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Adams, Charles Francis (27 May 1835–20 March 1915), railroad official, civic leader, and historian, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Francis Adams (1807–1886), a diplomat and politician, and Abigail Brown Brooks. He was the grandson of John Quincy Adams (1767–1848) and great-grandson of ...

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Adler, Mortimer J. (28 December 1902–28 June 2001), philosopher, was born Mortimer Jerome Adler in New York City, the son of Ignatz Adler, a jewelry salesman, and Clarissa Manheim Adler, a former schoolteacher. The family household was modest, and as a child Mortimer Adler developed a love of reading. Though an excellent student, he was bored in the classroom, and in 1918, at age fifteen, he left DeWitt Clinton High School, determined to educate himself through books of his own choosing. He was soon hired as secretary to ...

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Alcott, A. Bronson (29 November 1799–04 March 1888), Transcendentalist and reformer, was born Amos Bronson Alcox in Wolcott, Connecticut, the son of Joseph Chatfield Alcox and Anna Bronson, farmers. Farming the rocky Connecticut soil was not lucrative, and Alcott worked hard with his parents to help support seven younger siblings, thereby limiting his opportunities for a formal education. He attended the local district school until age ten, but thereafter his intellectual growth largely depended on his own reading and discussions with friends of a similar scholarly bent, the first being his cousin William Andrus Alcott. William later attended Yale College and established a career as a physician and popular author of health manuals, but continuing poverty prevented Bronson from obtaining a college education. At age fifteen he, like many of his young Connecticut contemporaries, began peddling small manufactured goods, first in Massachusetts and New York, then in Virginia and the Carolinas....

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Arnett, Benjamin William (06 March 1838–09 October 1906), African-American religious, educational, and political leader, was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel G. Arnett and Mary Louisa (maiden name unknown). Arnett was a man of “mixed Irish, Indian, Scots, and African ancestry” (Wright, p. 79). He was educated in a one-room schoolhouse in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania. Arnett worked as a longshoreman along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and briefly as a hotel waiter. His career as a longshoreman and waiter ended abruptly when a cancerous tumor necessitated amputation of his left leg in 1858. He turned to teaching and was granted a teaching certificate on 19 December 1863. At that time, he was the only African-American schoolteacher licensed in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. For ten months during the academic year 1884–1885, Arnett served as a school principal in Washington, D.C. He returned to Brownsville in 1885, teaching there until 1887. Although largely self-educated, he attended classes at Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati. A man of many interests, he was an occasional lecturer in ethics and psychology at the Payne Theological Seminary at Wilberforce University, served as a historian of the AME church, was a trustee of the Archaeological and Historical Society of Ohio, served as a member of the Executive Committee of the National Sociological Society, and was statistical secretary of the Ecumenical Conference of Methodism for the western section from 1891 to 1901....

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Baker, George Pierce (04 April 1866–06 January 1935), professor of drama, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of George Pierce Baker, a physician, and Lucy Daily Cady, who encouraged the frail boy’s interest in intellectual and cultural activities and took him to the theater from an early age. Childhood performances for family and friends and scrapbooks of clippings of touring stars he saw testify to his passionate interest....

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Barnes, Albert Coombs (02 January 1872–24 July 1951), collector, educator, and entrepreneur, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Jesse Barnes, a butcher, and Lydia A. Schafer. Barnes’s father lost his right arm in the Civil War, and his ability to support his family proved sporadic. However, Albert’s mother, to whom he was devoted, was hardworking and resourceful. Among his most vivid childhood memories were the exuberant black religious revivals and camp meetings he attended with his devout Methodist parents. Accepted at the academically demanding Central High School, which awarded bachelor’s degrees, his early interest in art was stimulated by his friendship with the future artist ...

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Beadle, George Wells (22 October 1903–09 June 1989), geneticist and university president, was the son of Hattie Albro and Chauncey Elmer Beadle, farmers near Wahoo, Nebraska. He was raised on a small farm that was noteworthy for its sound agricultural practices. After the early death of his mother and the accidental death of an older brother, it was assumed that he would take over the farm. Instead, thanks to the beneficent influence of Bess MacDonald, a high school teacher, he went to college. Further encouraged by the mentoring of Franklin D. Keim, an agronomy professor at the Nebraska College of Agriculture, Beadle entered graduate school at Cornell University in 1927 to pursue a career in biology....

