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Berlin, Donovan Reese (13 June 1898–17 May 1982), aircraft designer and executive, was born in Romona, Indiana, the son of Charles N. Berlin and Maude Easter Mull, farmers. After high school at Brook, Indiana, Berlin enrolled in the Purdue University School of Mechanical Engineering in September 1916 but withdrew almost immediately when his father insisted he stay home and work the farm. He reentered the university in September 1917 and completed a B.S.M.E. on 8 June 1921. His first employment, as an assistant in the aerodynamics laboratory of the Air Service at McCook Field at Dayton, Ohio, from 1921 to 1926, launched his career in aeronautics....

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de Seversky, Alexander Procofieff (07 June 1894–24 August 1974), aircraft designer and influential air-power advocate, was born in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia (then part of imperial Russia), the son of Nicholas Procofieff-Seversky, a pioneer Russian sportsman-pilot, and Vera Vasilieff. A 1914 graduate of the Imperial Naval Academy of Russia, he attended the Military School of Aeronautics. In July 1915 on his first combat mission in World War I, de Seversky was shot down over the Gulf of Riga on a bombing mission, losing his right leg....

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Donald W. Douglas. Stepping into a Douglas Cloudster airplane. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98158).

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Douglas, Donald Wills (06 April 1892–01 February 1981), aeronautical engineer and airplane manufacturing executive, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of William Edward Douglas, a banker, and Dorothy Locker. He attended a Brooklyn elementary school and was later sent to the Trinity Chapel School in Manhattan, an Episcopal preparatory school. Douglas enjoyed a comfortable middle-class upbringing, spending considerable time sailing at the New York Yacht Club, where his father was a member. As a boy he also became enthralled with the exploits of ...

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Egtvedt, Claire (18 October 1892–19 October 1975), engineer and aviation executive, was born Clairmont Leroy Egtvedt on a farm near Stoughton, Wisconsin, the son of Sever P. Egtvedt and Mary Rublee. Very little is known of his early life except that he spent it in and around Stoughton until the family moved to Seattle in 1911. He earned his degree in mechanical engineering in 1917 from the University of Washington and was one of three students recommended by the dean when ...

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Ehricke, Krafft Arnold (24 March 1917–11 December 1984), rocket engineer and space visionary, was born in Berlin, Germany, the son of Arnold Ehricke and Ruth Konietzko, dentists. In 1929 Ehricke’s life was changed when he saw Frau im Mond (The woman in the moon), a science-fiction movie by director ...

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Hunsaker, Jerome Clarke (26 August 1886–10 September 1984), aeronautical engineer and aviation pioneer, was born in Creston, Iowa, the son of Walter J. Hunsaker, a newspaper publisher, and Alma Clarke. Hunsaker was raised in Detroit and Saginaw, Michigan. He enrolled in the U.S. Naval Academy and graduated first in his class in 1908. He was then assigned to the naval construction corps, and shortly afterward he was sent by the navy to begin graduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he intended to study ship construction. Hunsaker, however, soon became fascinated by the phenomenon of flight and the study of aeronautical engineering. In 1911 he married Alice Porter Avery, with whom he had four children....

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Lockheed, Allan Haines (20 January 1889–26 May 1969), aeronautical engineer and airplane manufacturing executive, was born Allan Haines Loughead in Niles, California, the son of John Loughead, a truck gardener and fruit grower, and Flora Haines, a writer. Lockheed and his older brother Malcolm ( ...

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McDonnell, James Smith, Jr. (09 April 1899–22 August 1980), aeronautical engineer and airplane manufacturing executive, was born in Denver, Colorado, the son of James Smith McDonnell, a merchant, and Susan Belle Hunter. He grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, graduating from the public high school in 1917. After a brief stint in the stateside army during the last part of World War I, McDonnell attended Princeton University, where he studied physics. While there, he became interested both in politics, because of Wilsonian foreign policy, and aeronautics, because of an airplane ride with a barnstormer. His father, believing that McDonnell was “too shy and serious” to succeed in politics, suggested he pursue a career in aviation. Following his father’s advice, young McDonnell graduated from Princeton with a bachelor of science degree in 1921 and immediately enrolled in the graduate program in aeronautical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While at MIT he enlisted in the army aviation section and received a reserve pilot’s wings in 1923. Two years later McDonnell received his M.S. from MIT....