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John Shaw Billings. Courtesy of the Clendening History of Medicine Library and Museum, University of Kansas Medical Center.

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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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Douglas, H. Ford (1831–11 November 1865), abolitionist and military officer, was born in Virginia, the son of a white man, William Douglas, and a slave, Mary (surname unknown). His first name was Hezekiah, which he chose to abbreviate. Sometime after his fifteenth birthday, he escaped from slavery and settled in Cleveland, Ohio, where he worked as a barber. Self-educated, he became an active member of the antislavery movement and the Ohio free black community in the 1850s. He served as Cleveland agent for the ...

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Higginson, Thomas Wentworth (22 December 1823–09 May 1911), minister, reformer, soldier, and author, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Stephen Higginson, Jr., a Boston merchant, and Louisa Storrow. Higginson enrolled at Harvard in 1837 and graduated second in his class. Unsure about his future, he matriculated in Harvard Divinity School, dropped out, and then reenrolled. He graduated in 1847. In the same year he married his second cousin, Mary Elizabeth Channing, the daughter of the dean of the Harvard Medical School....

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Kane, Thomas Leiper (27 January 1822–26 December 1883), lawyer, soldier, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and defender of the Mormons, was born in Philadelphia, the son of John Kintzing Kane, a jurist, and Jane Duval Leiper. He attended school in Philadelphia and from 1839 to 1844 traveled in England and France, studying and visiting relatives. While in Paris he served for a time as an attaché of the American legation. Small in stature and never robust, he would spend most of his life struggling with ill health. In Paris he met Auguste Comte and others who surely encouraged his social conscience, which would be manifested later in his concern for philanthropic causes. In 1844 Kane returned to Philadelphia, where he studied law with his father. Although he was admitted to the bar in 1846 and clerked briefly for his father, who was a federal judge, his interests and activities generally moved in other directions....

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Oglethorpe, James Edward (22 December 1696–30 June 1785), founder of Georgia, philanthropist, and soldier, was born in London, England, the son of Theophilus Oglethorpe and Eleanor Wall. Having gone into exile with James II in 1688, the Oglethorpes named their last child for his son, James Edward Stuart. Even after Oglethorpe’s father gave up on the Jacobite cause, his mother and sisters provided intelligence and courier services for efforts to restore the Stuarts. Their reputation shadowed Oglethorpe, for whom no overt adult Jacobitism is known....