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Clarke, John Mason (15 April 1857–29 May 1925), paleontologist, was born in Canandaigua, New York, the son of Noah Turner Clarke, a principal of Canandaigua Academy, and Laura Mason Merrill. Encouraged by his father, whose teaching included the sciences, Clarke began when he was young to collect fossil specimens of Devonian age invertebrates in an area where they were common; he later said that “the shale cliffs along the shore and the ravines of the lake teemed with fossils.”...

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Cope, Edward Drinker (28 July 1840–12 April 1897), biologist and paleontologist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Alfred Cope, a businessman and farmer, and Hannah Edge. The Copes were a wealthy Quaker, mercantile family, and for forty years his father’s fortune enabled Cope to pursue independently his studies in natural history. Cope was a precocious child and early demonstrated an interest in nature. His education included private training and one year at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1859 he worked with ...

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Cushman, Joseph Augustine (31 January 1881–16 April 1949), geologist, was born in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, the son of Darius Cushman, a shoe store owner and cobbler, and Jane Frances Fuller. Cushman learned at a young age a love of nature and the importance of careful observation from his elderly father, who died shortly after Cushman finished high school. Cushman then attended Bridgewater Normal School while working to help support the family....

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Dall, William Healey (21 August 1845–27 March 1927), natural historian, paleontologist, and malacologist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Henry Appleton Dall, a Unitarian missionary, and Caroline Wells Healey Dall, the author of numerous publications on women’s rights. Dall’s father became a missionary to India in 1855, which limited the financial resources of his family and ultimately prevented Dall from attending college. Deeply influenced by ...

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Dunbar, Carl Owen (01 January 1891–07 April 1979), paleontologist and historical geologist, was born in Hallowell, Kansas, the son of David Dunbar and Emma Thomas, farmers. Dunbar attended Kansas University, graduating in 1913. Influenced by the invertebrate paleontologist William Twenhofel, he decided to pursue graduate work in historical geology at Yale University under Twenhofel’s own mentor, ...

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Gabb, William More (20 January 1839–30 May 1878), paleontologist and naturalist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Joseph Gabb and Christiana (name unverified) More. Gabb’s father was a “salesman in mercantile affairs,” whose name disappeared from the city directory in 1853. His mother then apparently became a milliner. As a boy, Gabb was interested in natural history, bought books in its subjects, collected mineral specimens, and frequented the museum of the Academy of Natural Sciences. He attended public schools through Central High School in Philadelphia, which awarded him the A.B. in 1857....

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Stephen Jay Gould. With Pope John Paul II (right) at the Vatican during a private audience, 23 January 1984. Courtesy of AP Images / Arturo Mari.

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Gould, Stephen Jay (10 September 1941–20 May 2002), paleontologist, was born in Queens, New York City, the son of Leonard Gould, a court stenographer, and Eleanor Rosenberg Gould. He grew up in a lower-middle-class secular Jewish household. Leonard Gould, who worked in the borough of Queens, was largely self-taught and read widely. He was a passionate Marxist, as well as an enthusiastic naturalist, and on weekends he took his children—Stephen and his younger brother, Peter—for walks in city parks to observe flora and fauna. The elder Gould was a frequent visitor to the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, and when Stephen was five years old his father brought him to the museum to see a reconstruction of a dinosaur skeleton. This left an indelible mark on Stephen, who announced forthwith that he would be a paleontologist when he grew up....

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Grabau, Amadeus William (09 January 1870–20 March 1946), geologist and paleontologist, was born in in Cedarburgh, Wisconsin, the son of Rev. William Grabau, a Lutheran minister, and Marcia von Rohr. His mother died when he was six years old, and he was raised by his father and stepmother. His exceptional intelligence was recognized early by his family, who supported his youthful projects and interests. Grabau became interested in geology while taking a correspondence course in mineralogy from ...

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Granger, Walter (07 November 1872–02 September 1941), vertebrate paleontologist, was born in Middletown Springs, Vermont, the son of Charles H. Granger, an insurance agent, and Ada Byron Haynes. He attended high school in Rutland, Vermont, for two years, after which he became employed at New York’s American Museum of Natural History in 1890 through the influence of an acquaintance of his father. He acquired the remainder of his working knowledge while at the museum. In 1932, after he had become a recognized scientist, Middlebury College granted him an honorary D.Sc. Granger spent four years on the staff of the museum superintendent but worked mostly in the taxidermy shop, skinning and preserving animals that had died in the Central Park Zoo in New York City....

