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Ericsson, John (31 July 1803–08 March 1889), inventor and engineer, was born in Langbanshyttan, province of Wermland, Sweden, the son of Olof Ericsson, a mine proprietor and inspector, and Brita Sophia Yngstrom. His earliest education was instruction by his parents and private tutors. John often spent his days drawing and building models of the machinery in his father’s mine. His father was well educated, but John’s strong character traits were attributed to the influence of his mother. Sweden’s war with Russia ruined John’s father financially, but he was able to secure a position as an inspector on a canal project and to obtain appointments for his two sons as cadets in the Corps of Mechanical Engineers. Thus at age thirteen John began his first formal education, and his natural aptitudes for mechanical drawing and solving engineering problems were encouraged and developed....

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Isherwood, Benjamin Franklin (06 October 1822–19 June 1915), marine engineer, was born in New York City, the son of Benjamin Isherwood, a physician, and Eliza Hicks. His father died soon after the boy was born, and his mother married a civil engineer, John Green, in 1824. In 1831 Isherwood enrolled in Albany Academy, an exacting preparatory school that emphasized “mechanical pursuits” (Sloan, p. 6). At age fourteen, in his final school year, Isherwood was expelled for unspecified “serious misconduct.”...

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Shreve, Henry Miller (21 October 1785–06 March 1851), steamboat captain, army engineer, and steamship designer, was born in Burlington County, New Jersey, the son of Israel Shreve and Mary Cokely, farmers. During the American Revolution British forces had destroyed the Shreve home, so Shreve’s father took his family to the frontier in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, when Henry was about three years old....