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Allen, Nathan (25 April 1813–01 January 1889), physician, social reformer, and public health advocate, was born in Princeton, Massachusetts, the son of Moses Allen and Mehitable Oliver, farmers. He spent his first seventeen years on the family farm, learning to work hard and to follow the Christian principles of his parents. He could not afford a higher education, but a friend in Leicester helped pay his tuition at Amherst Academy and then at Amherst College, where he matriculated in 1832, graduating in 1836....

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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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Bundesen, Herman Niels (27 April 1882–15 August 1960), physician, author, and politician, was born in Berlin, Germany, the son of a Danish father and a German mother whose identities are unknown. Brought to Chicago at an early age by his impoverished, widowed mother, he graduated from Northwestern University Medical School in 1909. Also in 1909 he married Rega Russell; they had six children....

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Cabot, Hugh (11 August 1872–14 August 1945), surgeon, educator, and medical reformer, was born in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts, the son of James Elliot Cabot, an architect, naturalist, and graduate of Harvard Law School, and Elizabeth Dwight. The youngest of seven boys, Cabot was an active child, exposed to music, the Unitarian religion, the challenge of the outdoors, and his parents’ philanthropic ideals. His privileged yet altruistic upbringing underlay his future productive life....

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Ford, Betty (08 April 1918–08 July 2011), first lady of the United States and public health advocate, was born Elizabeth Ann Bloomer in Chicago, Illinois, the youngest of three children of William S. Bloomer, a traveling salesman, and Hortense Neahr Bloomer. She was raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her father died of carbon monoxide poisoning in 1934; at his funeral Betty learned from her mother that he had been an alcoholic. Starting dance lessons at age eight, Betty briefly thought of becoming a ballerina. However, she soon gravitated toward modern dance, which, after her 1936 graduation from high school, she studied at the Bennington School of Dance in Vermont. One of her instructors, the influential ...

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Simkhovitch, Mary Kingsbury (08 September 1867–15 November 1951), social settlement leader and housing reformer, was born Mary Melinda Kingsbury in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, the older of two children of Laura Holmes and Isaac Franklin Kingsbury, both of whom came from well-established and politically engaged New England families. Her mother’s family had sheltered runaway slaves, and her father fought with the Thirty-Second Massachusetts Volunteers in the Civil War. Mary described her childhood as a happy one—surrounded by extended family and full of tales of the war—in which she played in fields and orchards, practiced piano, and read avidly. As a child, her family occupied the same pew in the local Congregational church that her father’s grandfather had, though the family joined the Episcopal Church when she was in her teens....

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Weaver, Robert C. (29 December 1907–17 July 1997), economist, political administrator, and educator, was born Robert Clifton Weaver in Washington, D.C., the son of Mortimer Grover Weaver, a postal clerk, and Florence Freeman Weaver. Weaver grew up in a middle-class and educated family, one of seven African-American families in a Washington suburb. His father worked for the post office. (One grandfather, ...

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Wiley, Harvey Washington (18 October 1844–30 June 1930), chemist and pure food crusader, was born in Jefferson County, Indiana, the son of Preston Pritchard, a farmer, Campbellite lay preacher, and schoolmaster, and Lucinda Weir Maxwell. Harvey’s attendance at Hanover College (1863–1867), from which he received the B.A. degree, was interrupted by service as a hundred-day volunteer (May–Sept. 1864) with the 137th Indiana Regiment in Tennessee. After a year of teaching and a summer’s apprenticeship with a Kentucky physician (1868), Wiley attended Indiana Medical College (1869–1871), where he ultimately earned his M.D., simultaneously teaching at Northwestern Christian University (later Butler University) and the Indianapolis high school. He then taught chemistry at both his medical school and Butler. During 1872–1873 Wiley spent some months at the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard University, adding a B.S. to his M.D. Wiley was appointed the first professor of chemistry at the newly opened Purdue University, from 1874 to 1883, and state chemist (1881). In 1878 Wiley observed at German universities and studied food chemistry at the German Imperial Health Office. Back at Purdue, his research in the chemistry of sugars and the adulteration of cane syrup led to his appointment as chief chemist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1883....