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Anthony, Harold Elmer (05 April 1890–29 March 1970), mammalogist, museum curator, and author, was born in Beaverton, Oregon, the son of Alfred Webster Anthony and Anabel Klink. His father, a mining engineer and amateur ornithologist and collector, encouraged the boy’s interests in natural history. Anthony was an avid hunter, as were other lads in his community, but he early evinced an interest in preserving small mammal and bird skins for further study. Educated in the local public schools of Portland, Oregon, Anthony attended Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, for one year (1910–1911)....

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Isaac Asimov Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-115121).

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Asimov, Isaac (02 January 1920–06 April 1992), writer, was born in Petrovichi, USSR, the son of Judah Asimov, a merchant, and Anna Rachel Berman. Asimov’s Russian-Jewish father and mother emigrated to New York City in 1923. After a number of years working odd jobs, they bought a candy store in Brooklyn in 1926, the first of many in that borough that Asimov would help run until he was twenty-two years old. Working long hours in the candy store left Asimov’s parents with little time to raise their children. His mother was especially hard on him, frequently hitting him when she lost her temper and reminding him that he was responsible for their hand-to-mouth existence. Asimov was a precocious child who taught himself to read before he was five, and he read omnivorously thereafter. At seven he taught his younger sister to read, “somewhat against her will,” he confesses in his memoir, ...

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Bartram, William (09 April 1739–22 July 1823), naturalist, artist, and explorer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Bartram, a naturalist, and Ann Mendenhall. Unlike his father, who was essentially self-taught, William Bartram benefited from a rigorous formal education at the Philadelphia Academy, where he studied history, Latin, French, and the classics. From an early age, however, his overriding interest was in nature. He spent much of his time as a young man traveling with his father to collect and draw plants and other specimens for John Bartram’s overseas patrons and scientific correspondents....

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Bates, Marston (23 July 1906–03 April 1974), naturalist and educator, was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the son of Glen F. Bates, a farmer and horticulturist, and Amy Mabel Button. In 1916 his father moved the family to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where young Bates was reared. An only child in a rather isolated environment, he developed an interest in insects (he collected butterflies) and an ambition to visit the tropics. He earned a B.S. in biology at the University of Florida in 1927....

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John Burroughs Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-99738).

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John Burroughs In his cabin, “Slabsides.” Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103950).

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Burroughs, John (03 April 1837–29 March 1921), naturalist and author, was born in Roxbury, New York, the son of Chauncey A. Burroughs and Amy Kelly, farmers. He attended district schools in Roxbury and later studied briefly at two academies in Upstate New York. He became a teacher in 1854, at the age of seventeen, and for the next decade he taught in rural schools in New York, New Jersey, and Illinois. He studied medicine for a few months with a physician in Tangore, New York, where he met Ursula North, a farmer’s daughter. The two married in 1857; they adopted one child, born in 1878 to a woman with whom Burroughs had an extramarital affair (his wife did not learn of the child’s paternity until several years later). During the 1850s Burroughs discovered the Transcendentalist writings of ...

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Crockett, James Underwood (09 October 1915–11 July 1979), gardener and writer, was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, the son of Earle Royce Crockett and Inez Underwood Crockett. After attending area public schools, he studied horticulture briefly at the University of Massachusetts. By 1935 he had moved to Long Island, New York, where he became an employee of Oak Park Nurseries, in East Patchogue. Four years later he moved again, this time to Texas, and became the superintendent of the Japanese Nursery Company in Houston. During his two years in Texas he studied horticulture part time at the state Agricultural and Mechanical College, now known as Texas A&M University....

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William Darlington. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B05853).

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Darlington, William (28 April 1782–23 April 1863), physician, botanist, and author, was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of Edward Darlington, a farmer who also found time to serve in the Pennsylvania legislature, and Hannah Townsend. Wanting to escape the drudgery of farm work that had restricted his schooling to a few winter months each year, at age eighteen Darlington persuaded his father to pay the necessary fees for his apprenticeship to study medicine with John Vaughan in Wilmington, Delaware. In return, his father required that he give up his inheritance of a share of the family farm....

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Davis, Watson (29 April 1896–27 June 1967), science writer and editor, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Charles Allan Davis, a high-school principal, and Maud Watson, a teacher. Davis attended George Washington University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1918 and a civil engineering degree in 1920. In 1919 he married Helen Augusta Miles, a fellow student and a chemist; they had two children....

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Ditmars, Raymond Lee (22 June 1876–12 May 1942), zoo curator and popular writer on reptiles, was born in Newark, New Jersey, son of John Van Harlingen Ditmars, a furniture dealer and Confederate veteran, and Mary Knaus. When Raymond was six the family moved to New York City. His interest in nature began with visits to Central Park, which had a small menagerie and natural areas teeming with snakes and other creatures, and to the salt marshes on the outskirts of Brooklyn, where his family spent the summer. These experiences captivated his interest, and, although his family intended for him to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, his mind was on snakes....

