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Bowdoin, James (07 August 1726–06 November 1790), scientist and statesman, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of James Bowdoin, a wealthy Boston merchant of French Huguenot origins and a member of the Massachusetts Council, the upper house of the General Assembly, and his second wife, Hannah Portage. Young James Bowdoin was educated at Boston Latin School and graduated from Harvard College in 1745. At his father’s death in 1747 he inherited a fortune valued at over £80,000 sterling. Independently wealthy, he lived luxuriously on his income from bonds, loans, rentals, and real estate holdings in Maine. In 1748 he married Elizabeth Erving, daughter of John Erving, a Boston merchant. The couple had two children....

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Benjamin Franklin. From a nineteenth-century engraving. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-90398).

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Franklin, Benjamin (06 January 1706–17 April 1790), natural philosopher and writer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, opposite the Congregational Old South Church, where the Reverend Samuel Willard baptized him the same day. The youngest son and fifteenth child of Josiah Franklin, a tallow chandler and soap maker who emigrated from England in 1683 to practice his Puritan faith, Benjamin had eleven living brothers and sisters. Five were Josiah’s children by his first wife, Anne Child, and six were by his second wife, Abiah Folger, Benjamin’s mother. Two sisters were born later....

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Samuel Latham Mitchill. Engraving after a painting by Henry Inman. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B019371).

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Mitchill, Samuel Latham (20 August 1764–07 September 1831), physician, scientist, and legislator, was born in Hempstead, Long Island, New York, the son of Robert Mitchill, a farmer and overseer of highways, and Mary Latham. He learned the fundamentals of medicine from his uncle Dr. Samuel Latham, who also underwrote the cost of his nephew’s education. Mitchill served as a medical apprentice for Dr. ...