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Louis Agassiz. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103949).

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Agassiz, Louis (26 May 1807–14 December 1873), zoologist and geologist, was born Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz in Motier, Switzerland, the son of Rodolphe Agassiz, a Protestant pastor, and Rose Mayor. Louis early in life spurned family pressure to become a businessman and planned to devote himself to the professional study of nature. At the age of twenty-one he predicted he would become “the first naturalist of his time, a good citizen and a good son… . I feel within myself the strength of a whole generation to work toward this end” (Lurie [1960], p. 31)....

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Ashburner, Charles Albert (09 February 1854–24 December 1889), geologist and mining engineer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Algernon Eyre Ashburner, a shipbuilder, and Sarah Blakiston. Charles Ashburner obtained his college education at the Towne Scientific School of the University of Pennsylvania and ultimately was granted a total of three baccalaureate and advanced degrees by his alma mater. In June 1874 he received his B.S. degree in civil engineering and graduated valedictorian of his class. Three years later he was awarded an M.S. degree in geology. Upon recommendation of the faculty, in recognition of his outstanding career and accomplishments, Ashburner became the first member of the alumni to receive an honorary D.Sc. degree, in June 1889....

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Barbour, George Brown (22 August 1890–12 July 1977), geologist and educator, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of Dr. Alexander Hugh Freeland Barbour (at one time president of the Royal College of Surgeons) and Margaret Nelson Brown. Barbour received his preparatory school education at Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh. In 1904–1905 he studied organ at Marburg University in Germany and in 1911 received an M.S. with honors in classics at Edinburgh. During a visit to China on his postgraduate trip around the world, Barbour experienced the turmoil surrounding the fall of the Manchu dynasty and was inspired to become a missionary in China. In 1914 he entered St. John’s College, Cambridge, to complete a second M.S. that would qualify him in science and prepare him to contribute to the modernization and advancement of Chinese society....

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Barrell, Joseph (15 December 1869–04 May 1919), geologist, was born in New Providence, New Jersey, the son of Henry Ferdinand Barrell, a farmer who traced his origins to colonial Boston, and Elisabeth Wisner, whose family had been landowners and army officers in New Jersey for 150 years. An advocate of public education and libraries, Henry Barrell was also an amateur naturalist who instilled in his son an early interest in astronomy and geology. While helping on the family farm, Joseph often collected rocks, birds, and insects from the fields....

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Bascom, Florence (14 July 1862–18 June 1945), geologist and educator, was born in Williamstown, Massachusetts, the daughter of suffragist Emma Curtiss and John Bascom, a professor at Williams College. Her mother, as an officer of the National Suffrage Association wrote, “While the ballot is withheld from women and given to all other classes of citizens except idiots and criminals, it puts on womanhood an inescapable badge, and an inescapable fact, of inferiority” (quoted in Smith, p. 17). Her father advocated for coeducation and unsuccessfully raised the issue at Williams. Both parents profoundly affected the way Florence Bascom saw the world. She became the first woman in the United States to enter fully the profession of geology....

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Becker, George Ferdinand (05 January 1847–20 April 1919), geologist, was born in New York City, the son of Alexander Christian Becker, a physician, and Sarah Cary Tuckerman. Becker spent his youth in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where his mother’s family had strong ties to Harvard College and links to members of the Cambridge scientific community, most notably, the zoologist ...

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Blackwelder, Eliot (04 June 1880–14 January 1969), geologist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Isaac Simeon Blackwelder, a business executive, and Alice Gertrude Boughton, a prominent Chicago clubwoman. Even as a boy, Eliot displayed the inquisitive and orderly mind and the intense love of the natural world that are so evident in his later scientific work. A childhood interest in entomology led to a collection of more than 6,000 specimens of beetles and butterflies. By the age of fifteen his achievements in ornithology earned him membership in the American Ornithological Union, and this early interest in birds and insects continued throughout his life....

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Boll, Jacob (29 May 1828–29 September 1880), naturalist and geologist, was born at Dieticon, Bremgarten, Canton Aargau, Switzerland, the son of Henry Boll and Magdalena Peier. The family was moderately wealthy, so Jacob was able to attend a Gymnasium, where he soon developed a passion for natural history. Apparently while enrolled there he met ...

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Bowman, Isaiah (26 December 1878–06 January 1950), geographer, geologist, and educator, was born at Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario, Canada, the son of Samuel Cressman Bowman and Emily Shantz, farmers. When he was eight weeks old the family moved to a farm near Brown City, Michigan. After attending country schools, Bowman began teaching. At age twenty-one he enrolled in the Ferris Institute, a college preparatory school in Big Rapids, Michigan, where he was influenced by geographer Harlan H. Barrows. In 1900, after a year of intensive study, he entered the Normal School in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where he studied under ...

