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Burroughs, William Seward (28 January 1857?–14 September 1898), inventor, was probably born in Rochester, New York, the son of Edmund Burroughs, a mechanic, and Ellen Julia Whipple. (Birth records are not extant; various sources place his birth in Rochester or Auburn, New York, on 28 January, in 1851, 1853, 1855, 1857, or 1858.) Burroughs’s family moved to Lowell, Michigan, when he was three years old in an attempt to improve their uncertain financial situation. They moved to Auburn, New York, a few years later. His father’s unsuccessful attempts to succeed through invention led him to discourage his son from the life of a mechanic and inventor. Instead, after Burroughs’s primary and secondary schooling, his father encouraged him to take a job at the Cayuga County National Bank in Auburn. The bank promoted him in 1878 to an important clerical job. Shortly thereafter, he married Ida Selover; they had four children....

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Carlson, Chester Floyd (08 February 1906–19 September 1968), inventor and patent lawyer, was born in Seattle, Washington, the son of Olof Adolph Carlson, a barber, and Ellen Josephine (maiden name unknown). His father had emigrated from Sweden and suffered from severe arthritis, and both parents developed tuberculosis. The family moved briefly to Mexico for the warmer weather but returned to the United States in 1912 to settle on a rented farm near San Bernardino, California. For a time Carlson was the only student in a country school, and he rode into town on a bicycle to work at odd jobs. His mother died when he was seventeen, and he supported his father....

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Carrier, Willis Haviland (26 November 1876–07 October 1950), inventor, was born in Angola, New York, the son of Duane Williams Carrier, a dairy and fruit farmer, and Elizabeth Haviland, a schoolteacher. From an early age, Carrier showed an interest and ability in mechanics. Graduating in 1893 from Buffalo’s Central High School, he was eager to pursue an engineering course at Cornell University, but the onset of a nationwide depression forced him to spend almost four years teaching at a local school....

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Crosthwait, David Nelson, Jr. (27 May 1898–25 February 1976), mechanical engineer, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, the son of Dr. David Nelson Crosthwait, and Minnie Harris. He attended elementary school and graduated from high school in Kansas City, Missouri.

Crosthwait received a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1913. That same year he began lifelong employment with the C. A. Dunham Company (later Dunham-Bush) in Chicago, where he distinguished himself nationally in the field of heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) technology. By 1915 he had been appointed to the position of engineering supervisor, and by 1919 he had risen to the position of research engineer. In 1920 Crosthwait received a Master of Science degree in engineering from Purdue University....

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Herman Hollerith Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-115982).

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Hollerith, Herman (29 February 1860–17 November 1929), engineer, was born in Buffalo, New York, the son of Johann George Hollerith and Franciska Brunn. In Germany Johann Hollerith had been a professor of ancient languages in the Gymnasium at Speyer; after immigrating he acquired several farms in states west of New York but lived in Buffalo, where his wife’s brothers had a carriage factory. Herman received his secondary schooling largely by being tutored by a Lutheran minister because he hated spelling so much that he once jumped out a second-floor school window to avoid spelling class. He graduated with distinction from Columbia College (now University) School of Mines in 1879. As a special agent in the U.S. Census Office (1879–1881) he worked on statistics of manufacturers; as an outside activity he computed life tables for ...

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Laws, Samuel Spahr (23 March 1824–09 January 1921), educator, businessman, and inventor, was born in Ohio County, Virginia, the son of James and Rachel Laws. Laws worked in a tool shop in rural Virginia as a young man before matriculating at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 1844. He was valedictorian of the class of 1848. He graduated from Princeton University's seminary in 1851 and accepted an offer to serve as leader of a St. Louis, Missouri, Presbyterian congregation. In 1854 the rectors of Westminster College, a newly formed Presbyterian school in Fulton, Missouri, hired him as a math instructor; he was appointed president of the college a year later. In 1860 he married Ann Marie Broadwell, the daughter of William Broadwell, who later became chief of the Cotton Bureau for the Confederate States of America's trans-Mississippi department....

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Arthur J. Schmitt. Courtesy of the Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation.

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Schmitt, Arthur J. (14 June 1893–29 March 1971), inventor, CEO, and philanthropist, was born Arthur John Schmitt in Austin, Illinois (later annexed by Chicago), the son of Henry W. Schmitt and Barbara Elizabeth Schneider Schmitt, owners of a leather-tanning business. Schmitt read Popular Mechanics...

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Sholes, Christopher Latham (14 February 1819–17 February 1890), printer, journalist, and inventor, was born on a farm near Mooresburg, Pennsylvania, the son of Orrin Sholes, a cabinetmaker; his mother’s name is not known. His parents moved soon after to Danville, Pennsylvania, where he attended school until age fourteen. He worked as an apprentice printer for the editor of the ...