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Bedaux, Charles Eugene (10 October 1886–18 February 1944), scientific manager, entrepreneur, and fascist collaborator, was born in Charenton-le-Pont, France, a suburb of Paris, the son of Charles Emile Bedaux, a railroad engineer, and Marie Eulalie, a dressmaker. Bedaux spent his first twenty years on the streets of Paris, doing odd jobs and usually avoiding school. He attended the Lycée Louis LeGrand in Paris but did not receive a regular degree. In 1906 he left Paris to seek his fortune across the Atlantic. In the United States Bedaux worked as a dishwasher, an insurance salesman, and a sandhog with the crews building the Hudson River tunnels. He also had a stint at the New Jersey Worsted Mills in Hoboken. He became a naturalized citizen in 1908....

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Bell, Alexander Graham (03 March 1847–02 August 1922), inventor and educator, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of Alexander Melville Bell and Eliza Grace Symonds. Family tradition and childhood environment set him on the path to his greatest invention, the telephone. His grandfather had turned from acting to speech teaching, and his father had become eminent in the latter vocation. His mother, despite her seriously impaired hearing, was an accomplished pianist and engaged her son’s interest in that form of sound communication. Edinburgh, second only to London as an intellectual center of the British Empire, excelled in science and technology, which probably stirred the boy’s interest and ambition in such matters. He made a hobby of botany and zoology. Playing about a local grist mill, he took up the miller’s challenge to make himself useful and devised a hand-cranked machine that took the husks off the grain—“my first invention,” he later called it....

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Benjamin, Harry (12 January 1885–24 August 1986), physician, endocrinologist, and sex researcher, was born in Berlin, Germany, the son of Julius Benjamin, a banker, and Bertha Hoffman. He became interested in human sexuality at the age of twenty, when he read August Forel’s ...

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Bettmann, Otto (15 October 1903–01 May 1998), historian and photo archivist, was born in Leipzig, Germany, to Hans Bettmann, an orthopedic surgeon, and his wife, Charlotte Frank. The family was Jewish, and Otto grew up in a highly cultured environment, where he was especially drawn to his father's extensive collection of medical literature. As a child he enjoyed working in the darkroom of the elder Bettmann's clinic, where Hans Bettmann pioneered in the use of X-rays for diagnosis. Young Otto made copies of pictorial images he found in his father's books and collected from free publications offered by German medical firms, and in 1916, for his father's birthday, he presented a pictorial history of medicine that he had created from these images....

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Bevan, Arthur Dean (09 August 1861–10 June 1943), surgeon and reformer of medical education, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Thomas Bevan, a physician, and Sarah Elizabeth Ramsey. After attending high school in Chicago, Bevan earned his Ph.B. at Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School in 1881. He then entered Rush Medical College in Chicago and obtained his M.D. in 1883. He finished first in the competitive examination for the U.S. Marine Hospital Service....

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Beveridge, Albert Jeremiah (06 October 1862–27 April 1927), U.S. senator and historian, was born in Highland County, Ohio, the son of Thomas Beveridge and Frances Parkinson, farmers. The family moved to Illinois when Beveridge was a child. Because of his father’s financial difficulties, Beveridge worked as a plowboy, railroad section hand, logger, and teamster. He attended Asbury College (now DePauw University), graduating in 1885. He made his mark there in oratory, and he had a reputation throughout his life as a spellbinding public speaker. He was admitted to the bar in 1887. He married Katherine Langsdale that same year; she died in 1900. He married Catherine Eddy in 1907; they had two children....

