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Allee, Warder Clyde (05 June 1885–18 March 1955), biologist, was born in Bloomingdale, Indiana, the son of John Wesley Allee, a farmer, and Mary Emily Newlin, a schoolteacher. A Quaker, Allee graduated from Earlham College in 1908 and took a three-year position as a high school teacher in Hammond, Indiana, while pursuing graduate studies during the summer months in the Department of Zoology at the University of Chicago. In the fall of 1909 he enrolled as a full-time graduate student at the university, where he came under the influence of pioneer animal ecologist ...

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Bartelmez, George William (23 March 1885–02 September 1967), biologist, was born in New York City, the son of Theodore Bartelmez, a lumber company manager, and Caroline Osten. He received a B.S. from New York University in 1906, then remained an additional year to work as an assistant in zoology in order to earn enough money to continue his education. In 1907 he was awarded a fellowship in zoology at the University of Chicago, from which he received a Ph.D. in embryology in 1910....

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Binney, Amos (18 October 1803–18 February 1847), biologist and businessman, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Amos Binney, a businessman, and Hannah Dolliver. Interested early in natural history, Binney accumulated rocks, shells, and birds’ eggs. He attended an academy at Hingham, Massachusetts, and at the age of fourteen entered Brown University, where he was especially interested in the natural sciences and expanded his collection of shells. After graduating in 1821, he studied medicine with a physician in Boston, then attended medical lectures at Dartmouth College....

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Blinks, Lawrence Rogers (22 April 1900–04 March 1989), biologist and botanist, was born in Michigan City, Indiana, the son of Walter Moulton Blinks, a chemist, and Ella Rogers. His interest in biology came from his father as well as from the writings of ...

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Borlaug, Norman Ernest (25 March 1914–12 September 2009), biologist, agronomist, and humanitarian, was born in Saude, Iowa, to grandchildren of Norwegian immigrants. He grew up on his family’s working farm, where he learned to fish, hunt, raise corn and oats, and tend livestock. His grandfather encouraged him to pursue education, so Norman left the family farm in 1933 to enroll in the University of Minnesota. His college years coincided with the depths of the Great Depression. To earn money, Borlaug left school in 1935 and found employment with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). In the CCC he saw the effect of starvation first hand, and this experience affected him deeply. Long before “food security” became a common phrase, Borlaug knew its significance. In 1937 he graduated with a B.S. in forestry from the College of Agriculture and secured a job with the United States Forest Service. In 1938 he married former classmate Margaret Gibson. The couple had three children....

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Briggs, Robert William (10 December 1911–04 March 1983), developmental biologist, was born in Watertown, Massachusetts. His parents’ names are not known. His mother died while he was very young, and he was reared by an uncle and aunt in Epping, New Hampshire.

Briggs attended Boston College, graduating in 1934 with a B.S. degree in biology. He then went to Harvard University, where he worked with Leigh Hoadley, receiving his Ph.D. degree in 1938. He was a postdoctoral fellow at McGill University until he joined the research staff at the Lankenau Hospital Research Institute (Institute for Cancer Research) in Philadelphia in 1942, where he eventually became head of the embryology department. He married Janet Bloch in 1940; they had two sons and a daughter....

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Castle, William Ernest (25 October 1867–03 June 1962), biologist, was born near Alexandria, Ohio, the son of William Augustus Castle and Sarah Fassett, farmers. Learning about livestock at the farm probably sparked young Castle’s interest in breeding and led him to appreciate its relevance to studies of evolution and heredity. After graduating with an A.B. in 1889 from Denison University in Granville, Ohio, he taught Latin at Ottawa University in Ottawa, Kansas, for three years before entering Harvard for graduate work. He earned a second A.B. in 1893, an A.M. in 1894, and a Ph.D. in zoology in 1895. His dissertation on the embryology of the ascidian ...

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Chang, M. C. (10 Oct. 1908–5 June 1991), reproductive biologist, was born Min Chueh Chang in in Dunhòu village, 64 miles (103 kilometers) northwest of Taiyuan (Lüliang), capital of Shanxi province China, to Shih Laing and Gen Shu Chian, a magistrate who had studied at Shansi University and translated a number of English textbooks into Chinese. Coming from a comfortable family Chang had access to a good education, and in ...

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Clapp, Cornelia Maria (17 March 1849–31 December 1934), zoologist, educator, and biologist, was born in Montague, Massachusetts, the daughter of Richard C. Clapp, a teacher and farmer, and Eunice Amelia Slate. Her parents ensured that she had an excellent education in the public and private schools of her home town, which had been home to several generations of her ancestors. A lifelong learner, Clapp summarized her eclectic academic career: “I was all bent on one thing, then another … first an entomologist, then a conchologist and then a fish woman.”...

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Cockerell, Theodore Dru Alison (22 August 1866–26 January 1948), entomologist and systematic biologist, was born in Norwood, England, the son of Sydney J. Cockerell, a gentleman, and Alice Bennett. After the death of his father in 1878, the family moved to Margate, England. Cockerell attended various schools, including the Middlesex Hospital School, but he did not earn a degree....

