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Abbey, Edward (29 January 1927–14 March 1989), essayist, novelist, and radical ecologist, was born in Home, Pennsylvania, the son of Paul Revere Abbey, a farmer, and Mildred Postlewaite, a public schoolteacher. He was raised, with four siblings, on a hardscrabble farm. A turning point in late adolescence came out of some months of hitchhiking around the western United States, with which he ever after fervently identified himself....

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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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Cain, Stanley Adair (19 June 1902–01 April 1995), educator, botanist, and ecologist, was born in Jefferson County, Indiana, the son of Oliver Ezra Cain and Lillian Whitsitt, farmers. He received his B.A. degree from Butler University in 1924, his M.A. from the University of Chicago in 1927, and his Ph.D. in botany from Chicago in 1930....

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Rachel Carson Speaking before the Senate Government Operations subcommittee studying pesticide spraying, 1963. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111207).

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Carson, Rachel Louise (27 May 1907–14 April 1964), writer and scientist, was born in Springdale, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Robert Warden Carson, a salesman, and Maria Frazier McLean, a teacher. Her father was never successfully employed. He sold real estate and insurance and worked for the local public utility company. Her mother, who had had the benefit of a fine education at the Washington Female Seminary, was an avid naturalist and passed on her deep respect for the natural world and her love of literature to her daughter. Mother and daughter, who never married, lived together almost continuously until Maria Carson died in 1958....

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Clausen, Jens Christen (11 March 1891–22 November 1969), botanist, geneticist, and ecologist, was born in Eskilstrup, Denmark, the son of Christen Augustinus Clausen and Christine Christensen, farmers and house builders. Clausen was educated at home until he was eight years old, when he enrolled in a country school and then a private secondary school. When he was ten, his younger brother died, leaving Clausen an only child. At the age of fourteen he took on the responsibility of managing the family farm and also began to read widely in the sciences, showing a special interest in the new field of genetics. Over the next eight years he continued to educate himself in the basic sciences, and with the aid of a supportive schoolteacher, he studied Mendelian genetics and Darwinian evolutionary theory. He also gained linguistic proficiency in German and English....

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Frederic Edward Clements. Courtesy of the Nebraska State Historical Society.

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Clements, Frederic Edward (16 September 1874–26 July 1945), botanist and ecologist, was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, the son of Ephraim George Clements, a photographer, and Mary Angeline Scoggin. At the age of sixteen Clements entered the University of Nebraska, where he studied under the influential botanist ...

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Cowles, Henry Chandler (27 February 1869–12 September 1939), botanist, was born in Kensington, Connecticut, the son of Henry Martyn Cowles and Eliza Whittlesey, farmers. He graduated from New Britain High School and then entered Oberlin College, receiving an A.B. degree in 1893. From 1894 to 1895 he taught natural science at Gates College in Nebraska. Cowles next turned to graduate studies at the University of Chicago. At first he studied geology, where he was influenced by ...

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Edinger, Tilly (13 November 1897–27 May 1967), paleoecologist, was born Johanna Gabrielle Ottelie Edinger in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, the daughter of Ludwig Edinger, a noted medical researcher, and Anna Goldschmidt, a leader of social-welfare movements. Although her father did not approve of careers for women, Tilly Edinger became interested in geology. She redirected her university studies, however, when she found that women were rarely accepted into that field. She received a doctorate in natural philosophy at Frankfurt in 1921, having also studied at the universities of Heidelberg and Munich from 1916 to 1918. Her dissertation was based on a study of the skull and cranial cavity of the fossil reptile ...

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Forbes, Stephen Alfred (29 May 1844–13 March 1930), ecologist, state entomologist of Illinois, and chief of the Illinois Natural History Survey, was born in a log cabin in Silver Creek, Illinois, the son of Isaac Forbes, a farmer, and Agnes Van Hoesen. While enduring economic hardships common to pioneer families on the prairies, the Forbes family suffered further misfortune when Stephen was ten. With his mother already in poor health, Stephen’s father died, forcing older brother Henry to assume responsibility for the farm and the rearing of Stephen and his younger sister, Nettie. Stephen attended the district school until he was fourteen, studied under Henry’s instruction for two years, and briefly attended a college preparatory school until the family ran out of financial resources....

