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Alexanderson, Ernst Fredrik Werner (25 January 1878–14 May 1975), engineer and radio and television pioneer, was born in Uppsala, Sweden, the son of Aron Martin Alexanderson, a professor, and Amelie von Heidenstam. From an early age Alexanderson showed interest in things scientific, and so he was sent to the Royal Institute of Technology at Stockholm, where he studied engineering, graduating in 1900. The Royal Institute had no specific program in electrical engineering, which was Alexanderson’s major interest, and so he spent the following year at the Königliche Technische Hochschule in Charlottenburg, Germany, then one of the best engineering schools of Europe. Here for the first time Alexanderson became acquainted with contemporary work in electromagnetics and wireless communication....

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Armstrong, Edwin Howard (18 December 1890–31 January 1954), electrical engineer and inventor, was born in New York City, the son of John Armstrong, a publisher, and Emily Smith, a teacher. Armstrong attended public schools in New York City and in Yonkers, New York, where the family moved in 1900. Fascinated by machinery, he enjoyed repairing broken toys for friends and later learned to repair automobiles. In his teens he was impressed by ...

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Berkner, Lloyd Viel (01 February 1905–04 June 1967), engineer, was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the son of Henry Frank Berkner and Alma Julia Viel. Berkner and his two brothers were raised in the small towns of Perth, North Dakota, and Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. Berkner enrolled in a radio operator’s school and served aboard ship for one year after completing his high school studies. He then entered the University of Minnesota as an electrical engineering student, receiving a B.S. in 1927 as well as a commission as an aviator in the U.S. Naval Reserve. He later took some graduate courses in physics at Minnesota and at George Washington University but earned no graduate degree. In 1928 he married Lillian Frances Fulks; they had two children....

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Caras, Roger (24 May 1928–18 February 2001), animal rights activist, Hollywood executive, and naturalist, was born in Methuen, a rural Massachusetts town around thirty miles north of Boston, the son of Jacob Caras, an insurance salesman, and Bessie Caras, an accountant. His affection for animals developed at an early age. At home he was exposed to dogs, cats, and canaries, and in the woods surrounding his house were raccoons, deer, opossums, and skunks. "Methuen was a wonderful place in which to learn and to explore," he recalled in his autobiography, ...

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Crockett, James Underwood (09 October 1915–11 July 1979), gardener and writer, was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, the son of Earle Royce Crockett and Inez Underwood Crockett. After attending area public schools, he studied horticulture briefly at the University of Massachusetts. By 1935 he had moved to Long Island, New York, where he became an employee of Oak Park Nurseries, in East Patchogue. Four years later he moved again, this time to Texas, and became the superintendent of the Japanese Nursery Company in Houston. During his two years in Texas he studied horticulture part time at the state Agricultural and Mechanical College, now known as Texas A&M University....

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de Forest, Lee (26 August 1873–30 June 1961), radio engineer and inventor, was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the son of Henry Swift de Forest, a Congregational minister, and Anna Margaret Robbins. He grew up in Iowa and (after 1879) Talladega, Alabama, where his father was president of the Talladega College for Negroes....

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Ditmars, Raymond Lee (22 June 1876–12 May 1942), zoo curator and popular writer on reptiles, was born in Newark, New Jersey, son of John Van Harlingen Ditmars, a furniture dealer and Confederate veteran, and Mary Knaus. When Raymond was six the family moved to New York City. His interest in nature began with visits to Central Park, which had a small menagerie and natural areas teeming with snakes and other creatures, and to the salt marshes on the outskirts of Brooklyn, where his family spent the summer. These experiences captivated his interest, and, although his family intended for him to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, his mind was on snakes....

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Farnsworth, Philo Taylor (19 August 1906–11 March 1971), electronic television inventor, was born in Indian Creek (now Manderfield), near Beaver, Utah, the son of Lewis Edwin Farnsworth and Serena Amanda Bastian, farmers. After moving several times, the family eventually settled on a ranch near Rigby, Idaho. As a boy, Farnsworth became fascinated by the photoelectric cell and the cathode-ray tube, and at the age of fifteen he devised a system for the all-electronic transmissions of images over distances (that is, television) by combining the two devices. In February 1922 he showed a sketch of his design to his high school chemistry teacher, who provided key testimony more than a decade later in a television priority patent suit Farnsworth launched against the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). After high school Farnsworth joined the navy but was discharged on the advice of the base chaplain so that he might continue his academic studies. To support himself while pursuing his engineering training, Farnsworth established a radio repair shop in Salt Lake City in 1926 in partnership with Clifford Gardner. Their small business enabled him to enroll in courses at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah. On 27 May 1926 he married Elma “Pem” Gardner, sister of his partner. The couple had four children....

