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Louis Agassiz. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103949).

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Agassiz, Louis (26 May 1807–14 December 1873), zoologist and geologist, was born Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz in Motier, Switzerland, the son of Rodolphe Agassiz, a Protestant pastor, and Rose Mayor. Louis early in life spurned family pressure to become a businessman and planned to devote himself to the professional study of nature. At the age of twenty-one he predicted he would become “the first naturalist of his time, a good citizen and a good son… . I feel within myself the strength of a whole generation to work toward this end” (Lurie [1960], p. 31)....

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Ashburner, Charles Albert (09 February 1854–24 December 1889), geologist and mining engineer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Algernon Eyre Ashburner, a shipbuilder, and Sarah Blakiston. Charles Ashburner obtained his college education at the Towne Scientific School of the University of Pennsylvania and ultimately was granted a total of three baccalaureate and advanced degrees by his alma mater. In June 1874 he received his B.S. degree in civil engineering and graduated valedictorian of his class. Three years later he was awarded an M.S. degree in geology. Upon recommendation of the faculty, in recognition of his outstanding career and accomplishments, Ashburner became the first member of the alumni to receive an honorary D.Sc. degree, in June 1889....

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Atwood, Wallace Walter (01 October 1872–24 July 1949), geomorphologist and geographer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Thomas Greene Atwood, a builder and planing mill operator, and Adelaide Adelia Richards. After graduating from West Division High School, Atwood enrolled in the new University of Chicago in 1892. There he studied under the geographer-geologist ...

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Barbour, George Brown (22 August 1890–12 July 1977), geologist and educator, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of Dr. Alexander Hugh Freeland Barbour (at one time president of the Royal College of Surgeons) and Margaret Nelson Brown. Barbour received his preparatory school education at Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh. In 1904–1905 he studied organ at Marburg University in Germany and in 1911 received an M.S. with honors in classics at Edinburgh. During a visit to China on his postgraduate trip around the world, Barbour experienced the turmoil surrounding the fall of the Manchu dynasty and was inspired to become a missionary in China. In 1914 he entered St. John’s College, Cambridge, to complete a second M.S. that would qualify him in science and prepare him to contribute to the modernization and advancement of Chinese society....

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Barrell, Joseph (15 December 1869–04 May 1919), geologist, was born in New Providence, New Jersey, the son of Henry Ferdinand Barrell, a farmer who traced his origins to colonial Boston, and Elisabeth Wisner, whose family had been landowners and army officers in New Jersey for 150 years. An advocate of public education and libraries, Henry Barrell was also an amateur naturalist who instilled in his son an early interest in astronomy and geology. While helping on the family farm, Joseph often collected rocks, birds, and insects from the fields....

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Bascom, Florence (14 July 1862–18 June 1945), geologist and educator, was born in Williamstown, Massachusetts, the daughter of suffragist Emma Curtiss and John Bascom, a professor at Williams College. Her mother, as an officer of the National Suffrage Association wrote, “While the ballot is withheld from women and given to all other classes of citizens except idiots and criminals, it puts on womanhood an inescapable badge, and an inescapable fact, of inferiority” (quoted in Smith, p. 17). Her father advocated for coeducation and unsuccessfully raised the issue at Williams. Both parents profoundly affected the way Florence Bascom saw the world. She became the first woman in the United States to enter fully the profession of geology....

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Bauer, Louis Agricola (26 January 1865–12 April 1932), geophysicist and scientific administrator, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Ludwig Bauer and Wilhelmina Buehler, occupations unknown. His father and mother were both brought to the United States from Germany by uncles about 1848. Bauer was the sixth of nine children. Born with no middle name, he jokingly conferred one on himself (Agricola is a Latin translation of Bauer, “farmer”). Although little more is known of the family, it is clear that they had adequate resources to send Bauer to college. He married Adelia Francis Doolittle in 1891. They had one child....

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Becker, George Ferdinand (05 January 1847–20 April 1919), geologist, was born in New York City, the son of Alexander Christian Becker, a physician, and Sarah Cary Tuckerman. Becker spent his youth in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where his mother’s family had strong ties to Harvard College and links to members of the Cambridge scientific community, most notably, the zoologist ...

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Bell, Alfred H. (28 June 1895–10 April 1977), petroleum geologist, was born Alfred Hannam Bell in Simcoe, Ontario, the son of Walter Bell and Nuala Dunly Bell, teachers. In 1912 Bell began work on a B.S. degree at the University of Toronto, majoring in chemistry and mineralogy. In 1917 his degree was granted ...

