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Chanute, Octave (18 February 1832–23 November 1910), engineer and aeronautical experimenter, was born in Paris, France, the son of Joseph Chanut, an educator and historian, and Elise Sohpie de Bonnaire. His parents separated in 1838, when six-year-old Octave moved to New Orleans with his father, who was appointed vice president of Jefferson College. In 1844 father and son resettled in New York, where Octave was educated in a private school. He added a final “e” to his patronym during this period as a mark of Americanization and a means of suggesting the proper pronunciation of his name....

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Cooper, Hugh Lincoln (28 April 1865–24 June 1937), civil engineer, was born in Sheldon, Minnesota, the son of George Washington Cooper, a miller, and Nancy Marion Parshall. He early developed an interest in engineering, and at age seventeen, during a school vacation, he built a timber bridge across Moon Creek for his farmer employer. This bridge, with a span of forty feet, lasted forty years....

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Curtis, Samuel Ryan (03 February 1805–26 December 1866), soldier and engineer, was born near Champlain, New York, the son of Zarah Curtis and Phalley Yale, farmers. In 1809 the family moved to Licking County, Ohio. Curtis obtained an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy and graduated in 1831. Later that year he married Belinda Buckingham; the couple had six children. Curtis served briefly with the Seventh Infantry at Fort Gibson, Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), but resigned his commission in 1832 and returned to Ohio. During the next decade he worked as an engineer on the National Road and was the chief engineer of the Muskingum River improvement project. He also studied law and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1841. Curtis was active in the Ohio militia and was named adjutant general of the state when the Mexican War began, but he resigned in order to command the Third Ohio Infantry in the field. Much to his disappointment, he saw no action in Mexico but served as military governor of Matamoras, Camargo, Monterrey, and Saltillo....

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Dodge, Grenville Mellen (12 April 1831–03 January 1916), civil engineer and army officer, was born in Danvers, Massachusetts, the son of Sylvanus Dodge, a peddler, and Julia Theresa Phillips. Despite a nearly impoverished childhood and the need to find employment at an early age, Dodge demonstrated a strong desire for a formal education. Following one semester of preparatory study at New Hampshire’s Durham Academy, he entered in 1848 Norwich University in Vermont, where he learned the scientific and engineering skills that would serve him well in life. After his graduation in 1851, he lived briefly at nearby Captain ...

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Fulton, Robert (14 November 1765–23 February 1815), artist, engineer, and entrepreneur, was born on a farm in Little Britain (later Fulton) Township, south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the son of Robert Fulton, a Scotch-Irish tailor and tradesman, and Mary Smith. Fulton’s father had left the prosperous market town of Lancaster to establish his family on the land, but like so many others with the same goal, he failed. The farm and the dwelling were sold at sheriff’s sale in 1772, and he took his family back to Lancaster. He died two years later....

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Goethals, George Washington (29 June 1858–21 January 1928), engineer and military officer, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of John Louis Goethals, a carpenter, and Marie Le Barron. At the age of fourteen he entered the College of the City of New York. In April 1876, after three years of college, Goethals won a cadetship to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He graduated second in his class in 1880, a distinction that won for him a commission as second lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers....

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Latrobe, Benjamin Henry (01 May 1764–03 September 1820), architect and civil engineer, was born in Fulneck, Yorkshire, England, the son of Benjamin Latrobe, an English Moravian clergyman, and Anna Margaretta Antes, an American born in Pennsylvania. From 1776 until 1783 Latrobe attended Moravian schools in Germany, initially the Paedagogium at Niesky and later the seminary at Barby in Saxony, where he received a broad liberal education in the arts and sciences. Latrobe seems to have traveled extensively in eastern Germany, perhaps visiting Vienna, during his school years. Architectural drawings signed by Latrobe for buildings erected in 1784 and 1785 for a Moravian community near Manchester, England, complement his student architectural drawings of existing Moravian communities. Latrobe held a position in the Stamp Office in London from 1785 to 1794; he received an additional appointment as surveyor of the London police offices in 1792....

