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Freeman, Thomas (?–08 November 1821), surveyor, civil engineer, and explorer, was born in Ireland and immigrated in 1784 to America. Nothing is known of his parents, early life, or formal training, but he apparently had a background in the sciences. He may have acquired employment at Plymouth, Massachusetts, as an inspector and surveyor. In 1794 ...

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Robert Fulton. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102509).

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Fulton, Robert (14 November 1765–23 February 1815), artist, engineer, and entrepreneur, was born on a farm in Little Britain (later Fulton) Township, south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the son of Robert Fulton, a Scotch-Irish tailor and tradesman, and Mary Smith. Fulton’s father had left the prosperous market town of Lancaster to establish his family on the land, but like so many others with the same goal, he failed. The farm and the dwelling were sold at sheriff’s sale in 1772, and he took his family back to Lancaster. He died two years later....

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Geddes, James (22 July 1763–19 August 1838), civil engineer, judge, and surveyor, was born of Scottish parents (names unknown) near Carlisle, Pennsylvania. As a youth, Geddes studied mathematics with a tutor and studied languages independently. In 1793 he visited the area that later became New York state’s Onondaga County; he moved there the following year. He organized one of the state’s first salt works, helping to establish the salt industry, which would dominate the area’s economy for many years....

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Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-1881).

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Latrobe, Benjamin Henry (01 May 1764–03 September 1820), architect and civil engineer, was born in Fulneck, Yorkshire, England, the son of Benjamin Latrobe, an English Moravian clergyman, and Anna Margaretta Antes, an American born in Pennsylvania. From 1776 until 1783 Latrobe attended Moravian schools in Germany, initially the Paedagogium at Niesky and later the seminary at Barby in Saxony, where he received a broad liberal education in the arts and sciences. Latrobe seems to have traveled extensively in eastern Germany, perhaps visiting Vienna, during his school years. Architectural drawings signed by Latrobe for buildings erected in 1784 and 1785 for a Moravian community near Manchester, England, complement his student architectural drawings of existing Moravian communities. Latrobe held a position in the Stamp Office in London from 1785 to 1794; he received an additional appointment as surveyor of the London police offices in 1792....

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Mills, Robert (12 August 1781–03 March 1855), architect, engineer, and writer, was born in Charles Town (Charleston), South Carolina, the son of William Mills, a tailor, and Ann Taylor. Raised a Presbyterian, he was educated privately in Charleston, possibly in part by his brother Thomas. Mills studied architecture with ...

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Strickland, William (1788–06 April 1854), architect and engineer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Strickland, a carpenter, and Elizabeth Wilson. Strickland’s formal education began at the age of twelve, when he entered Mr. Lyttle’s school in Philadelphia, which he attended from 1800 to 1803. Later, owing to his father’s work with ...

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Wright, Benjamin (10 October 1770–24 August 1842), civil engineer and surveyor, was born in Wethersfield, Connecticut, the son of Ebenezer Wright and Grace Butler, farmers. He displayed an interest in mathematics as a student, and in his mid-twenties he was sent to live with his uncle, Joseph Wright, in Plymouth, Connecticut. There he had access to surveying instruments and was able to study both surveying and law. In 1789 he and his family moved to Fort Stanwix (now Rome), New York. Soon Wright began work as a surveyor, setting boundaries and subdividing tracts for newly sold lands on the frontier. During 1792–1796 he plotted 500,000 acres in Oneida and Oswego counties and surveyed an additional 2 million acres in parts of northern New York. In 1798 he returned to Plymouth to marry Philomela Waterman. They settled in Fort Stanwix and eventually had nine children, eight of whom survived their parents. In 1830 the family relocated to New York City, where Philomela died in 1835....