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Adams, Comfort Avery (01 November 1868–21 February 1958), engineering professor and consulting engineer, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Comfort Avery Adams and Katherine Emily Peticolas. Although the family experienced stringent financial circumstances during Adams’s youth, he entered Case Institute of Applied Science (now part of Case Western Reserve University) after attending public schools in Cleveland. At Case he was laboratory assistant to a young physicist, ...

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Alexander, Archie Alphonso (14 May 1888–04 January 1958), engineer, was born in Ottumwa, Iowa, the son of Price Alexander, a janitor and coachman, and Mary Hamilton. The Alexanders were members of a tiny African-American minority both in the town of Archie’s birth and in Des Moines, Iowa, where they moved when he was eleven years old. In Ottumwa the Alexanders lived in the section of town inhabited by the poor, both black and white; in Des Moines they lived on a small farm on the outskirts of town. Since Iowa’s public schools were not segregated, young Alexander attended school with whites, graduating from Des Moines’s Oak Park High School in 1905. Then, uncommon for the son of a janitor, whether black or white, he went on to further study. By working hard at part-time jobs, and with some help from his parents, Alexander attended Highland Park College and the Cummins Art School, both in Des Moines, before enrolling in the College of Engineering at the University of Iowa in Iowa City (1908). He was the College of Engineering’s only black student and, upon entering, allegedly was warned, bluntly but not unkindly, by one official that in the society of that day a Negro could not hope to succeed as an engineer. Continuing to support himself through a variety of part-time jobs, Alexander did well academically and also starred as the first black member of the varsity football team. It was on the gridiron as a tackle that he earned the title “Alexander the Great.” He even managed to pledge a fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi....

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Alexanderson, Ernst Fredrik Werner (25 January 1878–14 May 1975), engineer and radio and television pioneer, was born in Uppsala, Sweden, the son of Aron Martin Alexanderson, a professor, and Amelie von Heidenstam. From an early age Alexanderson showed interest in things scientific, and so he was sent to the Royal Institute of Technology at Stockholm, where he studied engineering, graduating in 1900. The Royal Institute had no specific program in electrical engineering, which was Alexanderson’s major interest, and so he spent the following year at the Königliche Technische Hochschule in Charlottenburg, Germany, then one of the best engineering schools of Europe. Here for the first time Alexanderson became acquainted with contemporary work in electromagnetics and wireless communication....

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Allen, Horatio (10 May 1802–31 December 1889), civil engineer, was born in Schenectady, New York, the son of Benjamin Allen, a professor of mathematics, and Mary Benedict. Allen entered Columbia College, where he studied with James Renwick, a professor of natural and experimental philosophy, and graduated in 1823 with an A.B., attaining high honors in mathematics. Allen then began to study the law, but after almost one and a half years he decided he was more interested in engineering as a profession....

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Ammann, Othmar Hermann (26 March 1879–22 September 1965), civil engineer, was born in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, the son of Emanuel C. Ammann, a manufacturer, and Emilie R. Labhardt. He attended the Swiss Federal Polytechnic Institute and graduated with a degree in civil engineering in 1902....

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Andrews, George Leonard (31 August 1828–04 April 1899), soldier, engineer, and educator, was born in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, the son of Manasseh Andrews and Harriet Leonard. After attending the state normal school at Bridgewater, he was accepted as a candidate at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He graduated at the head of the class of 1851 and was appointed second lieutenant of engineers. His first duty after graduation was in his home state, participating in the construction of Fort Warren in Boston Harbor. He then returned to the academy as an assistant professor....

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Armstrong, Edwin Howard (18 December 1890–31 January 1954), electrical engineer and inventor, was born in New York City, the son of John Armstrong, a publisher, and Emily Smith, a teacher. Armstrong attended public schools in New York City and in Yonkers, New York, where the family moved in 1900. Fascinated by machinery, he enjoyed repairing broken toys for friends and later learned to repair automobiles. In his teens he was impressed by ...

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Asch, Moses (02 December 1905–19 October 1986), sound engineer and record company executive, was born in Warsaw, Poland, the son of Sholem Asch, a world-renowned Yiddish novelist and playwright, and Matilda Spiro. Since Asch’s father acquired literary fame early in life, the family lived in material comfort. But they moved frequently, and Asch often was left in the care of others, notably his mother’s sister Basha, a Social Democrat and revolutionary. Additionally, although a prominent figure in international Jewish intellectual circles, Asch’s father was an iconoclast by nature, and as a consequence Asch was never bar mitzvahed. In 1912 the persecution of Jews in Poland rendered life intolerable for the Asches, and they moved to a villa in the suburbs of Paris. When in 1915 war’s violence engulfed France as well, the family resettled in New York City....

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Baldwin, Loammi (21 January 1745–20 October 1807), civil engineer, was born in Woburn, Massachusetts, the son of James Baldwin, a carpenter and shopkeeper, and Ruth Richardson. (Some sources give his birthdate as 10 Jan. 1744.) After attending the local grammar school, Loammi was apprenticed in the carpentry trade. As a teenager Baldwin worked in the family’s stores in Woburn and Boston. By 1767 Baldwin was engaged as a pump maker and cabinetmaker, in addition to helping in the family stores. In 1771 he and his friend ...

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Baldwin, Loammi, Jr. (16 May 1780–30 June 1838), civil engineer, was born in North Woburn, Massachusetts, the son of Loammi Baldwin, a renowned civil engineer, and Mary Fowle. After attending Westford Academy, Baldwin matriculated at Harvard College, graduating in 1800. As a youth he had assisted his father on the Middlesex Canal. After college, his first position was in the law office of Timothy Bigelow at Groton, Massachusetts. While at Groton he designed a fire engine for the town, which was built in 1802 and operated for more than eighty years....