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Fessenden, Reginald Aubrey (06 October 1866–22 July 1932), inventor, was born in East Bolton, Quebec, Canada, the son of Elisha Joseph Fessenden, an Anglican clergyman, and Clementina Trenholme. Fessenden spent his earliest years at Bolton Centre, Quebec, and Fergus, Ontario. From a young age he showed a keen interest in invention and science and filled every free moment with the reading of scientific texts, being encouraged in this pursuit by his uncle, Cortez Fessenden, a teacher of science and mathematics. At the age of seven Fessenden read Gibbon’s ...

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Goldmark, Peter Carl (02 December 1906–07 December 1977), inventor, was born in Budapest, Hungary, the son of Alexander Goldmark, a hatmaker, and Emmy (maiden name unknown). In 1919 Goldmark’s family fled to Vienna, Austria, to escape the Communist revolution in Hungary. Goldmark studied for a year at the Berlin Technische Hochschule in Charlottenburg, Germany, and then transferred to the Physical Institute of Vienna, where he received his B.Sc. in 1930 and his Ph.D. in physics in 1931....

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Kalmus, Herbert Thomas (09 November 1881–11 July 1963), and Natalie Mabelle Dunfee Kalmus (1883–15 November 1965), cinematographer, were born, respectively, in Chelsea, Massachusetts, and Norfolk, Virginia. Herbert was the son of Benjamin G. Kalmus and Ada Isabella Gurney, musicians. Natalie was the daughter of George Kayser Dunfee (wife’s name unknown). Herbert attended schools in Boston and intended to become a concert pianist, but he gave up the idea when he injured his fingers playing baseball. He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he received a B.S. in physics in 1904. He married Natalie in 1902; they had no children. When very young Natalie had moved with her parents to Boston. She attended Stetson University in Florida, the Boston School of Art, and the Curry School of Expressionism in Boston....

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See Kalmus, Herbert Thomas

Image

Atwater Kent. Standing by radio in the Hamilton Hotel, Washington, DC. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109738).

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Kent, Atwater (03 December 1873–04 March 1949), inventor and manufacturer, was born in Burlington, Vermont, the son of Prentiss J. Kent, a physician, and Mary Elizabeth Atwater. His first name was actually Arthur, but he used his middle name alone throughout his life. He attended Wooster Polytechnic Institute from 1895 to 1897 but left school to begin a manufacturing business and did not graduate....

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Kieran, John Francis (02 August 1892–10 December 1981), sports writer, radio personality, and naturalist, was born in the Bronx, New York City, the son of James Michael Kieran, an educator, and Kate Donahue. He grew up in a book-oriented home. His father was a public school principal who later became a professor of education at Hunter College and then president of that institution. His mother was a school teacher before her marriage who, said Kieran, “quoted the classics on the slightest provocation.”...

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Kompfner, Rudolf (16 May 1909–03 December 1977), physicist and radio engineer, was born in Vienna, Austria, the son of Bernhardt Kompfner, an accountant and musician, and Paula Grotte. His middle-class Jewish family fully participated in turn-of-the-century Viennese social life, including its musical culture. He was educated in public school (1915–1920), the Gymnasium (1920–1924), and Realschule (1924–1927) in the twentieth district of Vienna. Influenced by an uncle, Fritz Keller, to take up architecture, he was admitted to the Technische Hochschule in Vienna in 1927 and acquired an engineering degree (Diplom-Ingenieur) from the Faculty of Architecture in 1933....

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Krutch, Joseph Wood (25 November 1893–22 May 1970), writer, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of Edward Waldemore Krutch, a businessman, and Adelaine Wood. From 1911 to 1915 he attended the University of Tennessee, where his initial interests were science and mathematics. However, after becoming a habitual theatergoer and the editor of the university’s student magazine, he decided to major in English. He continued his studies at Columbia University, where he received his master’s degree in 1916 and his Ph.D. in 1924. The Van Dorens were important influences on Krutch’s scholarly life. ...

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Barbara Bennett Peterson

Lamarr, Hedy (09 November 1913–19 January 2000), actress, was born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Vienna, Austria, the daughter of Emil Kiesler, a director of the Bank of Vienna, and Gertrude Kiesler (maiden name unknown), a concert pianist. She was of Jewish extraction on both sides of her family, which proved fateful for her life and her career. As a child, she took ballet and piano lessons and was educated by tutors as well as at private schools. In 1929 she studied design in a Viennese finishing school. At ...

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Hedy Lamarr. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Leigh, Vivien (05 November 1913–08 July 1967), actress, was born Vivian Mary Hartley in Darjeeling, India, the daughter of Ernest Richard Hartley, a junior partner in a brokerage firm, and Gertrude Robinson. The family spent half the year in India and the other half in England until 1920, when they moved back to England permanently. Leigh was enrolled in the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Roehampton. There she discovered her lifelong passion for acting when, at age eight, she appeared as a fairy in a school production of ...