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Andrews, Roy Chapman (26 January 1884–11 March 1960), explorer and zoologist, was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, the son of Charles Ezra Andrews, a wholesale druggist, and Cora May Chapman. As a young boy Andrews resolved “to be an explorer, to work in a natural history museum, and to live out of doors” ( ...

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Burden, William Douglas (24 September 1898–14 November 1978), naturalist and explorer, was born in Troy, New York, the son of James Abercrombie Burden, an iron manufacturer, and Florence Adele Sloane. Burden received his A.B. in 1922 from Harvard College. He received his M.A. (in geology) in 1926 from Columbia University. After graduating from Harvard he traveled in the Orient studying oriental civilizations and collecting specimens of local fauna for the American Museum of Natural History....

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Darton, Nelson Horatio (17 December 1865–28 February 1948), geological mapper, groundwater specialist, and bibliographer, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of William Darton, Jr., a shipbuilder and civil engineer, and Caroline Matilda Thayer. Darton was a self-trained geologist who dropped out of public school before the age of thirteen to apprentice as a chemist in his uncle’s business. He became a member of the American Chemical Society at age sixteen and shortly thereafter started his own business, selling distilled water. As a practical chemist he became interested in minerals and collected in New Jersey. By age seventeen, Darton had spoken before the New York Academy of Sciences and published his first paper. The conclusion he derived from fieldwork was that some of the rock strata in eastern New Jersey were ancient lava flows, a new concept at that time, but one that was immediately accepted....

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Eklund, Carl Robert (27 January 1909–04 November 1962), scientist and antarctic explorer, was born in Tomahawk, Wisconsin, the son of John Eklund, a carpenter, and Maria Olson. Both his parents were immigrants from Sweden. Eklund was an outstanding football and basketball player at Tomahawk High School. Later he starred in football at Carleton College in Minnesota, from which he graduated in 1932. Carleton’s Dr. ...

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Evans, Lewis (1700–11 June 1756), cartographer and geologist, was born in Llangwnadl, Carnarvonshire, Wales. His background and details of his personal life are not known. The earliest American record of him dates from 1736, when he was a surveyor and mapmaker in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He often bought books from ...

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Freeman, Thomas (?–08 November 1821), surveyor, civil engineer, and explorer, was born in Ireland and immigrated in 1784 to America. Nothing is known of his parents, early life, or formal training, but he apparently had a background in the sciences. He may have acquired employment at Plymouth, Massachusetts, as an inspector and surveyor. In 1794 ...

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Gould, Laurence McKinley (22 August 1896–21 June 1995), educator, geologist, and explorer, was born in Lacota, Michigan, the son of Herbert Gould and Anna Updike, farmers. In 1914 he left the family farm and moved to Boca Raton, Florida, where he taught in a one-room schoolhouse. He also helped to found a Sunday school class and with his students published the ...

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Harriot, Thomas (1560–02 July 1621), scientist, linguist, and author of the first English book on North America, was born in Oxford (city or county), England; his parentage is unknown. As an undergraduate he entered St. Mary’s Hall (attached to Oriel College, Oxford) in 1576, matriculated in the University of Oxford in 1557, and graduated B.A. in 1580. He never married....

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Angelo Helprin Center, on the approach to Pelée, Martinique; from a stereograph. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102313).

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Heilprin, Angelo (31 March 1853–17 July 1907), geologist and explorer, was born in Satoralja-Ujhely, Hungary, the son of Michael Heilprin, a scholar and encyclopedist, and Henrietta Silver. His father was originally from Russian Poland. In 1856 Heilprin and his family immigrated to the United States, searching for the freedom that had evaded them in both Poland and Hungary. He grew up in New York City and attended the public schools of Brooklyn and Yonkers. At the age of fourteen he entered a hardware concern in New York City in conjunction with his younger brother Louis. He worked there for several years, but he had already decided to become a naturalist and enthusiastically pursued the opportunity to write articles for the ...

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Hill, Robert Thomas (11 August 1858–28 July 1941), geologist and explorer, was born in Nashville, Tennessee; details of the lives of his parents are not known. Hill was born into a family of eight children just before the Civil War. He was orphaned at the age of five, raised by his grandmother in the war-torn city. He began work when very young, helping to support his family; at the age of sixteen, he finally completed the sixth grade. An older brother invited him to come to Comanche, Texas, 100 miles from the nearest railroad, and the youth eventually arrived there in 1874, penniless....

