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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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Oliver, Andrew (13 November 1731–06 December 1799), jurist and scientist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Lieutenant Governor Andrew Oliver and Mary Fitch. A scion of wealth and power, Oliver developed early into a dilettante. At Harvard College he pursued extracurricular studies in French and such arts as music, astronomy, and cryptography. He also developed skill as a jeweler, and his letters often contain comic verse. Graduating with the class of 1749, Oliver continued study toward master’s degrees at Yale (1751) and Harvard (1752). ...

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Tappan, Benjamin (25 May 1773–20 April 1857), jurist, politician, and scientist, was born in Northampton, Massachusetts, the son of Benjamin Tappan, a goldsmith and merchant, and Sarah Homes. The family was both prosperous and well connected. Tappan prepared for Harvard at a local academy but then pursued a literary and practical self-education, becoming versed in several trades. He studied with ...