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Agassiz, Louis (26 May 1807–14 December 1873), zoologist and geologist, was born Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz in Motier, Switzerland, the son of Rodolphe Agassiz, a Protestant pastor, and Rose Mayor. Louis early in life spurned family pressure to become a businessman and planned to devote himself to the professional study of nature. At the age of twenty-one he predicted he would become “the first naturalist of his time, a good citizen and a good son… . I feel within myself the strength of a whole generation to work toward this end” (Lurie [1960], p. 31)....

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Allen, Joel Asaph (19 July 1838–29 August 1921), zoologist and museum official, was born near Springfield, Massachusetts, the son of Joel Allen, a carpenter, housebuilder, and later a farmer, and Harriet Trumbull, a former schoolteacher. Allen attended the local public schools in the wintertime, but his father, a rigidly puritanical Congregationalist, insisted that he work on the family farm during good weather. From the age of about fourteen, as Allen’s interest in natural history, particularly birds, increased, his interest in farming diminished. He nevertheless worked long hours for his father in a spirit of filial loyalty, possibly laying the foundation for the serious bouts of ill health that would plague him in later years. Whenever possible, he prepared study specimens of birds and animals for his own private collection. From 1858 to 1862 Allen’s father supported his intermittent attendance at nearby Wilbraham Academy....

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Dana, James Dwight (12 February 1813–14 April 1895), geologist, zoologist, and teacher, was born in Utica, New York, the son of James Dana, a businessman, and Harriet Dwight. His father was a descendant of Richard Dana who settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1640. Dana, a studious scholar, was educated in the Utica High School, where his interest in science appeared early and developed through hard work, talent, and intelligence, despite his father’s disparagement of science as a career. Attracted to Yale College by ...

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Merriam, Clinton Hart (05 December 1855–19 March 1942), zoologist and government official, was born in New York City, the son of Clinton Levi Merriam, a businessman, banker, and two-term Republican U.S. congressman, and Caroline Hart. A younger sister, Florence ( Florence Augusta Merriam Bailey...