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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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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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Popeil, Samuel J. (22 January 1915–15 July 1984), inventor and manufacturer, was born in New York City, the son of a garment worker; his parents’ names are unknown. Little else is known about his childhood and early education, but Popeil’s career training came through the family. Several of his uncles worked as product demonstrators in New York department stores and flea markets, selling potato peelers, cheese slicers, and other household gadgets....

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Carl Sagan. Courtesy of Cornell University.

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Sagan, Carl (09 November 1934–20 December 1996), space scientist, author, science popularizer, TV personality, and antinuclear weapons activist, was born Carl Edward Sagan in Brooklyn, New York. He was the son of Rachel Molly Gruber Sagan and garment industry worker Samuel Sagan, an immigrant from the Ukraine. Carl Sagan's Jewish background encouraged him “to ask questions early,” as he later observed (Davidson, p. 57); so did his mother's skeptical, sometimes acidic personality. At age five, he became interested in astronomy when he read in a library book that the stars are distant versions of our sun. His interest in science soared when his parents took him to the New York World's Fair of 1939–1940, which offered an optimistic and (as he later acknowledged) “extremely technocratic” view of the future (Davidson, p. 14)....