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Adamski, George (17 April 1891–23 April 1965), lecturer and writer on occult subjects and on UFOs during the 1950s' flying saucer enthusiasm, lecturer and writer on occult subjects and on UFOs during the 1950s’ flying saucer enthusiasm, was born in Poland. His parents (names unknown) brought him to the United States when he was one or two. The family settled in Dunkirk, New York; their life was hard, and Adamski received little formal education. He joined the Thirteenth U.S. Cavalry Regiment in 1913 as an enlisted man, serving on the Mexican border, and was honorably discharged in 1916. On 25 December 1917 he married Mary A. Shimbersky (d. 1954). After leaving the army, Adamski worked as a painter in Yellowstone National Park, in a flour mill in Portland, Oregon, and by 1921 was working in a cement factory in California. He continued to live in California, reportedly supporting himself and his wife through a variety of jobs, including by the 1930s teaching and lecturing on occult subjects....

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Fiske, John (30 March 1842–04 July 1901), historian and popularizer of evolutionary science, was born Edmund Fisk Green in Hartford, Connecticut, the son of Edmund Brewster Green, a lawyer and Whig journalist, and Mary Fisk Bound. When his father’s political journalism proved financially unsuccessful, his parents sent the one-year-old child to live with his grandmother Polly Fisk Bound and great-grandfather John Fisk in Middletown, Connecticut. In 1855, after the death of his father and his mother’s remarriage to Edwin Wallace Stoughton, a successful lawyer and later U.S. minister to Russia, he agreed to his grandmother’s request that he legally adopt her father’s name since he was the only male descendant of his great-grandfather (he added the “e” to his name in 1860)....

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R. Buckminster Fuller. Oil on canvas, c. 1981, by Ruth Munson. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Fuller, R. Buckminster (12 July 1895–01 July 1983), inventor, designer, and environmentalist, often referred to as “Bucky,” was born Richard Buckminster Fuller, Jr., in Milton, Massachusetts, the son of Richard Buckminster Fuller, an importer of leather and tea, who died in 1910, and Caroline Wolcott Andrews. He was the grandnephew of author and literary critic ...

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MacDiarmid, Alan (14 Apr.1927–7 Feb.2007), chemist, professor, and Nobel laureate, was born Alan Graham MacDiarmid in Masterton, New Zealand, to Archibald MacDiarmid and his wife Ruby. Alan’s father was an engineer, and his old textbooks were among Alan’s first contact with science. During the Depression Archibald MacDiarmid was under-employed for long stretches, so Alan entered the workforce. Throughout his life he exhibited a scrappy pride in overcoming economic adversity....

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Mitchel, Ormsby Macknight (28 July 1809–30 October 1862), astronomer and advocate of science, was born in Morganfield, Kentucky, the son of John Mitchel and Elizabeth McAllister, farmers. His father died less than two years after Ormsby’s birth, necessitating the sale of the family farm and forcing the widow and boy to shuttle between the homes of his grown siblings in Ohio. Despite that hardship, Ormsby Mitchel gained a reputation as a prodigy, which he parlayed into an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1825. At the time he attended, West Point offered the finest training in science and engineering in the United States. Following graduation in 1829, Mitchel taught mathematics at the academy for two years. He married Louisa Clark Trask in 1831; she had a son by a previous marriage, and they had at least six children together....

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Seitz, Frederick (4 July 1911–2 Mar. 2008), physicist, university president, and scientific consultant, was born in San Francisco, California to Frederick and Emily Hofman Seitz, who ran a small local bakery successful enough to offer their only child a comfortable middle-class upbringing. Seitz attended Monroe Elementary School and Lick-Wilmerding High School, where he served as class president and from which he graduated a semester early in December ...

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Ernest Thompson Seton With Blackfoot Indians, starting a fire with bow and stick, 1917. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-115320).

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Seton, Ernest Thompson (14 August 1860–23 October 1946), naturalist, artist, writer, and lecturer, was born Ernest Evan Thompson in South Shields, England, the son of Joseph Logan Thompson, a businessman, and Alice Snowden. Joseph Thompson claimed famous Scottish ancestry, including a title, never legally established, deriving from the fifth earl of Winton, Lord Seton. Ernest legally adopted the surname Seton in 1901....