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Elliott Coues Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-43487).

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Coues, Elliott (09 September 1842–25 December 1899), naturalist and historian, was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the son of Samuel Elliott Coues and Charlotte Haven Ladd. His father, a prominent peace advocate, received a position in the U.S. Patent Office and moved the family to Washington, D.C., in 1854. There, under the tutelage of ...

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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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Fitch, Asa (24 February 1809–08 April 1879), entomologist, agriculturist, and historian, was born in Salem (Washington County), New York, the son of Asa Fitch, a physician and judge, and Abigail Martin. Fitch spent his childhood on the family farm, where he developed a fascination with natural history and a deep sense of religious conviction. He received a liberal education at academies in Salem, New York, and Bennington, Vermont, from 1822 to 1824, and in 1826 he entered the Rensselaer School (now Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), a new school for scientific education in Troy, New York. There he learned the importance of experimenting and learning by doing, and he became convinced that economic and social enrichment would result from the application of science to the common purposes of life. In 1826 he accompanied students and faculty on a scientific tour of the recently opened Erie Canal. Under the instruction of ...

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Flick, Lawrence Francis (10 August 1856–07 July 1938), physician, historian, and early leader in the campaign against tuberculosis, was born in Carroll Township, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, the son of John Flick, a mill owner and farmer, and Elizabeth Schabacher (changed to Sharbaugh). Flick grew up on the family farm, but poor health excused him from the usual chores. A bookish boy and a devout Roman Catholic, he first attended local schools. For most of his teenage years, he studied at St. Vincent’s, a Benedictine college in Beatty (now Latrobe), Pennsylvania, but symptoms suggesting tuberculosis cut short his classwork, and he returned home. After a period of indecision and various jobs, he entered Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and graduated in 1879. He then completed an internship at Philadelphia Hospital and opened an office for the practice of medicine. His persisting illness, however, was finally diagnosed as tuberculosis and, following his physicians’ advice, he traveled to the West for his health. By 1883, improvement allowed him to resume his practice, which soon included increasing numbers of patients with tuberculosis. “When I recovered from tuberculosis as a young man,” he wrote, “I consecrated my life to the welfare of those afflicted with the disease and to the protection of those who had not yet contracted it” ( ...

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Gibbs, George (17 July 1815–09 April 1873), ethnographer, geologist, and historian, was born at “Sunswick Farms” near Astoria, Long Island, New York, the son of George Gibbs, a gentleman farmer and amateur geologist, and Laura Wolcott. Both of his parents descended from wealthy, old-stock colonial families. At the age of nine, George was sent to the Round Hill School in Northampton, Massachusetts, which was directed by historian ...

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Griffis, William Elliot (17 September 1843–05 February 1928), educator, clergyman, and author, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Captain John Limeburner Griffis, a coal dealer, and Anna Maria Hess, a pious young woman who for many years taught at an infant’s nursery school and at a Bible school for young women at the First Independent Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia....

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Hildreth, Samuel Prescott (30 September 1783–24 July 1863), physician, naturalist, and historian, was born in Methuen, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Hildreth, a physician and farmer, and Abigail Bodwell. At age fifteen he entered Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts; he spent four terms at Andover and Franklin academies. He studied medicine first under his father and then for two years under Thomas Kittredge of Andover. To complete his education, he attended an eight-week course at Harvard Medical School, after which he received a diploma from the Medical Society of Massachusetts in 1805....

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Keeler, Clyde Edgar (11 April 1900–22 April 1994), biologist, educator, and cultural historian, was born in Marion, Ohio, the son of Anthony Sylvester Keeler, a watchmaker and teacher, and Amanda Jane Dumm Keeler, a teacher. Growing up in Marion, with nearby farmlands, Keeler had early opportunities—on his milk and paper routes—to observe nature, and he attributed the launching of his biomedical career to childhood observations of field mice. Keeler graduated from Denison University (Granville, Ohio) in 1923 with a zoology major and enough credits for a master’s degree; he lacked only the research component, which he completed in 1925 at Harvard. Cited as “the school artist” in the yearbook, he was Phi Beta Kappa, president of the Zoology Club, and captain of the cross country team. He was also a member of the Student Army Training Corps (for World War I) and, after the war, the Reserve Officers Training Corps; he eventually rose to the rank of major in the U.S. Army Officers Reserve Corps....

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Thompson, Zadock (23 May 1796–19 January 1856), naturalist and Vermont historian, was born at Bridgewater, Vermont, the son of Barnabas Thompson and Sarah Fuller, farmers. The Thompsons eked out a subsistence from Bridgewater’s stony soil, and as a sickly youth Zadock rejected the prospect of a lifetime of farming, giving instead, as his brother Salmon put it, “early evidence that he liked to read better than to work.” He spent his late teens and early twenties studying and teaching school in eastern Vermont and western New York, but he had to return home when a severe illness kept him bedridden the first six months of 1818. Looking for other means of making a living, Thompson compiled and published four almanacs for 1819 and 1820, filling them with his self-calculated astronomical data, moral maxims drawn after Poor Richard, and “a great variety of original and selected instructive and entertaining matter” that included selections of his own turgid verse....