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Alcott, A. Bronson (29 November 1799–04 March 1888), Transcendentalist and reformer, was born Amos Bronson Alcox in Wolcott, Connecticut, the son of Joseph Chatfield Alcox and Anna Bronson, farmers. Farming the rocky Connecticut soil was not lucrative, and Alcott worked hard with his parents to help support seven younger siblings, thereby limiting his opportunities for a formal education. He attended the local district school until age ten, but thereafter his intellectual growth largely depended on his own reading and discussions with friends of a similar scholarly bent, the first being his cousin William Andrus Alcott. William later attended Yale College and established a career as a physician and popular author of health manuals, but continuing poverty prevented Bronson from obtaining a college education. At age fifteen he, like many of his young Connecticut contemporaries, began peddling small manufactured goods, first in Massachusetts and New York, then in Virginia and the Carolinas....

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Bevan, Arthur Dean (09 August 1861–10 June 1943), surgeon and reformer of medical education, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Thomas Bevan, a physician, and Sarah Elizabeth Ramsey. After attending high school in Chicago, Bevan earned his Ph.B. at Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School in 1881. He then entered Rush Medical College in Chicago and obtained his M.D. in 1883. He finished first in the competitive examination for the U.S. Marine Hospital Service....

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du Pont, Pierre Samuel (15 January 1870–05 April 1954), industrialist and educational reformer, was born at “Nemours,” on the Brandywine Creek near Wilmington, Delaware, the son of Lammot du Pont and Mary Belin. He was named for his great-great-grandfather Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, the French physiocrat who fled revolutionary France in 1799. His father, second in command of the family powder-making firm during the long reign of ...

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Flexner, Abraham (13 November 1866–21 September 1959), educational reformer, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Moritz Flexner, a wholesale hat merchant who was ruined in the panic of 1873, and Esther Abraham. In 1884 a loan from his elder brother allowed Flexner to enroll at Johns Hopkins University, where he earned a B.A. in classics in two years, the most study he could afford. Flexner recalled his undergraduate study as “the decisive moment of my life.” His subsequent career was an elaboration of the ideals of a new university (Hopkins was established in 1876) with very little formal administration and a zealous faculty training ambitious students....

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Gardner, John William (08 October 1912–16 February 2002), educator and public servant, was born in Los Angeles, California, a son of William F. Gardner and his wife, the former Marie Glover, both of whom were real estate brokers. William Gardner was an Englishman whom Marie Glover had met and married during a trip abroad. The couple were separated by the time of John's birth, and William Gardner died a year later. John and his older brother were raised by their mother in Beverly Hills; though it was still relatively unsettled and not yet the luxurious enclave that it later became, the family led a comfortable life there, with Marie taking an attentive hand in the children's upbringing and education. Books and travel were the mainstays of both boys' childhood and youth, and from 1928 to 1929 their mother took them on a year-long trip around the world....

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Gill, Laura Drake (24 August 1860–03 February 1926), educational administrator and reformer, was born in Chesterville, Maine, the daughter of Elisha Gill and Hulda Capen. Following the death of her father in 1873, Gill’s maternal aunt, Bessie T. Capen, brought her to Northampton, Massachusetts, where she matriculated at Smith College, graduating in 1881 with a degree in mathematics. For the next seventeen years, Gill taught mathematics at her aunt’s school for girls. While teaching at Miss Capen’s School, she earned a master’s degree in mathematics from Smith College and in 1893 pursued additional graduate study at the Universities of Leipzig and Geneva and at the Sorbonne....

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Grimké, Thomas Smith (26 September 1786–12 October 1834), lawyer, educational and peace reformer, politician, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the second son of John Faucheraud Grimké and Mary Smith Grimké. John Grimké, a native Charlestonian of French Huguenot stock, was educated at the University of Cambridge, an officer in the American Revolution, and head justice of the state’s Court of Appeals. Mary Grimké, a descendant of an English landgrave, the state’s founding aristocracy, and the famous Irish rebel leader Rory O’Moore, was a co-founder of Charleston’s female benevolent society. Other children included ...

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Gulick, Luther Halsey (04 December 1865–13 August 1918), physical educator and sports administrator, was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, the son of Luther Halsey Gulick and Louisa Lewis, missionaries. His father’s supervisory work for Presbyterian missions took Gulick as a child to Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and Japan as well as to Hawaii. In each place he stored up experiences that compensated for uneven schooling. His higher education, too, was irregular. From 1880 to 1885 he studied in a college preparatory program at Oberlin College, interrupted for a year by his parents’ furlough; in 1886 he briefly attended the Sargent Normal School of Physical Training in Cambridge, Massachusetts, before enrolling as a part-time student in New York University’s school of medicine. He paid his way at NYU by engaging in an unlikely array of activities: providing medical services to a YMCA branch, teaching in a Harlem school, serving as physical director of the YMCA in Jackson, Michigan, and organizing the physical education department at the new YMCA training school in Springfield, Massachusetts....

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Mann, Horace (04 May 1796–02 August 1859), educator and social reformer, was born in Franklin, Massachusetts, the son of Thomas Mann and Rebecca Stanley, farmers. Although earlier historical accounts that described his childhood as impoverished are inaccurate (his family was moderately prosperous), they are correct in their assertion that Mann’s values were shaped during childhood by his family, his community, and in no small part by his relations with the local Congregationalist preacher, ...

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Welch, William Henry (08 April 1850–30 April 1934), medical scientist and educator, was born in Norfolk, Connecticut, the second child and first son of William Wickham Welch and Emeline Collin. His mother died when he was six months old, and he was reared by his paternal grandmother. His father, paternal grandfather, and four paternal uncles were physicians, “the Doctors Welch of Norfolk.” His father served repeatedly in the Connecticut legislature and one term (1855–1857), under auspices of the American party, in the U.S. House of Representatives....