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Frank M. Chapman. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102412).

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Chapman, Frank Michler (12 June 1864–15 November 1945), ornithologist and museum curator, was born in Englewood Township, New Jersey, the son of Lebbeus Chapman, Jr., a partner in a New York City law firm, and Mary Augusta Parkhurst. His father died when his son was eleven. In addition to possessing a strong ornithological interest from the age of eight, Chapman inherited a musical ear from his mother, and his daughter-in-law, ...

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Friedmann, Herbert (22 April 1900–14 May 1987), ornithologist and museum director, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Uriah M. Friedmann, a druggist, and Mary Behrmann, a teacher. Growing up in New York City, he developed an interest in nature and art through frequent visits to the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. During high school Friedmann joined a bird club and began making observations of the local avifauna. Friedmann graduated from the City College of New York with a B.Sc. in biology in 1920. Shortly thereafter he published his first ornithological paper, “The Weaving of the Red-billed Weaver Bird in Captivity” ( ...

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Richmond, Charles Wallace (31 December 1868–19 May 1932), ornithologist and museum curator, was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the son of Edward Leslie Richmond, a railway mail clerk and federal government employee, and Josephine Ellen Henry. He developed an interest in birds as a young child and began collecting bird eggs around his Kenosha home. His mother died in 1880, and shortly thereafter the family moved to Washington, D.C., where his father took a position with the U.S. Government Printing Office and remarried. Once in Washington Richmond began visiting the Smithsonian Institution and became acquainted with ...

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Robert Ridgway. A 1909 copy of an 1868 photograph. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-106022).

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Ridgway, Robert (02 July 1850–25 March 1929), ornithologist and museum curator, was born in Mount Carmel, Illinois, the son of David Ridgway, a pharmacist, and Henrietta Janes Reed. The eldest of ten children, he was educated in the local school and by his parents, who encouraged his interests in natural history. At the early age of ten Ridgway demonstrated considerable ability in collecting birds and other animals near his home and in painting them with watercolors he mixed himself at his father’s pharmacy....

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Ripley, S. Dillon (20 September 1913–12 March 2001), ornithologist, conservationist, and Smithsonian secretary, was born Sidney Dillon Ripley in New York City and grew up in Litchfield, Connecticut. The fourth child of Louis Arthur Dillon Ripley, a stockbroker, and Constance Baillie Rose, he was the great-grandson of Sidney Dillon, president of the Union Pacific Railroad. Ripley attended St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire and developed an early interest in natural history. At age thirteen he accompanied his family to India, and Ripley and his sister went on a six-week walking tour of Ladakh and western Tibet, stimulating a lifelong interest in East Asian natural history....

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Stejneger, Leonhard Hess (30 October 1851–28 February 1943), ornithologist, herpetologist, and museum curator, was born in Bergen, Norway, the son of Peter Stamer Steineger, a merchant, and Ingeborg Catharina Hess. Born with the German surname Steineger, he took its Norwegian spelling after 1870. At the age of sixteen Stejneger showed an interest in zoology—especially birds—and kept extensive notes and sketches from field observations. In 1871 he published in ...

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Wetmore, Alexander (18 June 1886–07 December 1978), ornithologist, avian paleontologist, and museum administrator, was born Frank Alexander Wetmore in North Freedom, Wisconsin, the son of Dr. Nelson Franklin Wetmore, a general practitioner, and Emma Amelia Woodworth. As a boy, he walked to school in the town of Baraboo, which was six miles from his home. His interest in natural history, which dated from boyhood, was encouraged by his mother. For reasons of health, Emma Wetmore found it necessary to avoid the cold Wisconsin winters, and she often traveled further south with her son in tow. He spent his final year of high school in Independence, Kansas, graduating in 1905. The following summer he worked as a railway station night clerk....