrman. The family strongly encouraged intellectual and cultural activities, but young Stadler had a lackluster academic record. He completed his primary and secondary school education in St. Louis, becoming interested in agriculture as a result of two summer vacations spent on farms. In 1913 he began to study agriculture at the University of Missouri, but he transferred to the University of Florida in 1915 when he decided to engage in citrus research. He received his B.S. in agriculture in 1917 and returned to the University of Missouri to begin graduate work in the department of field crops. Having earned an A.M. in 1918, Stadler then enlisted in the Field Artillery of the U.S. Army, where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. The war ended before he was able to take overseas duty. Stadler returned to Missouri but left in 1919 to study biometry with H. H. Love and ...