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Abbe, Cleveland (03 December 1838–28 October 1916), meteorologist and astronomer, was born in New York City, the eldest of seven children of George Waldo Abbe, a merchant, and Charlotte Colgate. He was educated at the New York Free Academy, now City College of New York (part of CUNY), where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1857 and a master’s degree in 1860....

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Abbey, Edward (29 January 1927–14 March 1989), essayist, novelist, and radical ecologist, was born in Home, Pennsylvania, the son of Paul Revere Abbey, a farmer, and Mildred Postlewaite, a public schoolteacher. He was raised, with four siblings, on a hardscrabble farm. A turning point in late adolescence came out of some months of hitchhiking around the western United States, with which he ever after fervently identified himself....

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Charles G. Abbot [left to right] Charles G. Abbot and Floyd Karker Richtmyer at the National Academy of Sciences meeting in Cleveland, OH, 1934. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-114340).

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Abbot, Charles Greeley (31 May 1872–17 December 1973), astronomer, was born in Wilton, New Hampshire, the son of Harris Abbot and Caroline Ann Greeley, farmers. Abbott began the study of chemistry and physics at Phillips Andover Academy and graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1894 with a thesis in chemical physics under the direction of ...

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Abbot, John (31 May 1751–1840), artist-naturalist, was born in London, England, the son of John Abbot, an attorney in the court of King’s Bench, Plea side, and Ann Clousinger. (Although baptismal records list his birth date as 31 May, Abbot, in his “Notes on My Life” [1834], claimed he was born on 1 June.) Little is known about Abbot’s early education. The family rented a country home near London where young John read books and studied insects in the field. His father had a collection of good paintings and encouraged his son’s interests with books and arranged for home art lessons under the engraver and drawing master Jacob Bonneau. Nevertheless, Abbot’s career was assumed to be in law, and in February 1769 he began to clerk in his father’s law office. In his free time he continued to study insects, purchase books that illustrated insects and birds, and paint pictures. In 1770 Abbot exhibited two lepidoptera watercolors at the Society of Artists of Great Britain in London. By early 1773 he had determined to go to North America to collect and paint insects. The Royal Society of London and two English naturalists, Thomas Martyn and Dru Drury, commissioned Abbot to collect natural history specimens....

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Abbott, Charles Conrad (04 June 1843–27 July 1919), naturalist and archaeologist, was born in Trenton, New Jersey, the son of Timothy Abbott, a banker, and Susan Conrad. As a child he loved nature and began a lifelong fascination with the flora and fauna of the Delaware River Valley. Like many young men drawn to natural history, he saw no prospects for turning his passion into a livelihood and so chose to study medicine....

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Abell, George Ogden (01 March 1927–07 October 1983), astronomer and educator, was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Theodore Curtis Abell, a Unitarian minister, and Annamarie Ogden. His marriage to Lois Everson in 1951, which produced two sons, ended in divorce in 1970; in 1972 he married Phyllis Fox....

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Acheson, Edward Goodrich (09 March 1856–06 July 1931), inventor and industrialist, was born in Washington, Pennsylvania, the son of William Acheson, a merchant and ironworks manager, and Sarah Diana Ruple. Acheson attended the Bellefonte Academy in Centre County, Pennsylvania, for three years, concentrating his studies on surveying. In 1872, at the age of sixteen, his formal education was brought to an abrupt end by a combination of that year’s financial panic and his father’s declining health. Acheson went to work as a timekeeper at Monticello Furnace, an ironworks operated by his father, where he developed his first invention, a drilling machine for coal mining. This yielded him his first patent, at age seventeen, but the device was awkward to use and by no means a commercial success....

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Adams, Charles Baker (11 January 1814–18 January 1853), naturalist and educator, was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, the son of Charles J. Adams, a Boston merchant, and Hannah Baker. At an early age Adams showed great interest and ability in natural history and chemistry. His parents encouraged him by setting aside a room for his rocks and fossils and the apparatus he used for chemistry experiments. He began his formal education at Boston schools and then attended Phillips Academy in Andover before entering Yale College in 1830. After a year at Yale he transferred to Amherst College, where he flourished, graduating in 1834 with highest honors. He entered the Theological Seminary at Andover with the intention of preparing for the ministry, but he left in 1836 to assist professor ...

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Adams, Comfort Avery (01 November 1868–21 February 1958), engineering professor and consulting engineer, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Comfort Avery Adams and Katherine Emily Peticolas. Although the family experienced stringent financial circumstances during Adams’s youth, he entered Case Institute of Applied Science (now part of Case Western Reserve University) after attending public schools in Cleveland. At Case he was laboratory assistant to a young physicist, ...

