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Peter Cooper. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-11083).

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Cooper, Peter (12 February 1791–04 April 1883), inventor, manufacturer, and civic benefactor, was born in New York City, the son of John Cooper and Margaret Campbell. His father was a struggling merchant who moved the family successively to Peekskill, Catskill, and finally Newburgh, New York, in search of financial success. Assisting his father in a series of occupations (hatter, brewer, shopkeeper, and brickmaker), Cooper obtained valuable practical work experience. Given his family’s relative poverty and constant movement, Cooper was only able to obtain a year’s worth of formal schooling; this deficiency in his formal education haunted him throughout his life....

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Draper, William Franklin (09 April 1842–28 January 1910), textile machinery manufacturer and inventor, congressman, and ambassador to Italy, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, the son of George Draper and Hannah Thwing. His grandfather, Ira Draper, had patented the first self-acting rotary temple for cotton looms in 1816 and had established a plant to manufacture the new machine part in Weston, Massachusetts. By 1842 Ira’s son Ebeneezer had taken control of the business and had moved the plant from Weston to Hopedale, Massachusetts, where he became a member of the Reverend ...

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Ewbank, Thomas (11 March 1792–16 September 1870), commissioner of patents, inventor, and historian of technology, was born in Durham, England. Little is known of Ewbank’s parentage or early life. He was apprenticed to a “Tin and Coppersmith, Plumb and Shot Maker” for seven years, and in 1812 he made his way to London, where he joined several literary associations sympathetic to the English liberal reformers of the period. In 1819 Ewbank emigrated to the United States, and in 1826, his wife, Mary, and the first of their six children followed, joining him in New York. There he began his professional career as an inventor and manufacturer of tin and copper tubing, occupying the late ...

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Hartness, James (03 September 1861–02 February 1934), inventor, business leader, and governor, was born on a farm near Schenectady, New York, the son of John Williams Hartness, a mechanic, and Ursilla Jackson. In 1863 the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where Hartness’s formal education ended after elementary school. The Hartness family lived a comfortable life in Cleveland, as Hartness’s mother doted on her three surviving sons while his father succeeded as a foreman and then superintendent....

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Murray, Thomas Edward (20 June 1891–26 May 1961), engineer-inventor and Atomic Energy Commission member, was born in Albany, New York, the son of Thomas Edward Murray, a prominent engineer-businessman, and Catherine Bradley. Raised in Brooklyn and educated in the Catholic schools of New York City, Murray attended the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University (B.S., 1911), where he studied mechanical engineering. In 1917 he married Marie Brady, with whom he had eleven children. Reflecting the devout religious atmosphere of his household, two of his sons became Catholic priests....

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Niles, Nathaniel (03 April 1741–31 October 1828), politician, theologian, and inventor, was born in South Kingston, Rhode Island, the son of Samuel Niles and Sarah Niles (occupations unknown). Plagued by poor health as a youth, Nathaniel spent one year at Harvard before illness forced him to drop out of school. When his health returned, he entered the College of New Jersey and graduated in 1766. Following graduation Niles made a start at several careers, teaching school in New York City, studying medicine and law, and finally taking up theology under the tutelage of ...

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Page, Charles Grafton (25 January 1812–05 May 1868), scientist, inventor, and government official, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of Jere Lee Page, a sea captain, and Lucy Lang. He graduated from Harvard College in 1832 and Harvard Medical School in 1836. After concluding his residency at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, he set up practice in Salem. Throughout this period, however, Page’s consuming interest was natural philosophy, especially the science of electricity. At the age of ten he had designed an electrostatic machine, and at the age of twenty-two he published his first paper in ...

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Strong, Harriet Williams Russell (23 July 1844–16 September 1926), agribusinesswoman, inventor, and engineer, was born in Buffalo, New York, the daughter of Henry Pierrepont Russell and Mary Guest Musier. Her family moved to California in the 1850s, and Harriet attended the Mary Atkins...

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Warren, Josiah (c. 1798–14 April 1874), social reformer, inventor, musician, and America's first philosophical anarchist, was born in Boston. The names of his parents are not known, although accounts indicate that he was a distant relative to James Warren, husband of Mercy Otis Warren...