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Castiglioni, Luigi (03 October 1757–22 April 1832), naturalist, author, and politician, was born in Milan, Italy, the son of Count Ottavio Castiglioni and Teresa Verri, both of distinguished families. In childhood, after the death of his father, Castiglioni and his older brother, Alfonso, were adopted by their mother’s brother, Pietro Verri, whose political ideas and writings placed him and his brother, Alessandro, among the central figures of the Italian Enlightenment. Although Verri provided his nephews with material comfort and intellectual guidance, their relationship was sometimes contentious....

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Hall, Basil (31 December 1788–11 September 1844), captain in the British navy and author of scientific works and books of travel, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of Sir James Hall, a geologist of repute who published on a variety of other subjects as well, including architecture, and Helen Douglas. After a basic education in Edinburgh, Basil at age fourteen joined the Royal Navy and set out on the first of many voyages. By age twenty he was made lieutenant and at twenty-nine was a captain....

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Harriot, Thomas (1560–02 July 1621), scientist, linguist, and author of the first English book on North America, was born in Oxford (city or county), England; his parentage is unknown. As an undergraduate he entered St. Mary’s Hall (attached to Oriel College, Oxford) in 1576, matriculated in the University of Oxford in 1557, and graduated B.A. in 1580. He never married....

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Josselyn, John (fl. 1630–1675), travel writer and naturalist, was born in Willingale-Doe (probably at Torrell’s Hall), Essex, England, the son of Sir Thomas Josselyn, a gentleman landholder, and Theodora Cooke Bere of Kent. Josselyn’s formal education is unknown, though one may well infer from his writings easy familiarity with the classics and English poets as well as extensive knowledge of medicine, botany, and natural history. It is likely that the young Josselyn accompanied his family in their move to the Isle of Ely sometime in the period 1614–1618 when financial reverses forced Sir Thomas’s sale of Torrell’s Hall. This decline in fortune was followed by others that resulted in the loss of most if not all of the family estate....

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Smith, Francis Hopkinson (23 October 1838–07 April 1915), mechanical engineer, writer, and artist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Francis Smith, a musician, mathematician, and philosopher, and Susan Teakle. Smith was reared in the genteel society of old Baltimore, where he studied for entrance to Princeton University. Smith’s family suffered economic ruin, however, and he never attended college. Before the Civil War he held jobs in a hardware store and an ironworks. Around 1858 he moved to New York City, where, after some training with a partner named James Symington, he set up an engineering firm. Over the years he increasingly complemented this enterprise with his work in the fine arts and as a speaker. He was usually thought of, and perhaps thought of himself, as a southern gentleman. In 1866 Smith married Josephine Van Deventer of Astoria, New York. They had two children....