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Frederick Law Olmsted. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-36895).

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Olmsted, Frederick Law (26 April 1822–23 August 1903), landscape architect and travel writer, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the son of John Olmsted, a dry goods merchant, and Charlotte Hull. Olmsted’s mother died when he was three, and between the ages of seven and fifteen he received most of his schooling from ministers and private academies outside Hartford. In 1837, when he was about to enter Yale College, severe sumac poisoning weakened his eyes, leading to a decade of desultory education at the hands of a civil engineer and several farmers, interspersed with seven months with a dry goods firm in New York City, a year-long voyage to China, and a semester at Yale. In 1848 his father bought him a farm on Staten Island, where he lived for the next eight years, practicing scientific agriculture with special interest in tile drainage of soils. He read widely in these years, being especially influenced by ...