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Harriet Chalmers Adams. Harriet Chalmers Adams. Harriet Chalmers Adams, 1908. Glass negative. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-DIG-npcc-19900).

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Adams, Harriet Chalmers (22 October 1875–17 July 1937), explorer, lecturer, and writer, was born Harriet Chalmers in Stockton, California. Her father, Alexander Chalmers, Canadian via Scotland, came to California in 1864 to try his luck mining; he later ran a dry goods store with his brother before becoming a mine superintendent and part-owner. Her mother, Frances Wilkins, had grown up in the Sierra Nevada foothills. From the age of eleven Harriet and her sister Anna had private tutors. Her mother encouraged Harriet’s love of reading, while travels with her father developed her interest in the natural world as well as the Native American and Spanish-speaking cultures in the region. At thirteen Harriet and her father spent more than six months meandering the length of the Sierras from Oregon to Mexico, cementing her lifelong love of adventure. As a young woman Harriet continued her indoor and outdoor studies and had an active social life. She was fluent in Spanish and spoke Portuguese, French, Italian, and German as well....

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Akeley, Mary Leonore Jobe (29 January 1878–19 July 1966), explorer, author, and educator, was born near Tappan, Ohio, the daughter of Richard Watson Jobe and Sarah Jane Pittis, farmers. (The year of her birth is sometimes erroneously given as 1886.) She received a Ph.B. at Scio College in Alliance, Ohio, in 1897. (Scio, a Methodist school, merged with Mount Union College in Alliance in 1911.) She took graduate courses at Bryn Mawr (1901–1903) and taught at Temple College (now Temple University). She was head of the Department of History and Civics at the New York State Normal School and Training School in Cortland, New York (1903–1906), studied history and English at Columbia University, and in 1907 began to teach American history at the Normal College of the City of New York (now Hunter College). She received her M.A. in history at Columbia in 1909....

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Brierton, John (1572–1619), explorer and historian, whose name was sometimes spelled Brereton, was born in Norwich, Norfolk, England, the son of Cuthbert Brierton, a dealer in textile fabrics, and Joan Howse. He was educated at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University, from which he earned a B.A. in 1592–1593 and an M.A. in 1596. In 1598 he became an Anglican deacon and entered the priesthood later the same year. His first curacy was in Lawshall, Suffolk. While there he met a family named Bacon, members of which were cousins of ...

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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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Farabee, William Curtis (07 February 1865–24 June 1925), anthropologist and explorer, was born near Sparta in Morris township, Washington County, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Farabee and Susannah Henkins (occupations unknown). He attended public school and studied at the California State Normal School from 1885 to 1887 before graduating from Waynesburg College in 1894. He was then a teacher and public school principal for five years. In 1897 he married Sylvia Manilla Holdren; they had no children. He obtained an M.A. in anthropology from Harvard University in 1900, followed by a Ph.D. in 1903. From 1903 to 1912 he taught anthropology at Harvard....

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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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Harriot, Thomas (1560–02 July 1621), scientist, linguist, and author of the first English book on North America, was born in Oxford (city or county), England; his parentage is unknown. As an undergraduate he entered St. Mary’s Hall (attached to Oriel College, Oxford) in 1576, matriculated in the University of Oxford in 1557, and graduated B.A. in 1580. He never married....

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Huntington, Ellsworth (16 September 1876–17 October 1947), explorer and geographer, was born in Galesburg, Illinois, the son of Henry Strong Huntington, a minister, and Mary Lawrence Herbert. The family moved to Gorham, Maine, after his birth. Huntington was close to his mother, “to whom I owe most,” as he later wrote in dedicating a book to her. When he was twelve years old the family moved to Milton, Massachusetts. He graduated near the top of his class at Milton High School and passed his Harvard entrance examinations, but family financial pressures forced him initially to attend the less expensive Beloit College, where he wrote for the college newspaper and yearbook....

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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....

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Ross, Alexander (02 November 1782–23 October 1856), fur trader, explorer, and historian, was born in the Highlands parish of Dyke, county of Nairnshire, Scotland. Neither Ross’s own writings nor those of his biographers relate any details about his parents other than the fact they were farmers; even their names are unmentioned. Little is known about Ross’s early years. He grew up in the Presbyterian faith and had acquired sufficient education to become a rural schoolteacher by the time he was twenty. In 1804 a family quarrel caused Ross to leave his parents’ home; he emigrated to North America later that year....

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Stefansson, Vilhjalmur (03 November 1879–26 August 1962), Arctic explorer, writer, and lecturer, was born in Arnes, Manitoba, Canada, the son of Johann Stefansson and Ingibjorg Johannesdottir, Icelanders who had arrived in Canada in 1877. In 1881 the family moved to North Dakota, where Vilhjalmur attended school and eventually the University of North Dakota, the University of Iowa (B.A. 1903), and Harvard, where he entered the divinity school before transferring to anthropology. In 1906 he left school without graduating to join the Anglo-American Polar Expedition as ethnologist. After failing to rendezvous with other expedition members, who had been shipwrecked, Stefansson wintered among the Eskimos of Tuktoyyaktut, adapting to the Eskimo way of life and learning their language....

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Vilhjalmur Stefansson, c. 1939–1941. Photograph by Louis Fabian Bachrach. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-116932).

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Stevenson, Matilda Coxe Evans (12 May 1849–24 June 1915), ethnologist, geologist, and explorer, was born in San Augustine, Texas, the daughter of Alexander Hamilton Evans, a lawyer, writer, and journalist from Virginia, and Maria Coxe of New Jersey. Stevenson grew up in a privileged, middle-class household in Washington, D.C. Following her education in a girl’s finishing school and seminary, she defied convention and studied law as well as served an apprenticeship in chemistry and geology at the Army Medical School. Even though there were no opportunities for college or advanced degrees or employment in the sciences for women at the time, Stevenson decided to become a mineralogist and geological explorer. She was able to pursue these goals through her marriage, in 1872, to geologist and naturalist Colonel ...

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Tanner, Henry Schenck (1786–1858), cartographer and statistical geographer, was born in New York City, the son of John Tanner, a ship master, and Ann Schenck. His father died when he was six, and the family was then headed by his older brother Benjamin Tanner...

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Thompson, Edward Herbert (28 September 1860–11 May 1935), archaeologist and explorer, was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, the son of Josiah A. Thompson, a railway agent, and Mary E. Thayer. After attending local public schools he attended the Worcester County Free Institute of Industrial Science, the precursor of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute for two years (1877–1879). From 1879 to 1885 he worked at various technical jobs in the Worcester area while pursuing his real love, the study of history and ancient artifacts....