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Emerson, George Barrell (12 September 1797–04 March 1881), educator and environmentalist, was born in Wells, Maine, the son of Samuel Emerson and Sarah Barrell, farmers. His father was also a physician and encouraged him to study Latin grammar and texts. Similar to the sons of many nineteenth-century yeoman farmers, Emerson attended school only during the winter months and worked the farm during the planting and harvesting seasons. By working the farm, he developed an early interest in plants, shrubs, and trees....

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R. Buckminster Fuller. Oil on canvas, c. 1981, by Ruth Munson. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

Article

Fuller, R. Buckminster (12 July 1895–01 July 1983), inventor, designer, and environmentalist, often referred to as “Bucky,” was born Richard Buckminster Fuller, Jr., in Milton, Massachusetts, the son of Richard Buckminster Fuller, an importer of leather and tea, who died in 1910, and Caroline Wolcott Andrews. He was the grandnephew of author and literary critic ...

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George B. Grinnell. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-72116).

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Grinnell, George Bird (20 September 1849–11 April 1938), conservationist and ethnographer, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of George Blake Grinnell, a businessman, and Helen Alvord Lansing. Grinnell grew up in an upper-class home and lived in several locations in his earliest years: Brooklyn, lower Manhattan, and Weehawken, New Jersey. In 1857 the family moved to “Audubon Park,” the former estate of artist-naturalist ...

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Johnson, Osa (14 March 1894–07 January 1953), author, lecturer, and film producer, was born Osa Helen Leighty in Chanute, Kansas, the daughter of William Sherman Leighty, a railroad engineer, and Ruby Isabel Holman. In 1910 she left high school to marry Martin Johnson, whom she had met eleven years earlier when he visited Chanute as an eighteen-year-old itinerant photographer. In the meantime he had visited Europe alone and traveled with ...

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George P. Marsh. Photograph from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-BH8201-4981).

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Marsh, George Perkins (15 March 1801–23 July 1882), scholar, politician, and diplomat, was born in Woodstock, Vermont, the son of Charles Marsh, a prominent lawyer, and Susan Perkins. The Marshes were among New England’s aristocracy of Puritan intellectuals. Woodstock, unlike western Vermont of the free-spirited Green Mountain Boys, was a town of law-abiding, substantial settlers, conservative in religion and politics. George, in a milieu of book lovers, became an avid reader, although a lifelong eye ailment periodically forced him to turn from the printed page to the outdoor world. As a child, with his father or friends, he observed firsthand the effects of deforestation in early Vermont settlements, the decline of fish in the rivers, and the destruction of precious topsoil....

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Charles Richard Van Hise Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-115321).

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Van Hise, Charles Richard (29 May 1857–19 November 1918), geologist, conservationist, and university president, was born near Fulton, in southern Wisconsin, the son of William Henry Van Hise, a farmer and storekeeper, and Mary Goodrich. The family moved to nearby Evansville in 1870. In 1874 Van Hise entered the University of Wisconsin, beginning a lifelong association with this institution. He received four degrees, bachelor of metallurgical engineering (1879), B.S. (1880), M.S. (1882), and in 1892 the first Ph.D. awarded at the University of Wisconsin. In 1879 he joined the faculty as an instructor. Two years later he married Alice Ring, also of Evansville; they had three children....