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Bates, Onward (24 February 1850–04 April 1936), civil engineer, was born in Saint Charles County, Missouri, the eldest son of Judge Barton Bates and Caroline Matilda Hatcher. Bates attended local schools in St. Charles County until the age of fifteen. He then began an apprenticeship at the Fulton Iron Works in Saint Louis, where he planned to learn the machinist trade. Instead he was soon hired as a draftsman by C. Shaler Smith, a prominent engineer, who made Bates an inspector of the bridge he was building over the Missouri River at St. Charles. Bates also took advantage of an opportunity to work on the Eads Bridge, one of the first to span the Mississippi and the first major steel bridge in America. The three arch spans, measuring 502, 520, and 505 feet respectively, shattered all engineering precedents, the center being by far the longest span in the world. Smith became Bates’s mentor and encouraged him to pursue an engineering education at the foremost institution in the field, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York. After only two years, Bates returned to St. Louis in 1873 to continue working on the Eads Bridge. He worked for a contractor and then as steel inspector for Eads’s St. Louis Bridge Company....

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Berkner, Lloyd Viel (01 February 1905–04 June 1967), engineer, was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the son of Henry Frank Berkner and Alma Julia Viel. Berkner and his two brothers were raised in the small towns of Perth, North Dakota, and Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. Berkner enrolled in a radio operator’s school and served aboard ship for one year after completing his high school studies. He then entered the University of Minnesota as an electrical engineering student, receiving a B.S. in 1927 as well as a commission as an aviator in the U.S. Naval Reserve. He later took some graduate courses in physics at Minnesota and at George Washington University but earned no graduate degree. In 1928 he married Lillian Frances Fulks; they had two children....

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Boyden, Uriah Atherton (17 February 1804–17 October 1879), engineer, was born in Foxborough, Massachusetts, the son of Seth Boyden and Susanna Atherton, prominent local farmers. Boyden came from a mechanically inclined family. His father was not only a farmer but also a blacksmith and inventor of a machine to split leather. His older brothers Seth and Alexander were inventors and manufacturers of note, and five of the six Boyden brothers at some point were involved in manufacturing wrought iron....

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Brugger, Kenneth C. (16 June 1918–25 November 1998), textile engineer and monarch butterfly researcher, was born Kenneth Charles Brugger in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the son of Oswald Brugger, an auto parts salesman and farmer, and Carrie Linderman Brugger. Following high school, he attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Brugger served in the Army Signal Corps during World War II and was assigned to work on cryptology at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. He married Mary K. Frye in 1942; the couple had three children....

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Burr, William Hubert (14 July 1851–13 December 1934), engineer, was born in Watertown, Connecticut, the son of George William Burr, a railroad employee, and Marion Foote Scoville. Burr was educated by private tutor before attending Watertown Academy and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), from which he graduated with a degree of civil engineer in 1872....

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Bush, Vannevar (11 March 1890–28 June 1974), science administrator and engineer, was born in Everett, Massachusetts, the son of Richard Perry Bush, a Universalist minister, and Emma Linwood Paine. Bush grew up in modest circumstances in Chelsea, Massachusetts, and attended Tufts University, graduating in 1913 with a B.S. and an M.S. At Tufts he first encountered electrical engineering and an ideology of engineering; he also developed there his lifelong interests in invention and the patent system. With the idea of improving his career prospects, Bush first enrolled in 1915 in the graduate program in mathematical physics at Clark University but left shortly afterward. He then enrolled in a graduate doctoral engineering program jointly offered by MIT and Harvard and received a doctorate of engineering after one year of heroic efforts with a thesis on the oscillatory behavior of currents in power lines. The joint degree was rare; the doctorate was only the fifth awarded by MIT. Bush, who was a mathematics instructor at Tufts in 1914–1915, rejoined the Tufts faculty in the fall of 1916 as an assistant professor of electrical engineering. At this time, he became a technical consultant to the Morgan-financed American Research and Development Corporation (AMRAD), which was seeking promising radio inventions. During World War I he invented an electromagnetic device for determining the location of submarines; frustrating experiences with the navy influenced his later views. In 1916 he married Phoebe Davis; they had two sons....

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Carrier, Willis Haviland (26 November 1876–07 October 1950), inventor, was born in Angola, New York, the son of Duane Williams Carrier, a dairy and fruit farmer, and Elizabeth Haviland, a schoolteacher. From an early age, Carrier showed an interest and ability in mechanics. Graduating in 1893 from Buffalo’s Central High School, he was eager to pursue an engineering course at Cornell University, but the onset of a nationwide depression forced him to spend almost four years teaching at a local school....

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Carty, John Joseph (14 April 1861–27 December 1932), electrical engineer and research administrator, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Henry Carty, a machinist and metal founder, and Elizabeth O’Malley. Carty grew up in Cambridge, graduating from the Cambridge Latin School before a temporary vision impediment sidetracked plans for a college education. After working for a Boston philosophical apparatus (scientific instrument) maker, he began his career in the infant telephone industry in 1879 as an operator for the Boston Telephone Despatch Company. This company was a licensee of the New England Telephone Company, which was formed by the original Bell Telephone Company....

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Cass, George Washington (12 March 1810–21 March 1888), engineer and business leader, was born near Dresden, Muskingum County, Ohio, the son of George W. Cass and Sophia Lord, farmers.

Cass received a good education. His parents sent him to Detroit at the age of fourteen, and from 1824 to 1827 he attended the highly regarded Detroit Academy while living with his uncle, ...

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Octave Chanute. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-106858).