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

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Branner, John Casper (04 July 1850–01 March 1922), geologist and university president, was born in New Market, Tennessee, the son of Michael T. Branner, a third-generation Tennessee landowner, and Elsie Baker. Branner attended local schools, read the few books he could find, and developed an active curiosity about the plants, animals, and rocks of his neighborhood. In 1870, after spending two years at nearby Maryville College, he entered Cornell University, where he studied with geology professor Charles F. Hartt, who had made several scientific expeditions to Brazil. Hartt took Branner to Brazil with him in 1874, and the following year, when the Brazilian government appointed Hartt head of a commission to direct the first geological survey of the country, he appointed Branner his assistant. This was the beginning of Branner’s lifelong interest in the geology of Brazil, about which little was then known....

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Brush, George Jarvis (15 December 1831–06 February 1912), geologist and administrator, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Jarvis Brush, an importing merchant, and Sarah Keeler. When Brush was about four, his father retired from business, and the family moved to Danbury, Connecticut, for six years, then returned to Brooklyn. In each place Brush’s education was in private schools. When he was fifteen, he attended for six months a school in West Cornwall, Connecticut, conducted by Theodore S. Gold, who was keenly interested in mineralogy and natural history. These subjects appealed to Brush, but he was expected by his family to go into business. He worked in a mercantile house in New York City for about two years from 1847, occasionally finding time to collect minerals....

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Clark, William Bullock (15 December 1860–27 July 1917), professor of geology and administrator of scientific organizations, was born in Brattleboro, Vermont, the son of Barna Atherton Clark, a merchant, and Helen Bullock. Clark graduated from Brattleboro high school in 1879 and entered Amherst College the following year. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1884, he traveled to Europe with two of his professors and settled in Munich for graduate studies in paleontology, receiving a Ph.D. in 1887. Two years earlier, a Department of Geology had been organized at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and the founder of that department, George H. Williams, was able to convince the university administration he needed more assistance....

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Darton, Nelson Horatio (17 December 1865–28 February 1948), geological mapper, groundwater specialist, and bibliographer, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of William Darton, Jr., a shipbuilder and civil engineer, and Caroline Matilda Thayer. Darton was a self-trained geologist who dropped out of public school before the age of thirteen to apprentice as a chemist in his uncle’s business. He became a member of the American Chemical Society at age sixteen and shortly thereafter started his own business, selling distilled water. As a practical chemist he became interested in minerals and collected in New Jersey. By age seventeen, Darton had spoken before the New York Academy of Sciences and published his first paper. The conclusion he derived from fieldwork was that some of the rock strata in eastern New Jersey were ancient lava flows, a new concept at that time, but one that was immediately accepted....

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Davis, William Morris (12 February 1850–05 February 1934), geologist, meteorologist, and geographer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Edward Morris Davis, a businessman with interests in railroads, mines, and the textile trade, and Maria Mott. Davis was associated with the civic elite of Philadelphia on both sides of his family. His maternal grandmother was the abolitionist ...

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Eaton, Amos (17 May 1776–10 May 1842), geologist, botanist, and educational reformer, was born in Chatham, New York, the son of Azubah Hurd and Abel Eaton, farmers. In 1790 Eaton went to Duanesburgh, New York, to live with a relative, Russell Beebe, who taught him land surveying. A blacksmith by trade, Beebe helped Eaton manufacture his own surveying instruments. From 1791 to 1795, Eaton studied the classics under private tutors in Chatham and nearby Hillsdale. He entered Williams College in 1795 and graduated in 1799. Also in 1799, Eaton began to study law in Spencertown, New York, and married Polly Thomas. They had one child before Polly died in 1802. The earliest hint of Eaton’s promise as an educator was realized with the publication of his surveying manual, ...

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Gibbs, George (17 July 1815–09 April 1873), ethnographer, geologist, and historian, was born at “Sunswick Farms” near Astoria, Long Island, New York, the son of George Gibbs, a gentleman farmer and amateur geologist, and Laura Wolcott. Both of his parents descended from wealthy, old-stock colonial families. At the age of nine, George was sent to the Round Hill School in Northampton, Massachusetts, which was directed by historian ...

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Gould, Laurence McKinley (22 August 1896–21 June 1995), educator, geologist, and explorer, was born in Lacota, Michigan, the son of Herbert Gould and Anna Updike, farmers. In 1914 he left the family farm and moved to Boca Raton, Florida, where he taught in a one-room schoolhouse. He also helped to found a Sunday school class and with his students published the ...

