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Baer, Clara Gregory (27 August 1863–19 January 1938), physical educator, was born in Algiers, Louisiana, the daughter of Hamilton John Baer, a broker/flour merchant, and Ellen Douglas Riley. Algiers, located across the Mississippi River from New Orleans, was undergoing a prolonged Union siege at the time of Clara’s birth. She was quickly given “Dixie” as a nickname, perhaps in defiance of the North’s aggression. Following her mother’s death in 1868, she and her siblings were cared for by their maternal grandmother. Baer was one of a small number of children who attended the few schools in Louisiana during the Reconstruction period. As there were no public Louisiana secondary schools before 1880, she was sent to Louisville, Kentucky, for high school. Following high school she studied first in the late 1880s under S. S. Curry at the Boston School of Expression, then at the Emerson School of Oratory in Boston, and in 1890 at the Posse Normal School of Physical Education in Boston....

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Berenson, Senda (19 March 1868–16 February 1954), sportswoman and physical educator, was born Senda Valvrojenski in Biturmansk, Lithuania, the daughter of Albert Valvrojenski, a worker in the timber industry, and Julia Mieliszanski. Her father emigrated to the United States in 1874, settling in Boston’s West End. He changed his name to Albert Berenson and became a peddler, earning a meager wage in the Boston area. A year later Senda arrived in Boston with her mother and older brother, Bernard, who became a renowned Italian Renaissance art critic. Education was prized by the Jewish family....

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Blaikie, William (24 May 1843–06 December 1904), physical fitness advocate, was born in York (Livingston County), New York, the son of Alexander Blaikie, a minister, and Nancy King. At an early age Blaikie moved to Boston with his family. He attended public schools there, graduating in 1862 from the Boston Latin School, where he captained the football team. He completed his formal education at Harvard University, earning a B.A. in 1866 and an LL.B. with honors in 1868....

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Luther Gulick. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-91615).

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Gulick, Luther Halsey (04 December 1865–13 August 1918), physical educator and sports administrator, was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, the son of Luther Halsey Gulick and Louisa Lewis, missionaries. His father’s supervisory work for Presbyterian missions took Gulick as a child to Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and Japan as well as to Hawaii. In each place he stored up experiences that compensated for uneven schooling. His higher education, too, was irregular. From 1880 to 1885 he studied in a college preparatory program at Oberlin College, interrupted for a year by his parents’ furlough; in 1886 he briefly attended the Sargent Normal School of Physical Training in Cambridge, Massachusetts, before enrolling as a part-time student in New York University’s school of medicine. He paid his way at NYU by engaging in an unlikely array of activities: providing medical services to a YMCA branch, teaching in a Harlem school, serving as physical director of the YMCA in Jackson, Michigan, and organizing the physical education department at the new YMCA training school in Springfield, Massachusetts....

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Kiphuth, Robert John Herman (17 November 1890–07 January 1967), swimming coach and athletic director, was born in Tonawanda, New York, the son of John Kiphuth, a mill hand, and Mary Benin. After graduating from Tonawanda High School in 1909, he became physical education director at the Tonawanda Young Men’s Christian Association. He studied physical education at Harvard in the summer of 1912....

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Lewis, Dioclesian (03 March 1823–21 May 1886), temperance reformer and pioneer in physical education, was born near Auburn, New York, the son of John C. Lewis and Delecta Barbour, farmers. A product of the “Burned-Over District,” America’s most fertile ground for revivalism and reform during the Second Great Awakening (1800–1830), Dio Lewis absorbed revivalism’s lesson of individual improvement through self-discipline and applied it to social problems created or exacerbated by urbanization and industrialization. His first exposure to the new world of industry came as a boy, when he was hired by a cotton mill near his home. After spending several years in his late teens as a teacher, Lewis turned to the study of medicine, at first with a local doctor, then for a short time at Harvard. While practicing in Port Byron, New York, he was converted by his partner to homeopathy, and as a result of his efforts in publicizing homeopathic principles Lewis was awarded an honorary M.D. in 1851 by the Homeopathic Hospital College of Cleveland, Ohio....

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James Naismith. Photograph of an oil painting by Lon Keller, 1941. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-115891).

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Naismith, James (06 November 1861–28 November 1939), inventor of basketball, was born in Almonte, Ontario, the son of John Naismith, a lumberman and carpenter, and Margaret Young. In 1870 both of Naismith’s parents died in a typhoid epidemic, leaving him to be raised by a religiously strict grandmother and then by a bachelor uncle. His schooling was interrupted by five years’ work in a logging camp, but in 1883 he entered McGill University, intending to study for the ministry. After receiving his A.B. in 1887, he studied theology for three years at a Presbyterian seminary affiliated with McGill; during his last year he directed undergraduate gymnastics classes. Having excelled athletically in school, he decided that rather than become a clergyman he could do good more effectively by combining sport and religion in the teaching and promotion of physical education. In 1890 he enrolled in a two-year course for Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) physical directors at a new training college in Springfield, Massachusetts....

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Orton, George Washington (10 January 1873–26 June 1958), athlete, coach, and educator, was born in Stratbury, Ontario, Canada, the son of Oliver Henry Orton and Mary Ann Irvine. Although crippled by a childhood accident, he restored his ambulatory ability through exercise, especially running. Reminiscing about his origins as a runner, Orton said that many boys “beat me in the dashes, but as the route became long, I killed off my adherents.” Recognizing that distance running was his “forte,” he practiced regularly and developed into one of the premier athletes of the late nineteenth century....

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Pilates, Joseph Hubertus (1880–09 October 1967), physical trainer, was born near Düsseldorf, Germany. His exact date of birth and the full names of his parents are unknown. His father, a champion gymnast, was Greek; his mother, who was German, worked as a naturopath. The family name, of Greek origin, is pronounced “Puh- ...

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Ruble, Olan G. (17 February 1906–11 November 1982), professor of physical education and women's basketball coach, professor of physical education and women’s basketball coach, was born Olan Guy Ruble near Chariton in Lucas County, Iowa, the son of Lon S. Ruble and Gertrude Curtis, farmers. Ruble attended a rural elementary school. Following graduation from Norwood High School in 1923, he earned a B.A. from Simpson College in 1928 and a master’s degree from the University of Iowa in 1937. In 1930 he married Marguerite O’Neall, with whom he would have one child....

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Sargent, Dudley Allen (28 September 1849–21 July 1924), physical educator and physician, was born in Belfast, Maine, the son of Benjamin Sargent, a spar-maker and ship’s carpenter, and Caroline Jane Rogers. Sargent was seven years old when his father died. He quit school at thirteen and worked as a carpenter, a seaman, and a circus gymnast. He graduated from Bowdoin College with an A.B. in 1875 and received his medical degree from Yale Medical School in 1878. Sargent unsuccessfully sought a position as a college faculty member in physical training. In 1878 he went to New York City and opened his own private gymnasium, the Hygienic Institute and School of Physical Culture....

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Walsh, David Henry (05 October 1889–02 June 1975), educator, coach, and basketball official, was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, the son of Samuel Walsh, a city laborer, and Catharine (maiden name unknown). As a youngster Walsh played basketball and baseball with neighborhood playmates. He took sport seriously and developed a strong competitiveness. At Hoboken High School, from which he graduated in 1907, the 5′ 8″, 180-pound Welsh lettered four years in both sports....