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Colden, Cadwallader (07 February 1689–20 September 1776), physician, natural scientist, and lieutenant governor of New York, was born of Scottish parents in Ireland, where his mother (name unknown) was visiting. His father was the Reverend Alexander Colden of Duns, Scotland. Colden graduated in 1705 from the University of Edinburgh. He then studied medicine in London but, lacking the money to establish a medical practice in Great Britain, migrated to Philadelphia in 1710. Welcomed by his mother’s sister Elizabeth Hill, Colden established himself as a merchant and physician. He returned to Scotland briefly in 1715, where in November of that year he married Alice Chrystie of Kelso, Scotland. After their marriage they returned to Philadelphia; the couple had eleven children. During a 1717 visit to New York, Colden was persuaded by Governor ...

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Cooper, Peter (12 February 1791–04 April 1883), inventor, manufacturer, and civic benefactor, was born in New York City, the son of John Cooper and Margaret Campbell. His father was a struggling merchant who moved the family successively to Peekskill, Catskill, and finally Newburgh, New York, in search of financial success. Assisting his father in a series of occupations (hatter, brewer, shopkeeper, and brickmaker), Cooper obtained valuable practical work experience. Given his family’s relative poverty and constant movement, Cooper was only able to obtain a year’s worth of formal schooling; this deficiency in his formal education haunted him throughout his life....

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Dryden, Hugh Latimer (02 July 1898–02 December 1965), physicist, was born in Pocomoke City, Maryland, the son of Samuel Isaac Dryden, a schoolteacher, and Zenovia Hill Culver. In 1907 the practicing Methodist family moved to Baltimore City, where Dryden’s father worked as a streetcar conductor for the rest of his life. In 1910 young Dryden saw an airplane for the first time, and, in his recollection, this prompted him to focus his life on aeronautics. He attended the Johns Hopkins University, receiving his B.A. with honors in 1916 and his M.A. in physics two years later....

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Featherstonhaugh, George William (09 April 1780–27 September 1866), gentleman-farmer, scientist, and diplomat, was born in London, England, the son of George Featherstonhaugh, a manufacturer, and Dorothy Simpson, a shopkeeper. Educated at Stepney House, a private school near Scarborough, Featherstonhaugh spent his youth traveling in Europe and until 1804 was the commercial agent on the Continent for several British import-export firms. After two years working in the London office of Thomas Dickason & Co., Featherstonhaugh moved in 1806 to New York City, where he met Sarah Duane, daughter of a former mayor of New York and owner of a large estate near Schenectady. After their marriage in November 1808, they moved to a country mansion on the estate—now named “Featherston Park”—at Duanesburg, where Featherstonhaugh farmed 2,000 acres, concentrating on sheep and cattle breeding. He and Duane had two sons and two daughters....

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Franklin, Benjamin (06 January 1706–17 April 1790), natural philosopher and writer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, opposite the Congregational Old South Church, where the Reverend Samuel Willard baptized him the same day. The youngest son and fifteenth child of Josiah Franklin, a tallow chandler and soap maker who emigrated from England in 1683 to practice his Puritan faith, Benjamin had eleven living brothers and sisters. Five were Josiah’s children by his first wife, Anne Child, and six were by his second wife, Abiah Folger, Benjamin’s mother. Two sisters were born later....

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Henshaw, Henry Wetherbee (03 March 1850–01 August 1930), ornithologist, ethnologist, and government official, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of William Henshaw and Sarah Holden Wetherbee. His interest in natural history was demonstrated from early childhood, and he began focusing has attention on birds. He completed his primary and secondary education in the local public schools, but poor health compelled him to defer plans to take the entrance examination at Harvard in 1869. While in high school, Henshaw met ...