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Gardner, Julia Anna (26 January 1882–15 November 1960), geologist, paleoecologist, and fossil mollusc taxonomist, was born in Chamberlain, South Dakota, the daughter of Charles Henry Gardner, a physician, and Julia M. Brackett, a schoolteacher. She had seven half siblings through her father’s first marriage but was the only child of his second marriage. When Gardner was four months old, her father died. She and her mother lived in Chamberlain until 1895, then moved to her mother’s family home in Dixon, Illinois. In 1898 they moved to Massachusetts, then later to Vermont....

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Hardin, Garrett James (21 April 1915–14 September 2003), ecologist, was born in Dallas, Texas, to Hugh Hardin, a railroad employee, and Agnes Garrett. When Garrett Hardin was four years old, he contracted polio and was left with a slight limp and a foreshortened leg. As an adult he could walk only with the aid of crutches. During his childhood, Hardin and his older brother moved with their parents to a series of midwestern towns but spent most summers on their grandparents’ farm in Butler, Missouri, where Garrett developed a love of nature and an interest in the environment. By the time he was in his teens, the family had settled in Chicago. There he attended Bowen High School, where he wrote for and edited the school newspaper and acted in dramatic productions....

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MacArthur, Robert Helmer (07 April 1930–01 November 1972), ecologist, was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the son of John Wood MacArthur, a college professor, and Olive Turner. Much of his childhood was spent rambling through the woods of Ontario and Vermont, where he developed a fascination for the many different species of birds that live there. In 1947, after completing his early education in Toronto’s public schools, he matriculated at Marlboro College in Vermont, one of two schools at which his father taught genetics; he received his B.A. degree four years later. In 1951 he began his graduate work at Brown University, receiving his M.S. degree in mathematics in 1953. He married Elizabeth Bayles Whittemore in 1952; they had four children....

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Morgan, Ann Haven (06 May 1882–05 June 1966), zoologist and ecologist, was born in Waterford, Connecticut, the daughter of Stanley Griswold Morgan and Julia Douglass. Ann Morgan, who was christened Anna, grew up in Waterford, where she explored the area’s forests and streams, developing an early interest in biology. She attended the Williams Memorial Institute at New London....

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Sears, Paul Bigelow (17 December 1891–30 April 1990), botanist, ecologist, and conservationist, was born in Bucyrus, Ohio, the son of Rufus Victor Sears, an attorney, and Sallie Jane Harris. He earned a B.S. (1913) in zoology and a B.A. (1914) in economics from Ohio Wesleyan University; an M.A. (1915) in botany from the University of Nebraska; and a Ph.D. (1922) in botany from the University of Chicago. His doctoral dissertation, “Variations in Cytology and Gross Morphology of ...

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Shelford, Victor Ernest (22 September 1877–27 December 1968), ecologist, was born on a farm in Chemung County, New York, the eldest son of Alexander Hamilton Shelford and Sarah Ellen Rumsey, farmers. After ten years of schooling, he taught in Chemung County in 1894, then spent two years attending Cortland Normal and Training School to earn a teaching certificate. He taught in Chemung County again from 1897 to 1899, then entered West Virginia University, where he was strongly influenced by his uncle, William E. Rumsey, assistant state entomologist. Two years later the university’s president, Jerome H. Raymond, accepted a professorship at the University of Chicago and obtained a scholarship there for Shelford....

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Vogt, William (15 May 1902–11 July 1968), ornithologist and ecologist, was born in Mineola, New York, the son of William Vogt and Frances Belle Doughty. In his early teens Vogt was stricken with polio, and, though he survived, the disease left him with a considerable limp. He graduated from St. Stephens (now Bard) College in 1925 with a B.A., having won the poetry prize and edited the college literary magazine. He worked as a journalist after leaving college and from 1930 to 1932 was an assistant editor for the New York Academy of Sciences....

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Whittaker, Robert Harding (27 December 1920–20 October 1980), ecologist, was born in Wichita, Kansas, the son of Clive Charles Whittaker, a zoology teacher, and Adeline Harding, an English teacher. Shortly after his birth the family moved to Eureka, Kansas, where his father entered the oil-drilling business. Robert Whittaker received his B.A. in 1942 from Washburn Municipal College in Topeka, Kansas. After graduation he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force and served in the United States and England as a weather observer and forecaster. After his discharge in 1946, he entered the University of Illinois and received his Ph.D. in zoology in 1948....