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Bettmann, Otto (15 October 1903–01 May 1998), historian and photo archivist, was born in Leipzig, Germany, to Hans Bettmann, an orthopedic surgeon, and his wife, Charlotte Frank. The family was Jewish, and Otto grew up in a highly cultured environment, where he was especially drawn to his father's extensive collection of medical literature. As a child he enjoyed working in the darkroom of the elder Bettmann's clinic, where Hans Bettmann pioneered in the use of X-rays for diagnosis. Young Otto made copies of pictorial images he found in his father's books and collected from free publications offered by German medical firms, and in 1916, for his father's birthday, he presented a pictorial history of medicine that he had created from these images....

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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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Greene, Belle da Costa (26 November 1879–10 May 1950), library director, bibliographer, and art connoisseur, was born Belle Marion Greener, the daughter of Richard Greener, a lawyer and Republican party activist, and Genevieve Ida Fleet Greener. Her place of birth was probably Washington, D.C., where her father held a variety of jobs. But specifics concerning Greene's childhood and education are scarce because she preferred to keep them a mystery. Apparently, she attended Teachers College in New York City, where the family had relocated after Richard Greener was rewarded with a patronage job for his efforts on behalf of the Republican party. Around 1897, Belle Marion Greener's parents separated, the children staying with their mother, who within a few years changed the surname to Greene and some years thereafter altered her maiden name from Fleet to Van Vliet. During this time the Greenes fully “passed” in the white world, and Belle da Costa Greene (who claimed for herself nonexistent Portuguese forebears) never acknowledged her African lineage....

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Leland, Waldo Gifford (17 July 1879–19 October 1966), historian and archival theorist, was born in Newton, Massachusetts, the son of Luther Erving Leland and Ellen Maria Gifford, public school teachers. Leland attended Newton High School and Brown University, graduating with a B.A. in sociology in 1900. While at Brown he studied with history professor ...

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Putnam, Herbert (20 September 1861–14 August 1955), eighth librarian of Congress, was born George Herbert Putnam in New York City, the son of George Palmer Putnam, founder of the Putnam publishing house, and Victorine Haven. Herbert Putnam attended private schools in New York City. He received his B.A. from Harvard in 1883, graduating magna cum laude. The next year he attended Columbia University Law School, but soon a Minneapolis attorney and former Harvard classmate enticed him to Minneapolis and librarianship. He became librarian of the Minneapolis Athenaeum in 1884 and continued his legal studies independently; he was admitted to the Minnesota bar in 1885. In 1886 he married Charlotte Elizabeth Munroe of Cambridge, Massachusetts; they had two children....

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Spofford, Ainsworth Rand (12 September 1825–11 August 1908), sixth librarian of Congress, was born in Gilmanton, New Hampshire, the son of Rev. Luke Spofford, a Presbyterian pastor, and Greta Rand. Spofford was educated at home. As a youth he developed an insatiable appetite for reading and a love of books and served a brief apprenticeship as a bookbinder in Chilmark, Massachusetts, on Martha’s Vineyard. Ill health prevented him from following his father and brother to Amherst College....