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Boyé, Martin Hans (06 December 1812–05 March 1909), chemist and geologist, was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, the son of Mark Boyé, a chemist and superintendent of the Royal Porcelain Manufactory and of a large pharmaceutical firm. His mother’s name is not known. In 1831 Boyé was admitted to the University of Copenhagen, where he passed the philological and philosophical examinations with distinction. In 1832 he entered the Polytechnic School in Copenhagen, where he studied analytical chemistry and physics under Hans Christian Ørsted, William Christoffer Zeise, and Johan Georg Forchhammer; he graduated with honors in 1835....

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Wilmot Hyde Bradley. Courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey and the American Journal of Science.

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Bradley, Wilmot Hyde (04 April 1899–12 April 1979), federal geologist, paleolimnologist, and science administrator, was born in Westville, Connecticut, the son of John Lucius Bradley, a dentist, and Anna Miner Hyde Bradley, who gave him an abiding interest in electrical-mechanical phenomena and natural history. In 1916 “Bill” Bradley passed from high school in nearby New Haven to Yale's Sheffield Scientific School, where he studied mechanical engineering, then chemistry, and, in his senior year, geology with Alan M. Bateman and ...

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John Casper Branner. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-96641).

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Branner, John Casper (04 July 1850–01 March 1922), geologist and university president, was born in New Market, Tennessee, the son of Michael T. Branner, a third-generation Tennessee landowner, and Elsie Baker. Branner attended local schools, read the few books he could find, and developed an active curiosity about the plants, animals, and rocks of his neighborhood. In 1870, after spending two years at nearby Maryville College, he entered Cornell University, where he studied with geology professor Charles F. Hartt, who had made several scientific expeditions to Brazil. Hartt took Branner to Brazil with him in 1874, and the following year, when the Brazilian government appointed Hartt head of a commission to direct the first geological survey of the country, he appointed Branner his assistant. This was the beginning of Branner’s lifelong interest in the geology of Brazil, about which little was then known....

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Brooks, Alfred Hulse (18 July 1871–22 November 1924), geologist, was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the son of Thomas Benton Brooks, a mining engineer and and Hannah Hulse. Educated in schools and by private tutors at the elementary and secondary levels, Brooks began his fieldwork as a junior field assistant for a topographic party of the Geological Survey in southern Vermont in 1888. He then served with another topographic party in Marquette, Michigan, in 1889....

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Brush, George Jarvis (15 December 1831–06 February 1912), geologist and administrator, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Jarvis Brush, an importing merchant, and Sarah Keeler. When Brush was about four, his father retired from business, and the family moved to Danbury, Connecticut, for six years, then returned to Brooklyn. In each place Brush’s education was in private schools. When he was fifteen, he attended for six months a school in West Cornwall, Connecticut, conducted by Theodore S. Gold, who was keenly interested in mineralogy and natural history. These subjects appealed to Brush, but he was expected by his family to go into business. He worked in a mercantile house in New York City for about two years from 1847, occasionally finding time to collect minerals....

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Bryan, Kirk (22 July 1888–21 August 1950), geologist, was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the son of Richard William Dickinson Bryan, a teacher and lawyer, and Suzannah Hunter Patten, a teacher. Bryan lived to early manhood in Albuquerque, where he earned one of the first bachelor’s degrees (1909) in geology granted by the University of New Mexico. His first two years at the university were devoted to the classics, at the wish of his father, who had been alienated by a dictatorial German scientist, Emil Bessels, while on the Arctic Polaris Expedition (1871–1873) and did not wish his son to pursue his interests in science. Having exhausted the classics curriculum, however, Kirk turned to geology; after graduation, he continued his study of the subject at Yale. He received a Ph.D. in geology there in 1920. In 1923 he married Mary MacArthur; they had four children....

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Buddington, Arthur Francis (29 November 1890–25 December 1980), geologist, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of Osmer Gilbert Buddington, a Baptist minister, and Mary Salina Wheeler. When Buddington was thirteen, the family moved to Poquonnock Bridge (near Mystic), Connecticut, where his father also raised vegetables and poultry to supplement his ministerial income. Buddington attended high school in Mystic and had a final year in Westerly, Rhode Island. During high school and college summers he worked on an uncle’s farm and did some lobster fishing. He entered Brown University in 1908. Because he disliked the Latin and Greek required in the liberal arts curriculum, he turned to the scientific program in botany, chemistry, and finally geology. His degree in 1912 was in chemistry. In 1913 he went on to receive an M.S., for which he wrote a thesis on fossil plants in Carboniferous shales from a new tunnel on the college campus....

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Chamberlin, Rollin Thomas (20 October 1881–06 March 1948), teacher, editor, and structural and glacial geologist, was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, the son of Alma Isabel Wilson and Thomas Chrowder Chamberlin, a geologist and educator. He was married in 1922 to Dorothy Ingalls Smith; they had three children....