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William Henry Holmes. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-48333).

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Holmes, William Henry (01 December 1846–20 April 1933), artist, scientist, and administrator, was born on a farm near Short Creek in southeastern Ohio, the youngest of three sons of Joseph Holmes and Mary Heberling Holmes. In 1856 Holmes's mother died and his grandparents, John and Mary Heberling, raised him in nearby Georgetown until 1860, when his father married Sarah I. Moore. At eighteen, Holmes entered McNeely Normal School to prepare for a teaching career. While excelling in drawing, geography, and natural history and immersing himself in the student life of McNeely, Holmes taught temporarily in the Harrison County schools. In 1870 he was asked to join the McNeely faculty to teach art and science. Art was Holmes's real passion, however; not teaching. Restless, he decided to go to the nation's capital between terms to study under Theodore Kaufmann. When not in the studio, Holmes was at the Smithsonian Institution drawing birds and, perhaps, also drawing attention to himself. He was discovered there by a Costa Rican ornithologist, José Zeledon, and hired on the spot as one of the Smithsonian's contract illustrators. Holmes liked his new work but learned that there was a difference between art and illustration when Assistant Secretary ...

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Knopf, Adolph (02 December 1882–23 November 1966), professor of geology, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of German immigrants George Tobias Knopf, a building contractor, and Anna Geisel. The family owned a ranch in open country south of San Francisco (near the San Andreas fault, movement along which caused the San Francisco earthquake of 1906), and Knopf’s early years were divided between country and city. He entered the University of California at Berkeley in 1900, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1904 and a master’s degree in geology in 1906; he pursued graduate work in geology for an additional year. His primary professor there, whom he always admired and revered, was ...

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Leith, Charles Kenneth (20 January 1875–13 September 1956), geologist, teacher, and consultant, was born in Trempealeau, Wisconsin, the son of Charles Augustus Leith, a newspaper publisher and civil servant, and Martha Eleanor Gale, a schoolteacher. In 1883 the family moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where he attended public school. During his senior year in high school Leith also attended the local business college and graduated from both in 1892....

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Maclure, William (27 October 1763–23 March 1840), scientist and educational reformer, was born in Ayr, Scotland, the son of David McClure, a merchant, and Ann Kennedy. Originally named James McClure, he changed his name at some point in early manhood. After receiving a classical education from private tutors, Maclure chose a career in commerce. Following a journey to the United States in 1782, he became a partner in the American firm of Miller, Hart & Co. in London. After several short stays in the United States, Maclure moved permanently to Philadelphia in 1796 and became an American citizen....

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William John McGee Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103959).

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McGee, William John (17 April 1853–04 September 1912), geologist and anthropologist, was born near Farley, Dubuque County, Iowa, the son of James McGee, an Irish immigrant and farmer, and Martha Ann Anderson. McGee attended local schools intermittently until about the age of fourteen. An older brother who had attended college provided education in Latin, German, mathematics, and astronomy, and a maternal uncle helped teach McGee surveying, a skill for which there was much local demand. He learned blacksmithing and in the early 1870s manufactured and sold agricultural implements. With a brother and a cousin he obtained a patent in 1874 on an improved adjustable cultivator, which was not a financial success....

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Percival, James Gates (15 September 1795–02 May 1856), poet, linguist, and geologist, was born in Kensington, Connecticut, the son of James Percival, a doctor, and Elizabeth Hart. Percival read widely as a child, a habit he sustained as an adult, and enjoyed from an early age almost total recall. His father, a well-respected and prosperous village physician, died of typhoid in 1807 when Percival was twelve years old, and Percival’s mother sent him away to a boarding school. He began to write poetry during this period, his most impressive effort being “The Commerciad,” a mock-heroic poem of more than 2,000 lines. In 1810 he entered Yale College, studied the natural sciences with ...

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John Wesley Powell. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-20230).

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Powell, John Wesley (24 March 1834–23 September 1902), explorer, geologist, and anthropologist, was born in Mount Morris, New York, the son of Joseph Powell, a tailor and Methodist Episcopal licensed exhorter, and Mary Dean. Powell’s parents, who were emigrants from England, moved the family successively west and finally settled in Wheaton, Illinois. Young Powell’s education was intermittent but included some course work at Wheaton and Oberlin Colleges. He worked on the family farm and taught school, but his real interests lay in all phases of natural history and in archaeology. He made numerous collections of natural objects, often by traveling overland or alone in a boat along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. He became well known among amateur natural historians and was elected secretary of the Illinois Society of Natural History in March 1861....