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Dubos, René Jules (20 February 1901–20 February 1982), microbiologist and author, was born in Saint Brice, France, a farming community north of Paris, the son of Georges Andre Dubos, a butcher, and Adeline De Bloedt. Dubos’s parents soon moved farther into the countryside to the tiny village of Henonville, where René attended a one-room school until the family moved to Paris in 1914. The family’s economic uncertainties worsened when his father died after serving in World War I. During his childhood Dubos suffered from episodes of rheumatic fever, which led to the cardiac damage common before antibiotics. These severe illnesses, together with extremely poor eyesight, restricted his youthful activities and had a permanent impact on his life....

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Eiseley, Loren Corey (03 September 1907–09 July 1977), anthropologist, writer, and philosopher of science, was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, the only son of Clyde Edwin Eiseley, an amateur actor turned hardware salesman, and Daisey Corey, a self-educated artist. The family’s financial instability and his mother’s handicap (she was deaf and, as he later wrote, “always on the brink of mental collapse”) made his formative years in Nebraska a time of profound isolation. For solace, he turned to the Nebraska prairie and its fauna. He enrolled in the University of Nebraska in 1925, but physical and psychological crises kept him from graduating until eight years later. Near the end of his life, he recalled dropping out of college at least three times—to work in a poultry hatchery, to recuperate from tuberculosis in Colorado and the Mojave Desert (1928–1929), and to drift, riding the rails in the West (1930–1931). His father’s death in 1928 brought Eiseley to the brink of mental collapse. During this period, however, he worked on his first archaeological dig, published his first poetry, and cultivated a deep affinity for animals and landscape. In the same year he finished college (1933) Eiseley went to the University of Pennsylvania for graduate work in anthropology. He earned his Ph.D. in 1937, completing a dissertation titled “Three Indices of Quaternary Time and Their Bearing upon Pre-History: A Critique.” With this work an intensely private man began an unexpected career as a prominent public intellectual and literary naturalist....

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Elliott, William (27 April 1788–03 February 1863), planter, writer, and sportsman, was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, the son of William Elliott, a planter, and Phoebe Waight. Elliott was educated in the schools at Beaufort and at Beaufort College. He entered the sophomore class at Harvard in 1806. He withdrew from Harvard in 1808 because of ill health; he was later awarded a B.A. in 1810 and an A.M. in 1815 from the school. After leaving Harvard, he returned to Beaufort and devoted himself to the management of the family rice and cotton plantations. In 1817 Elliott married Ann Hutchinson Smith; they had nine children....

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Fowler, Orson Squire (11 October 1809–18 August 1887), phrenologist and publisher, was born in Cohocton, Steuben County, New York, the son of Horace Fowler, a farmer, and Martha Howe. He was graduated from Amherst College in 1834 and in 1835 married Eliza Brevoort Chevalier, a widow, by whom he had two children. Though educated for the ministry, he devoted himself to phrenology, the “science” of the mind that was formulated by Franz Joseph Gall and introduced to the United States by Johann Gaspar Spurzheim. Phrenology postulated that, because the brain was the organ of the mind and shaped the skull, there was an observable concomitance between the mind (talents, disposition, character) and the shape of the head. In an analysis, a phrenologist examined the latter to determine the former. Immediately after graduation Fowler started his professional career as itinerant practical phrenologist in New England. Using charts and a phrenological bust, he lectured on phrenology and analyzed heads, sizing “organs” or “faculties” such as amativeness, combativeness, firmness, and ideality to determine character. It was believed that each faculty manifested itself through its own cerebral organ, the size of which indicated its functional power. The size of the organ, it was believed, could be increased or decreased by exercise....

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Gamow, George (04 March 1904–20 August 1968), theoretical physicist and science popularizer, was born Georgy Antonovich Gamov in Odessa, Russia, the son of Anton Michailovich Gamov and Alexandra Arsenievia Lebedinzeva, high school teachers. During his first three decades, Gamow survived the Russian Revolution; graduated from the Odessa Normal School in 1920; learned and did theoretical physics in Leningrad and such centers as Göttingen, Copenhagen, and Cambridge; got married in 1931 to optical engineer Lyubov “Rho” Vokhminzeva, with whom he had his only child; and—eager for a better life—attended in 1933 a prestigious conference in Belgium from which he never returned to the Soviet Union. His years in Europe are vividly recounted in his posthumous autobiography, ...

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Gardner, Martin (21 Oct. 1914–22 May 2010), popular science and puzzle writer and editor, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to James Gardner, a petroleum geologist and founder of an oil company, and Willie Morman Gardner. As a child Martin was fascinated by puzzles of all kinds, an interest encouraged by his father. From his mother he developed a love of reading and became a devotee of the ...

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Hall, Basil (31 December 1788–11 September 1844), captain in the British navy and author of scientific works and books of travel, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of Sir James Hall, a geologist of repute who published on a variety of other subjects as well, including architecture, and Helen Douglas. After a basic education in Edinburgh, Basil at age fourteen joined the Royal Navy and set out on the first of many voyages. By age twenty he was made lieutenant and at twenty-nine was a captain....