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Archibald Bruce. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B03753).

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Bruce, Archibald ( February 1777–22 February 1818), physician, mineralogist, and editor, was born in New York City, the son of William Bruce, a British army medical officer, and Judith Bayard Van Rensselaer. Despite his father’s expressed wish, Bruce pursued medical education and practice. After taking an A.B. at Columbia College in 1797, he continued his studies in New York and then moved on to Edinburgh (M.D., 1800). As was common in this period, his medical education included exposure to the natural sciences, and Bruce developed a lifelong interest in mineralogy. After completing his M.D., he extended his European stay with travels on the Continent to study mineralogy and collect materials for his own mineralogical cabinet....

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Clapp, Asahel (05 October 1792–17 December 1862), physician, botanist, and geologist, was born in Hubbardston, Massachusetts, the son of Reuben Clapp and Hepzibah Gates, farmers. When Clapp was a small child, his family moved to Montgomery, Franklin County, Vermont, near the Canadian border. Later, after acquiring sufficient learning for the purpose, he moved to Shelton, Vermont, to teach school. At about eighteen years of age and desiring to learn medicine, he moved to St. Albans, Vermont, and apprenticed himself to Dr. Benjamin Chandler. The completion date of his training and his whereabouts thereafter are unknown until he arrived in New Albany, Indiana, early in 1817....

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Emmons, Ebenezer (16 May 1799–01 October 1863), medical doctor and geologist, was born in Middlefield, Massachusetts, the son of Ebenezer Emmons and Mary Mack, farmers. Childhood interests in insect and mineral collecting predisposed Emmons to the natural sciences at Williams College, from which he graduated in 1818. That same year he was married to Maria Cone; they had three children....

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Houghton, Douglass (21 September 1809–13 October 1845), geologist and physician, was born in Troy, New York, the son of Jacob Houghton, a lawyer and later a county judge, and Mary Lydia Douglass. Raised in a close-knit, cultured home in Fredonia, New York, Douglass was a small person with a nervous, active temperament inclined toward the practical and scientific. He exhibited early his lifelong interest in the natural world, and in spite of a slight speech impediment and facial scarring from a youthful experiment with gunpowder he was at ease with all levels of society....

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Saugrain De Vigni, Antoine François (17 February 1763–18 or 19 May 1820), naturalist, mineralogist, surgeon, and physician, was born in Paris, France, the son of Antoine Claude Saugrain, a bookseller, and Marie Brunet. Little is known of Saugrain’s education other than through a 1787 letter of introduction to ...

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Smith, John Lawrence (16 or 17 Dec. 1818–12 October 1883), chemist, mineralogist, and physician, was born near Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Benjamin Smith, a wealthy merchant; his mother’s name is unknown. At a very young age, even before he could read, John Lawrence Smith demonstrated precocity in mathematics. After attending private schools and receiving a classical education at the College of Charleston, in 1835 he entered the University of Virginia, where he concentrated on science, mathematics, and engineering. Returning to Charleston in 1837, he worked for one year on a Charleston-to-Cincinnati railroad engineering project before entering the Medical College of Charleston and completing requirements for his M.D. degree in 1840. He studied in Europe for several years with Justus Liebig (who inspired him to focus his research efforts on chemistry), J. B. Dumas, Matthieu Joseph Bonaventure Orfila, and Élie de Beaumont. Also at this time he initiated a lifelong association with ...