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Benioff, Victor Hugo (14 September 1899–29 February 1968), seismologist and geophysicist, was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Simon Benioff, a tailor, and Alfrieda Widerquist. Benioff’s father and mother were immigrants, from Russia and Sweden respectively. Benioff attended the public schools of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where he expressed an early interest in science. As a youth, he was particularly interested in astronomy. From 1917 until 1921, while pursuing his undergraduate studies at Pomona College, he spent his summers working as an assistant at the Mount Wilson Observatory in the San Gabriel Mountains above Los Angeles. After receiving his A.B., he accepted a job at the Lick Observatory near San Jose, California, where he worked from 1921 to 1922....

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Blackwelder, Eliot (04 June 1880–14 January 1969), geologist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Isaac Simeon Blackwelder, a business executive, and Alice Gertrude Boughton, a prominent Chicago clubwoman. Even as a boy, Eliot displayed the inquisitive and orderly mind and the intense love of the natural world that are so evident in his later scientific work. A childhood interest in entomology led to a collection of more than 6,000 specimens of beetles and butterflies. By the age of fifteen his achievements in ornithology earned him membership in the American Ornithological Union, and this early interest in birds and insects continued throughout his life....

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Boll, Jacob (29 May 1828–29 September 1880), naturalist and geologist, was born at Dieticon, Bremgarten, Canton Aargau, Switzerland, the son of Henry Boll and Magdalena Peier. The family was moderately wealthy, so Jacob was able to attend a Gymnasium, where he soon developed a passion for natural history. Apparently while enrolled there he met ...

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Bowen, Norman Levi (21 June 1887–11 September 1956), petrologist and educator, was born in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, the youngest son of William Alfred Bowen, an immigrant from London (Chigwell), England, and Eliza McCormick of Kingston. At the time of Bowen’s birth, his father was a guard at the Kingston Penitentiary, later became sexton of St. George’s Cathedral, and then was proprietor of a bakery. His older and only surviving brother, Charles Lewis Bowen (1879–1951), retained the bakery business....

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Bowie, William (06 May 1872–28 August 1940), geodesist, was born at Grassland, near Annapolis Junction, Maryland, the son of Thomas John Bowie, a government official, and Susanna Hall Anderson. After attending local public schools, Bowie received a general education at St. John’s College in Annapolis before embarking on engineering studies, first at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, where he received his B.S. in 1893, and then at Lehigh University, where he received his professional engineering certification (C.E.) two years later. Following a family tradition of public and military service, Bowie spent his professional career with the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. He joined the survey in July 1895, working first as a junior officer and later as a chief of survey parties engaged in triangulation work in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. In 1899 he married Elizabeth Taylor Wattles of Alexandria, Virginia; they had one child....

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Bowman, Isaiah (26 December 1878–06 January 1950), geographer, geologist, and educator, was born at Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario, Canada, the son of Samuel Cressman Bowman and Emily Shantz, farmers. When he was eight weeks old the family moved to a farm near Brown City, Michigan. After attending country schools, Bowman began teaching. At age twenty-one he enrolled in the Ferris Institute, a college preparatory school in Big Rapids, Michigan, where he was influenced by geographer Harlan H. Barrows. In 1900, after a year of intensive study, he entered the Normal School in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where he studied under ...

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Boyé, Martin Hans (06 December 1812–05 March 1909), chemist and geologist, was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, the son of Mark Boyé, a chemist and superintendent of the Royal Porcelain Manufactory and of a large pharmaceutical firm. His mother’s name is not known. In 1831 Boyé was admitted to the University of Copenhagen, where he passed the philological and philosophical examinations with distinction. In 1832 he entered the Polytechnic School in Copenhagen, where he studied analytical chemistry and physics under Hans Christian Ørsted, William Christoffer Zeise, and Johan Georg Forchhammer; he graduated with honors in 1835....

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Wilmot Hyde Bradley. Courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey and the American Journal of Science.

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Bradley, Wilmot Hyde (04 April 1899–12 April 1979), federal geologist, paleolimnologist, and science administrator, was born in Westville, Connecticut, the son of John Lucius Bradley, a dentist, and Anna Miner Hyde Bradley, who gave him an abiding interest in electrical-mechanical phenomena and natural history. In 1916 “Bill” Bradley passed from high school in nearby New Haven to Yale's Sheffield Scientific School, where he studied mechanical engineering, then chemistry, and, in his senior year, geology with Alan M. Bateman and ...

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John Casper Branner. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-96641).