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Commoner, Barry (28 May 1917–30 September 2012), scientist-activist, biologist, and environmentalist, was born Barry Commoner in Brooklyn, New York, to Isaac (Isador) and Gussie Commoner, Russian immigrants. His uncle, the Slavonic scholar Avrahm Yarmolinsky, recommended the family adopt a more anglicized spelling of their last name. Commoner attended Brooklyn’s James Madison High School, where he discovered his passion for biology. Assisted by his wife, the poet ...

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Gabrielson, Ira Noel (27 September 1889–07 September 1977), wildlife biologist and first director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was born in Sioux Rapids, Iowa, the son of Frank August Gabrielson, a partner in a hardware store and later a farmer, and Ida Jansen. During a boyhood spent hunting, fishing, and exploring the countryside, Gabrielson developed a love of nature, photographed and studied birds, and became particularly interested in waterfowl. He graduated from Morningside College, Sioux City, Iowa, with a B.A. in biology in 1912 and spent the next three years teaching high school biology in Marshalltown, Iowa. Just as he was about to enter the University of Iowa on a graduate fellowship, he was offered and accepted a position he had coveted with the Bureau of Biological Survey....

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Wald, George (18 November 1906–12 April 1997), biologist, was born on the Lower East Side of New York City to Isaac Wald, a Polish immigrant who worked as a tailor in a garment factory, and his wife, Ernestine Rosenmann Wald, originally from Bavaria. Raised in a poor Jewish household in Brooklyn, young George was encouraged by both parents to excel in school. He exhibited an early interest in science and developed a reputation in his working-class neighborhood for mechanical aptitude. In one notable instance Wald, not yet thirteen, rigged up a crystal radio so that he and his friends could listen to the 1919 World Series. During his years at the Brooklyn Manual Training High School, he improved upon an innate talent for building mechanical devices; he later noted that the skills he learned there subsequently helped him to build specialized equipment for his lab work. For recreation, Wald organized an amateur vaudeville ensemble of fellow students that performed stunts and musical comedy acts at Jewish community centers. Wald had intended to become an electrical engineer, but his success onstage suggested to him the possibility of becoming a lawyer, and following graduation in 1923 he enrolled as a prelaw student at New York University's Washington Square College, his tuition paid by family savings. He also supported himself during his college years by working summers as a crewman aboard a passenger ship sailing between New York and Argentina....