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Crockett, James Underwood (09 October 1915–11 July 1979), gardener and writer, was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, the son of Earle Royce Crockett and Inez Underwood Crockett. After attending area public schools, he studied horticulture briefly at the University of Massachusetts. By 1935 he had moved to Long Island, New York, where he became an employee of Oak Park Nurseries, in East Patchogue. Four years later he moved again, this time to Texas, and became the superintendent of the Japanese Nursery Company in Houston. During his two years in Texas he studied horticulture part time at the state Agricultural and Mechanical College, now known as Texas A&M University....

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Ditmars, Raymond Lee (22 June 1876–12 May 1942), zoo curator and popular writer on reptiles, was born in Newark, New Jersey, son of John Van Harlingen Ditmars, a furniture dealer and Confederate veteran, and Mary Knaus. When Raymond was six the family moved to New York City. His interest in nature began with visits to Central Park, which had a small menagerie and natural areas teeming with snakes and other creatures, and to the salt marshes on the outskirts of Brooklyn, where his family spent the summer. These experiences captivated his interest, and, although his family intended for him to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, his mind was on snakes....

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Krutch, Joseph Wood (25 November 1893–22 May 1970), writer, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of Edward Waldemore Krutch, a businessman, and Adelaine Wood. From 1911 to 1915 he attended the University of Tennessee, where his initial interests were science and mathematics. However, after becoming a habitual theatergoer and the editor of the university’s student magazine, he decided to major in English. He continued his studies at Columbia University, where he received his master’s degree in 1916 and his Ph.D. in 1924. The Van Dorens were important influences on Krutch’s scholarly life. ...

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Carl Sagan. Courtesy of Cornell University.

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Sagan, Carl (09 November 1934–20 December 1996), space scientist, author, science popularizer, TV personality, and antinuclear weapons activist, was born Carl Edward Sagan in Brooklyn, New York. He was the son of Rachel Molly Gruber Sagan and garment industry worker Samuel Sagan, an immigrant from the Ukraine. Carl Sagan's Jewish background encouraged him “to ask questions early,” as he later observed (Davidson, p. 57); so did his mother's skeptical, sometimes acidic personality. At age five, he became interested in astronomy when he read in a library book that the stars are distant versions of our sun. His interest in science soared when his parents took him to the New York World's Fair of 1939–1940, which offered an optimistic and (as he later acknowledged) “extremely technocratic” view of the future (Davidson, p. 14)....