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Benioff, Victor Hugo (14 September 1899–29 February 1968), seismologist and geophysicist, was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Simon Benioff, a tailor, and Alfrieda Widerquist. Benioff’s father and mother were immigrants, from Russia and Sweden respectively. Benioff attended the public schools of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where he expressed an early interest in science. As a youth, he was particularly interested in astronomy. From 1917 until 1921, while pursuing his undergraduate studies at Pomona College, he spent his summers working as an assistant at the Mount Wilson Observatory in the San Gabriel Mountains above Los Angeles. After receiving his A.B., he accepted a job at the Lick Observatory near San Jose, California, where he worked from 1921 to 1922....

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Byerly, Perry (28 May 1897–26 September 1978), geophysicist and seismologist, was born in Clarinda, Iowa, the son of Perry Byerly, a businessman, and Pauline Watson. Byerly was a sickly child, and on the advice of his doctor, the family moved to the dry climate of California in 1905. They settled in the Los Angeles area but moved often as his parents searched for the best area for their son. As a result, Byerly attended more than a dozen high schools before graduating from the High School in Redlands, California, in 1916....

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Gutenberg, Beno (04 June 1889–25 January 1960), seismologist, was born in Darmstadt, Germany, the son of Hermann Gutenberg, a soap manufacturer, and Pauline Hachenburger. Gutenberg entered the Realgymnasium in Darmstadt in 1898, where he showed an early interest in meteorology and an aptitude for mathematics and physics. He continued his studies at the Technische Hochschule in Darmstadt from 1907 to 1908. His original intention was to become a high school teacher, but his teachers were convinced that with his abilities he should continue his studies in mathematics and physics at the University of Göttingen, which he entered. in 1908. There he attended courses of such luminaries as Max Born, David Hilbert, Felix Klein, Edmund Landau, Hermann Minkowski, Woldemar Voigt, ...

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Richter, Charles Francis (26 April 1900–30 September 1985), seismologist and inventor of the magnitude scale for measuring earthquakes, was born Charles Francis Kinsinger on a farm near Hamilton, Ohio, the son of Frederick W. Kinsinger, and Lillian Richter. Richter’s parents separated while he was still an infant, and his mother resumed her maiden name after their divorce. Richter had little contact with his father and only remembered meeting him once. Because his mother went through periods of mental instability, he was raised by his maternal grandfather, Charles Otto Richter, a farmer who also worked at a firm that manufactured stationary engines. Richter later claimed that he owed everything to his grandfather. In 1926 Richter legally adopted his mother and grandfather’s surname....

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Winthrop, John (08 December 1714–03 May 1779), scientist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Adam Winthrop, a merchant and judge, and Anne Wainwright. John was a fifth generation descendant of Governor John Winthrop. At age thirteen Winthrop entered Harvard, his social status acknowledged by being “placed” first in his class. Intellectual crosscurrents of Congregational theology, Newtonian science, and Enlightenment ideas left lasting impressions on him. Copious entries in his “Book of Extracts” from the classics, English writers, and poets reveal the breadth of his inquiring, ordered mind. Graduating in 1732, he plunged into further studies and received an A.M. in 1735....