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Hubbard, Gardiner Greene (25 August 1822–11 December 1897), businessman and civic leader, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Hubbard, a justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, and Mary Anne Greene. Hubbard was named for his mother’s father, who had come, modestly wealthy, from Ireland and had become one of the richest men in Boston. After Hubbard’s graduation from Dartmouth in 1841, he studied law for a year at Harvard before entering a prominent Boston firm. He married Gertrude McCurdy in 1846 and moved with her to Cambridge. Of their six children, two died in infancy....

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Kendall, Amos (16 August 1789–12 November 1869), journalist, postmaster general, and business agent, was born in Dunstable, Massachusetts, the son of Zebedee Kendall and Molly Dakin, farmers. Kendall spent his early years working on the family farm under the supervision of his father, a deacon in the Congregational church. After attending academies in New Ipswich, New Hampshire, and Groton, Massachusetts, he enrolled in 1807 at Dartmouth College. Frail and unaccustomed to independence, Kendall had difficulty adjusting to college life, especially because many of his classmates had moral standards much less strict than his own and because he had to drop out each winter to earn money by teaching school. But he adapted, made friends, and was so intelligent and hardworking that when he graduated in 1811 he ranked first in his class. Uncertain about his future, he spent the next few years in Groton studying law under Republican congressman William M. Richardson, who later became chief justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court....

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King, Clarence Rivers (06 January 1842–24 December 1901), geologist and first director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), geologist and first director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), was born in Newport, Rhode Island, the son of James Rivers King, a China trader, and Caroline Florence Little. The King family enjoyed comfortable circumstances until the bankruptcy of King & Company in 1857, after which Mrs. King, her husband having died in Amoy, China, in 1848, solved her financial problem through marriage to George S. Howland, the owner of a white lead factory in Brooklyn, New York....

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Lewis, George William (10 March 1882–12 July 1948), aviation pioneer, was born in Ithaca, New York, the son of William Henry Lewis and Edith Sweetland, merchants. During his early childhood his family moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania, and there he received his elementary and high school education. In 1908 he married Myrtle Harvey; the couple had six children. Also in 1908 he graduated from the Sibley College of Engineering; he received the degree of M.E. from Cornell University in 1908 and the degree of Master Mechanical Engineer (M.M.E.) in 1910. He was a faculty member of the Department of Mathematics at Swarthmore College from 1910 until 1917 and then became engineer in charge at Clarke-Thompson Research, Philadelphia, where he remained until 1919....

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MacNeven, William James (21 March 1763–12 July 1841), physician, professor, and Irish-American nationalist, was born on a small estate in Ballynahowne, County Galway, Ireland, the son of James MacNeven and Rosa Dolphin. William’s mother died when he was young, and he and his three brothers were raised by their aunt. At age ten or eleven William was sent to Prague to live with his uncle Baron William O’Kelley MacNeven, a court physician to Empress Maria Theresa. Following a classical education, William attended university in Prague and went on to study medicine at the University of Vienna, from which he graduated in 1783. In 1784 MacNeven returned to Dublin, where he established a medical practice....

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Mead, Elwood (16 January 1858–26 January 1936), U.S. Commissioner of Reclamation, was born near Patriot, Indiana, the son of David B. Mead, a farmer, and Lucinda Davis. Mead spent his early years studying in a one-room schoolhouse, doing chores on his father’s farm, and enjoying “long summer days playing in the groves of ash, oak, wild cherry, hickory, poplar, and walnut trees along the slopes of the Ohio River.” In this idyllic, mid-nineteenth-century setting he came to value the benefits of rural community life even as he broadened his horizons in his grandfather’s library, reputed to be the largest personal one in southern Indiana....