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Lovell, Mansfield (20 October 1822–01 June 1884), soldier and civil engineer, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Dr. Joseph Lovell, surgeon general of the U.S. Army from 1818 to 1836, and Margaret Mansfield. Having entered West Point at the age of sixteen, he graduated in 1842 and was assigned to the Fourth Artillery Regiment as a second lieutenant. During the Mexican War he was wounded at the battle of Monterrey (18–21 Sept. 1846) and in the storming of Mexico City (13–14 Sept. 1847), in the process winning promotion to first lieutenant and being brevetted captain for gallantry in action. In 1849 he married Emily Plympton, the daughter of an army officer. In 1854, tiring of garrison duty along the frontier, he resigned from the army to take a position with the Cooper & Hewitt’s Iron Works in Trenton, New Jersey. In 1858 he moved to New York City, where he was at first superintendent of street improvement, then deputy street commissioner under another future Confederate general, ...

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McCallum, Daniel Craig (21 January 1815–27 December 1878), engineer, builder, and railroad manager, was born in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, Scotland, the son of a tailor, and emigrated as a child with his parents, whose names are unknown, to Rochester, New York. After an elementary school education he worked his way from carpenter and builder to become a distinguished architect and engineer. The date of his marriage to Mary McCann is unknown; they had three sons....

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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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Newell, Frederick Haynes (05 March 1862–05 July 1932), engineer, was born in Bradford, Pennsylvania, the son of Augustus William Newell and Annie Maria Haynes. His mother died while he was a child, and he was raised by unmarried aunts in Newton, Massachusetts, where he completed high school. In 1885 he graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a B.S. in mining engineering. He married Effie Josephine Mackintosh in 1890; the couple had three children....

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Rea, Samuel (21 September 1855–24 March 1929), civil engineer and railroad president, was born in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, the son of James D. Rea, a judge, and Ruth Moore. Rea was forced by the death of his father to leave school at age thirteen and become a clerk in a local general store. In 1871 he secured a position as chainman on a Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) survey gang working near his home but lost the position with the onset of the panic of 1873. He soon found work as a clerk for the Hollidaysburg Iron and Nail Company and in 1875 resumed his employment with the PRR as assistant engineer with the railroad’s engineering corps at Connellsville, Pennsylvania....

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Roberts, George Brooke (15 January 1833–30 January 1897), civil engineer and fifth president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, was born at the family estate, “Pencoyd Farm,” near Bala, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, the son of Isaac Warner Roberts and Rosalinda Evans Brooke. Roberts was born into an old and distinguished Philadelphia family of Welsh ancestry whose interests included coal, railroads, ironmaking, and farming. His early education was completed at the Lower Merion Academy, and at age fifteen he enrolled in the technical course at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, where he completed the three-year course in just two years. This was followed by a year’s postgraduate studies there, which he completed in 1851 at age eighteen....

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Roebling, John Augustus (12 June 1806–22 July 1869), engineer and bridge-builder, was born in Mühlhausen, Prussia, the son of Christoph Polycarpus Roebling, a prosperous merchant, and Friederike Dorothea Mueller. He acquired an engineering education at the Royal Polytechnic Institute in Berlin (where he also studied under Hegel, whose favorite student he is reputed to have been). After working three years for the Prussian government, Roebling migrated to the United States with a group from Mühlhausen, who set up a farming community, Saxonburg, near Pittsburgh. There in 1836 he married Johanna Herting, daughter of another emigrant from Mühlhausen; they had nine children. After his wife’s death in 1864, Roebling in 1867 married Lucia W. Cooper. They had no children....

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Savage, John Lucian (25 December 1879–28 December 1967), civil engineer, was born near Cooksville, Wisconsin, the son of Edwin Parker Savage and Mary Therese Stebbins, farmers. As a boy he worked on neighboring farms and earned enough to pay board and tuition for the first two years at the Hillside Home (High) School near Spring Green, where he became something of a Latin scholar. After his money ran out he transferred to nearby Madison High School and graduated in 1899. He then matriculated at the University of Wisconsin and worked during the summers as a draftsman for the Geological Survey of Wisconsin and as a surveyor for the U.S. Geological Survey. He received a B.S. in civil engineering in 1903 and was about to begin teaching at Purdue University when he was offered a position as an engineering aide with the newly formed U.S. Reclamation Service....

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Waring, George Edwin, Jr. (04 July 1833–29 October 1898), agriculturist, author, and sanitary engineer, was born at Poundridge, New York, the son of George Waring, a farmer and merchant, and Sarah Burger. Much of his youth was spent in Stamford, Connecticut, where his father had become a manufacturer of agricultural implements and stoves. The boy’s formal schooling was completed at Bartlett’s School in Poughkeepsie, New York, from which he graduated in 1849. Following this, he worked for a time in a retail hardware store and then as manager of a grist mill....