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William Darlington. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B05853).

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Darlington, William (28 April 1782–23 April 1863), physician, botanist, and author, was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of Edward Darlington, a farmer who also found time to serve in the Pennsylvania legislature, and Hannah Townsend. Wanting to escape the drudgery of farm work that had restricted his schooling to a few winter months each year, at age eighteen Darlington persuaded his father to pay the necessary fees for his apprenticeship to study medicine with John Vaughan in Wilmington, Delaware. In return, his father required that he give up his inheritance of a share of the family farm....

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Shecut, John Linnaeus Edward Whitridge (04 December 1770–01 June 1836), botanist, medical practitioner, and author, was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, the son of Abraham Shecut and Marie Barbary. His Huguenot forebears had left France and settled in Switzerland, but his parents had come to America about 1768 and settled in Beaufort. They moved to Charleston before Shecut was ten years old. At sixteen he studied medicine under ...

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Shull, George Harrison (15 April 1874–29 September 1954), botanist and geneticist, was born on a farm near North Hampton, Ohio, the son of Harrison Shull and Catherine Ryman, farmers. A devout member of the Old German Baptist Church, Shull’s father was also an unpaid lay minister; his mother, an avid reader, eventually became an accomplished horticulturist after her children were raised. Shull’s formal education was sparse. It is estimated that he only spent 46.5 months in formal school before he entered college and never spent a full year in school at a time. Despite these trying circumstances, George and his seven siblings were educated with the help of their mother, who encouraged study. Stimulated by a rural background that provided him proximity to both wild and agricultural plants, Shull’s interest in plants was apparent by the age of sixteen....