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Commoner, Barry (28 May 1917–30 September 2012), scientist-activist, biologist, and environmentalist, was born Barry Commoner in Brooklyn, New York, to Isaac (Isador) and Gussie Commoner, Russian immigrants. His uncle, the Slavonic scholar Avrahm Yarmolinsky, recommended the family adopt a more anglicized spelling of their last name. Commoner attended Brooklyn’s James Madison High School, where he discovered his passion for biology. Assisted by his wife, the poet ...

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Conklin, Edwin Grant (24 November 1863–21 November 1952), biologist, was born in Waldo, Ohio, the son of Abram Virgil Conklin, physician, and Nancy Maria Hull. Conklin attended a one-room school and received his introduction to natural history while working on the family farm. As the son of a religious family, he entered Ohio Wesleyan University in 1880. There he encountered science for the first time, in natural history classes, on field trips to collect shells, and as an assistant in the museum. During his third year he needed money, so he dropped out to teach in a one-room country school, serving also as janitor and disciplinarian. He returned to graduate from Ohio Wesleyan with a B.S. in 1885 and a B.A. in 1886....

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Cope, Edward Drinker (28 July 1840–12 April 1897), biologist and paleontologist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Alfred Cope, a businessman and farmer, and Hannah Edge. The Copes were a wealthy Quaker, mercantile family, and for forty years his father’s fortune enabled Cope to pursue independently his studies in natural history. Cope was a precocious child and early demonstrated an interest in nature. His education included private training and one year at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1859 he worked with ...

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Crozier, William John (24 May 1892–02 November 1955), biologist, was born in New York City, the son of William George Crozier and Bessie Mackay. He attended local public schools and City College, where he demonstrated a strong interest in chemistry and biology and was voted “ablest man” in the class of 1912. During this time he also worked as a laboratory assistant in the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, and began a long friendship with ...

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Demerec, Milislav (11 January 1895–12 April 1966), biologist, was born in Kostajnica, Austria-Hungary, the son of Ljudevit Demerec, a schoolteacher and school inspector, and Ljubica Dumbovic. After graduating from the College of Agriculture in Krizevci, Austria-Hungary, in 1916, Demerec worked as an adjunct at the Krizevci Experiment Station for three years before coming to the United States for graduate work. While attending Cornell University, he married Mary Alexander Ziegler in 1921; they had two daughters. Demerec received his Ph.D. in genetics in 1923. His dissertation, on the genetics of maize, was directed by leading maize geneticist ...

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Dobzhansky, Theodosius (25 January 1900–18 December 1975), biologist, was born in Nemirov, Russia, the son of Grigory Dobzhansky, a mathematics teacher, and Sophia Voinarsky. On completing secondary school in 1917, he entered the University of Kiev in the fall, just as the Bolshevik revolution was beginning. Despite the political turmoil, he graduated from the university in 1921 with a degree in biology. He remained to teach at Kiev until 1924, when he took a position as lecturer in genetics at the University of Leningrad under the new department head, Yuri Filipchenko. In Leningrad, Filipchenko introduced Dobzhansky to the new and exciting work on genetics in the fruit fly ...

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Eklund, Carl Robert (27 January 1909–04 November 1962), scientist and antarctic explorer, was born in Tomahawk, Wisconsin, the son of John Eklund, a carpenter, and Maria Olson. Both his parents were immigrants from Sweden. Eklund was an outstanding football and basketball player at Tomahawk High School. Later he starred in football at Carleton College in Minnesota, from which he graduated in 1932. Carleton’s Dr. ...

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Evermann, Barton Warren (24 October 1853–27 September 1932), biologist, was born in Albia, Monroe County, Iowa, the son of Andrew Evermann and Nety Gardner, farmers. The family moved to Carroll County, Indiana, when Evermann was young, and he later said that he had become interested in natural history on the family farm....

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Gabrielson, Ira Noel (27 September 1889–07 September 1977), wildlife biologist and first director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was born in Sioux Rapids, Iowa, the son of Frank August Gabrielson, a partner in a hardware store and later a farmer, and Ida Jansen. During a boyhood spent hunting, fishing, and exploring the countryside, Gabrielson developed a love of nature, photographed and studied birds, and became particularly interested in waterfowl. He graduated from Morningside College, Sioux City, Iowa, with a B.A. in biology in 1912 and spent the next three years teaching high school biology in Marshalltown, Iowa. Just as he was about to enter the University of Iowa on a graduate fellowship, he was offered and accepted a position he had coveted with the Bureau of Biological Survey....

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Elizabeth Noble Shor

Grinnell, Joseph (27 February 1877–29 May 1939), biologist, was born on an Indian agency at Fort Sill (now Oklahoma), the son of Fordyce Grinnell, the agency physician, and Sarah Elizabeth Pratt. Both parents were members of the Society of Friends. The family moved to Tennessee, then to the Pine Ridge Indian Agency in Dakota Territory. When he was four to eight years old, Grinnell’s playmates were Sioux children, and he was a favorite of the leader ...