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Gregory, William King (19 May 1876–29 December 1970), paleontologist, was born in New York City, the son of George Gregory, a printer, and Jane King. In his youth Gregory had no interest in science or nature and intended to enter the Episcopalian ministry; however, he attended the Columbia University School of Mines, where a zoology course taught by ...

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Hall, James (12 September 1811–07 August 1898), geologist and paleontologist, was born in Hingham, Massachusetts, the son of James Hall, a textile mill superintendent, and Susanna Dourdain. Hall was drawn to science by Martin Gay, a founding member of the Boston Society of Natural History, whom he often assisted during Gay’s public lectures on chemistry. In 1830 Hall walked over 200 miles from Hingham to Troy, New York, to enroll in the Rensselaer School (now Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)....

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Richard Harlan. Engraving after a painting by Jacob Eichholtz. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B013872).

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Harlan, Richard (19 September 1796–30 September 1843), physician, anatomist, and paleontologist, was born in Philadelphia, the son of Joshua Harlan, a farmer and merchant, and Sarah Hinchman. Harlan attended schools in Philadelphia, and then entered the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied and worked under ...

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Holland, William Jacob (16 August 1848–13 December 1932), zoologist and paleontologist, was born in Jamaica, West Indies, the son of Francis Raymond Holland, a minister, and Augusta Eliza Wolle. After living in Ohio and North Carolina, the family settled in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in 1863. There Holland attended the Moravian College and Theological Seminary; after graduating he attended Amherst College, receiving his A.B. degree in 1869. After serving for a year as principal of Amherst High School and for another year as principal of Westborough High School, both in Massachusetts, Holland entered the Princeton Theological Seminary, completing his course in 1874. While studying at Princeton he was ordained in the Moravian Church. In 1874 Holland became a Presbyterian and moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to take a position as pastor of the Bellefield Presbyterian Church. He married Carrie T. Moorhead in 1879; they had two children....

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Hyatt, Alpheus (05 April 1838–15 January 1902), paleontologist and marine biologist, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Alpheus Hyatt, a wealthy merchant, and Harriet Randolph King. He spent a year at Yale College and another year in Rome before completing his college education at Harvard (B.S., 1862, summa cum laude); there he began his study of marine fossils under the influence of ...

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Leidy, Joseph (09 September 1823–30 April 1891), comparative anatomist, paleontologist, and microscopist, was born Joseph Mellick Leidy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Philip Leidy, a hatter, and Catherine Mellick, who died twenty months later in childbirth. Soon thereafter, Leidy’s father married Christiana Taliana Mellick, Catherine’s first cousin, a determined, intelligent woman who raised Leidy. German was spoken in the Leidy (Leydig) home. As a young boy, Joseph developed an intense interest in plants, animals, and minerals, and he showed an unusual talent for drawing. He was an indifferent student at a private, classical school, spending most of his time following his interest in nature, exploring the creeks and parks of Philadelphia....

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Marsh, Othniel Charles (29 October 1831–18 March 1899), paleontologist, was born in Lockport, New York, the son of Caleb Marsh and Mary Gaines Peabody, farmers. Both parents descended from early settlers in New England, and his mother’s brother, George Peabody, was a banker and philanthropist of international repute. With the death of his mother in 1834, Marsh was placed in the care of his aunt Mary Marsh. In 1836 his father married Mary Latten, and the Marsh children returned to live with them and a growing family of siblings. By 1839 the family was again living in Lockport, where Marsh was expected to help his father in running the family farm....

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Mather, Kirtley Fletcher (13 February 1888–07 May 1978), scientist and liberal activist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of William Green Mather, a railroad ticket agent, and Julia Sabrina King. Neither parent attended college, but they encouraged Kirtley’s interest in science and appreciated his chance, in high school, to take a course in earth science that required frequent field trips. Raised a liberal Baptist, Mather saw no conflict between biblical revelation and the concept of human evolution....

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Matthew, William Diller (19 February 1871–24 September 1930), paleontologist, was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, the son of George Frederic Matthew, a customs house official and an authority on geology, and Katherine Diller. His father, an amateur, conducted important studies on the geology and invertebrate fossils of New Brunswick. Young Matthew took an interest in his father’s activities and participated in fieldwork. Encouraged by his family, he entered the University of New Brunswick in 1887, completing a bachelor’s degree two years later. In 1889 he moved to the United States to begin graduate work in geology at Columbia University’s School of Mines. Matthew’s interest focused on geology and invertebrate paleontology, but in 1894 a course with ...