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Billings, John Shaw (12 April 1838–11 March 1913), army medical officer, library organizer, and public health activist, was born near Allensville, Indiana, the son of James Billings, a farmer and storekeeper, and Abby Shaw. Despite spotty secondary schooling, he ultimately went to Miami College (Ohio), where he earned his B.A. in 1857. He was awarded the M.D. by the Medical College of Ohio in 1860. Billings remained with the latter institution for a year as an anatomical demonstrator, but after the outbreak of the Civil War he joined the U.S. Army as a contract surgeon. In 1862 he was commissioned first lieutenant and assistant surgeon and went on to make army service his career. Also in 1862 he married Katharine Mary Stevens; they had five children....

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Bloch, Ernest (24 July 1880–15 July 1959), composer and educator, was born in Geneva, Switzerland, the son of Maurice Bloch, a purveyor of tourist merchandise, and Sophie Brunschwig. Bloch senior, an official of the small Jewish community in Legnau, in the Canton of Aargau, provided his family with an Orthodox environment. Bloch exhibited an early interest in music, and during his teenage years he received training in violin from Albert Goss and Louis Etienne-Reyer and in solfège and composition from Émile Jaques-Dalcroze. He left school at the age of fourteen, shortly after his bar mitzvah. From 1896 to 1899 Bloch studied in Brussels, where his teachers included Eugène Ysaÿe, Franz Schörg, and François Rasse. Bloch’s compositions from this apprenticeship period reveal the influence of the Russian national school, particularly in matters of fluctuating meters, folk-flavored melodies, irregular rhythms, exotic scalar constructions, a propensity for modality, and coloristic scoring. His ...

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Boorstin, Daniel J. (01 October 1914–28 February 2004), historian and Librarian of Congress, was born Daniel Joseph Boorstin in Atlanta, Georgia, to Samuel Aaron Boorstin, an attorney, and Dora Olsan Boorstin. His Jewish grandparents fled pogroms in czarist Russia. His parents fled again in 1915, when his father's client, Leo Frank, was lynched by an anti-Semitic mob in Atlanta....

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Branner, John Casper (04 July 1850–01 March 1922), geologist and university president, was born in New Market, Tennessee, the son of Michael T. Branner, a third-generation Tennessee landowner, and Elsie Baker. Branner attended local schools, read the few books he could find, and developed an active curiosity about the plants, animals, and rocks of his neighborhood. In 1870, after spending two years at nearby Maryville College, he entered Cornell University, where he studied with geology professor Charles F. Hartt, who had made several scientific expeditions to Brazil. Hartt took Branner to Brazil with him in 1874, and the following year, when the Brazilian government appointed Hartt head of a commission to direct the first geological survey of the country, he appointed Branner his assistant. This was the beginning of Branner’s lifelong interest in the geology of Brazil, about which little was then known....

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Brown, Hallie Quinn (10 March 1849–16 September 1949), educator, elocutionist, and entertainer, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Thomas Arthur Brown, a steward and express agent on riverboats, and Frances Jane Scroggins. Both her parents were former slaves. When Hallie was fourteen years old she moved with her parents and five siblings to Chatham, Ontario, where her father earned his living farming, and the children attended the local school. There Brown’s talents as a speaker became evident. Returning to the United States around 1870, the family settled in Wilberforce, Ohio, so that Hallie and her younger brother could attend Wilberforce College, a primarily black African Methodist Episcopal (AME) institution....

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Burr, Aaron (04 January 1716–24 September 1757), Presbyterian minister and college founder, was born in Upper Meadows, Fairfield, Connecticut, the son of Daniel Burr, a prosperous farmer, and his wife Elizabeth. (By the Old Style form of dating, his year of birth was 1715.) After graduating from Yale College in 1735, he remained in New Haven to study theology, during which time he was caught up in the colonial revival of religion known as the Great Awakening. With several other Yale classmates, Burr underwent a moving personal conversion and also came under the influence of the most capable defender of the Awakening, ...

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Cabrini, Frances Xavier (15 July 1850–22 December 1917), educator and founder, was born Maria Francesca Cabrini in Saint’ Angelo Lodigiano, Italy, the daughter of Agostino Cabrini and Stella Oldini, farmers. Cabrini’s early life was greatly influenced by the political and religious disputes of her day. The drive for Italian unification, ...