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Mendenhall, Walter Curran (20 February 1871–02 June 1957), geologist and federal administrator, was born in Marlboro, Stark County, Ohio, the son of William King Mendenhall, a farmer, and Emma Pierce Garrigues, a schoolteacher; both parents were Quakers. Mendenhall lived with his maternal uncle’s family while attending high school in Portland, Oregon. Returning to Ohio, Mendenhall taught at a local school and then entered Ohio Normal (now Ohio Northern) University in Ada. While an undergraduate, he spent his summer months as a teamster-laborer (1892) and a geologic assistant (1894) with a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) field party led by geologist Marius R. Campbell, a family friend and neighbor. After completing a B.Sc. degree in 1895, Mendenhall rejoined Campbell’s team to continue areal mapping and detailed studies of Appalachian coal fields. From 1895 to 1898 Mendenhall, promoted to assistant geologist in 1896, aided Campbell and his other geologists in mapping parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia for the folio ...

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Merriam, Clinton Hart (05 December 1855–19 March 1942), zoologist and government official, was born in New York City, the son of Clinton Levi Merriam, a businessman, banker, and two-term Republican U.S. congressman, and Caroline Hart. A younger sister, Florence ( Florence Augusta Merriam Bailey...

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Mitchill, Samuel Latham (20 August 1764–07 September 1831), physician, scientist, and legislator, was born in Hempstead, Long Island, New York, the son of Robert Mitchill, a farmer and overseer of highways, and Mary Latham. He learned the fundamentals of medicine from his uncle Dr. Samuel Latham, who also underwrote the cost of his nephew’s education. Mitchill served as a medical apprentice for Dr. ...

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Rush, Benjamin (04 January 1746–19 April 1813), physician, professor of chemistry and of medicine, and social reformer, was born in Byberry Township, Pennsylvania, thirteen miles northeast of Philadelphia, the son of John Rush, a farmer and gunsmith, and Susanna Hall Harvey. John Rush died when Benjamin was five years old. His mother ran a grocery store to support the family. She sent Benjamin at age eight to live with an uncle by marriage, the Reverend Dr. ...

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Sagan, Carl (09 November 1934–20 December 1996), space scientist, author, science popularizer, TV personality, and antinuclear weapons activist, was born Carl Edward Sagan in Brooklyn, New York. He was the son of Rachel Molly Gruber Sagan and garment industry worker Samuel Sagan, an immigrant from the Ukraine. Carl Sagan's Jewish background encouraged him “to ask questions early,” as he later observed (Davidson, p. 57); so did his mother's skeptical, sometimes acidic personality. At age five, he became interested in astronomy when he read in a library book that the stars are distant versions of our sun. His interest in science soared when his parents took him to the New York World's Fair of 1939–1940, which offered an optimistic and (as he later acknowledged) “extremely technocratic” view of the future (Davidson, p. 14)....

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Smith, George Otis (22 February 1871–10 January 1944), geologist and federal administrator, was born in Hodgdon, Aroostock County, Maine, the son of Joseph Otis Smith, a Civil War veteran and newspaper publisher, and Emma Mayo. In 1878 Joseph Smith founded the Somerset Independent Reporter...

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Walcott, Charles Doolittle (31 March 1850–09 February 1927), paleontologist, geologist, and administrator, was born in New York Mills, New York, the son of Charles Doolittle Walcott and Mary Lane. As a young schoolboy, Walcott became interested in collecting the local fossils near Utica, New York, and in his early teens he spent several summers at the resort area of Trenton Falls, New York, renowned for its fossils. After graduating from Utica Academy in 1868, he clerked in a hardware store for a year. In 1871, dissatisfied with the business world, Walcott moved to the farm of William Rust in the Trenton Falls area. Walcott assisted with the farm chores, and he and Rust collected fossils for sale; in 1873 the collection was sold to ...

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Wrather, William Embry (20 January 1883–28 November 1963), petroleum geologist and federal administrator, was born at Munford Farm, near Brandenburg, Meade County, Kentucky, the son of Richard Anselm Wrather and Glovy Washington Munford, farmers. He attended local schools before going to Chicago, Illinois, in 1898 to live with an uncle and work in his grocery while attending South Chicago High School. With savings from eighteen months’ employment with the Illinois Steel Company and a first-year scholarship, Wrather began training for the law at the University of Chicago in 1903. There geology professor ...