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Adams, Roger (02 January 1889–06 July 1971), chemist and administrator, was born in Boston, the son of Austin W. Adams, a railroad official, and Lydia Curtis. He was related to the Adams presidential family. He completed the undergraduate course in chemistry at Harvard in three years (A.B., 1909). His Harvard Ph.D. thesis was in three parts, directed by H. A. Torrey, Latham Clark, and ...

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Adams, Walter Sydney (20 December 1876–11 May 1956), astronomer, was born in the Syrian village of Kessab, the son of Lucien Harper Adams and Nancy Dorrance Francis, missionaries. Upon the family’s return to Derry, New Hampshire, in 1885, Adams attended public and private schools, graduating in 1894 from Phillips Academy, Andover, intent upon pursuing astronomy as a career. He trained under ...

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Adamski, George (17 April 1891–23 April 1965), lecturer and writer on occult subjects and on UFOs during the 1950s' flying saucer enthusiasm, lecturer and writer on occult subjects and on UFOs during the 1950s’ flying saucer enthusiasm, was born in Poland. His parents (names unknown) brought him to the United States when he was one or two. The family settled in Dunkirk, New York; their life was hard, and Adamski received little formal education. He joined the Thirteenth U.S. Cavalry Regiment in 1913 as an enlisted man, serving on the Mexican border, and was honorably discharged in 1916. On 25 December 1917 he married Mary A. Shimbersky (d. 1954). After leaving the army, Adamski worked as a painter in Yellowstone National Park, in a flour mill in Portland, Oregon, and by 1921 was working in a cement factory in California. He continued to live in California, reportedly supporting himself and his wife through a variety of jobs, including by the 1930s teaching and lecturing on occult subjects....

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Adkins, Homer Burton (16 January 1892–10 August 1949), organic chemist, was born near Newport, Ohio, the son of Alvin Adkins and Emily Middleswart, farmers. Adkins grew up on his parents’ farm, attended local schools, and then entered Denison University, from which he received a bachelor’s degree in 1915. In 1917 he married Louise Spivey, a Denison classmate and high school mathematics teacher; they had three children. In 1918 he earned a doctorate in chemistry from Ohio State University. After briefly serving as a chemist in the Department of War, he became an instructor in chemistry at Ohio State in 1918. In 1919 he began a thirty-year association with the University of Wisconsin, moving from assistant professor to associate professor in 1924 to professor in 1928....

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Adler, Charles, Jr. (20 June 1899–23 October 1980), engineer and inventor, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Harry Adler, a physician, and Carolyn “Carrie” Frank. At age fourteen, he patented his first invention, an electric automotive brake that he installed on his father’s Packard. Following graduation from high school, which he described as “completing four years in five,” Adler entered the Johns Hopkins University school of engineering. During that time he also served briefly in the Army training corps as acting corporal, being discharged in December 1918....

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Adrain, Robert (30 September 1775–10 August 1843), mathematician, was born in Carrickfergus, Ireland. Neither parent’s name is known; his father was a schoolteacher and a maker of mathematical instruments. Adrain was fifteen when both of his parents died. His early education, though good, had not included any mathematics beyond arithmetic. After becoming curious about algebraic notation, he began to teach himself algebra. Thus Adrain, like many of the American mathematicians with whom he would soon interact, was largely self-taught....

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Agassiz, Alexander (17 December 1835–27 March 1910), marine biologist, oceanographer, and industrial entrepreneur, was born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, the son of Louis Agassiz, a zoologist, and Cécile Braun. Agassiz came to the United States in 1849, following the death of his mother in Germany. The domestic life of his parents had been marred by difficulties, and Alex moved to Massachusetts to join his father, who had become a professor of zoology and geology at Harvard University after a distinguished career in Europe. The American experience came at a difficult stage in Alex Agassiz’s adolescence. He hardly knew his father, who had spent much time away from home on scientific projects....

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Louis Agassiz. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103949).

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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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Aiken, Howard Hathaway (08 March 1900–14 March 1973), computer pioneer, was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, the son of Daniel Aiken and Margaret Emily Mierisch. The family moved to Indianapolis, and when Howard was twelve years old, his father left home and the boy became the family breadwinner. He attended the Arsenal Technical High School during the day, working at night as a switchboard operator for the Indianapolis Light and Heat Company. Upon graduation in 1919, Aiken entered the University of Wisconsin in Madison to study electrical engineering, supporting himself and his family with a night job at the Madison Gas Company....