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Keating, William Hypolitus (11 August 1799–17 May 1840), scientist, explorer, and lawyer, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, to Baron John Keating, a colonel in the Irish Brigade of the French army, and Eulalia Deschapelles. Keating’s father settled initially in Delaware after resigning his commission. The family moved to Philadelphia, and Keating entered the University of Pennsylvania in 1813, receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1816. His interest in mineralogy and mining took him to Europe for five years, where he studied at the Paris School of Mines and visited mines in various countries. He returned to the United States and summarized his studies in a monograph, ...

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Keith, Arthur (30 September 1864–07 February 1944), structural geologist and geologic mapper, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Harrison Alonzo Keith, a high school principal and city administrator, and Mary Elizabeth Richardson. Keith grew up in Quincy, Massachusetts, attended Harvard University, and, after graduating in 1885, investigated the local geology around his hometown. In connection with graduate work at Harvard, for which he received an A.M., he mapped for the Massachusetts Topographic Survey in 1886. In June 1887 Keith joined the U.S. Geological Survey as a field assistant to ...

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Kennicott, Robert (13 November 1835–13 May 1866), naturalist and explorer, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of John Albert Kennicott and Mary Shutts Ransom. The second of seven children, Kennicott was raised in a beautiful prairie grove eighteen miles northwest of Chicago. His father, a physician and educator as well as an enthusiastic amateur botanist, had moved the family to West Northfield (now Glenview), Illinois, in 1836. The Kennicott estate, known simply as “The Grove,” was the perfect setting for a would-be naturalist, encompassing as it did a variety of rich and varied ecosystems. Robert was frail and often in ill health as a youth and as a consequence never attended school regularly. John Kennicott arranged for an Oxford-trained tutor to supplement his children’s education, but he was their most important teacher. He encouraged frail Robert in particular to spend time outdoors studying nature, and by age fifteen Kennicott was experimenting with the effects of massasauga rattlesnake venom on a variety of animals. In addition to quite a menagerie of live animals, Kennicott had also begun to make collections of bird skins, eggs, insects, and snakes. In 1853 his father arranged for him to study with the leading naturalist of the Midwest, ...

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Lesley, J. Peter (07 September 1819–01 June 1903), geologist and topographer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Peter Lesley, a cabinetmaker, and Elizabeth Oswald Allen. He was christened Peter Lesley but adopted the initial J. to avoid confusion with his father. Lesley graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1838, planning to enter the Princeton Theological Seminary to prepare for a career as a Presbyterian minister. Poor health delayed his plans, and in an effort to rebuild his health through vigorous outdoor life he joined the first state geological survey of Pennsylvania under ...

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Mullan, John (31 July 1830–28 December 1909), army explorer, road builder, and lawyer, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of John Mullan, a civil servant, and Mary Bright. The eldest of ten children, Mullan grew up in Annapolis, Maryland, where his father was postmaster at the U.S. Naval Academy. He received his education, beginning at the age of nine, at St. John’s College in Annapolis, from which he received a B.A. in 1847 and an M.A. in 1855. Family tradition holds that Mullan sought a personal interview with President ...

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Nicollet, Joseph Nicolas (29 July 1786–11 September 1843), explorer, astronomer, and mathematician, was born in Cluses, a small town in the duchy of Savoy in the Alpine region of eastern France, the son of Francois Nicollet, an artisan and watch finisher, and Marie Dussaugey. He began his education in the local school where his godfather, Nicolas Berthoud, was schoolmaster. Through the Abbé Ressiat who taught him Latin he was sent to the neighboring town of Samoens to attend the Latin school there, the Manor Berouse. Since his family was impoverished after the French invasion of 1792, he tutored younger children to earn his tuition, distinguishing himself as an excellent student, particularly in mathematics. He also developed as a fine violinist. As Napoleon restricted religious schools, in 1804 Nicollet left the Manor Berouse to attend a secular institution. This was L’École Normale in Chambéry, a larger, more cosmopolitan town and the capital of the French Department of Mont Blanc. He received further training in mathematics and the natural sciences but longed to study in Paris with some of the great scholars of the age. In 1809 his school principal, George Marie Raymond, facilitated his admission to L’École Normale in Paris, where he prepared for a teaching career. Meanwhile, he became a part-time instructor at the Lycée Imperial, specializing in astronomy and mathematics. He also began to publish scholarly papers and wrote encyclopedia articles to support himself. By 1817 he had attracted the attention of the Marquis de Pierre Simon Laplace, one of the eminent astronomers of the day, who was also a professor of mathematics at the École Militaire. Laplace was impressed by Nicollet and appointed him secretary of the observatory at the institution....

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Orton, James (21 April 1830–25 September 1877), naturalist, explorer, and educator, was born in Seneca Falls, New York, the son of Azariah Giles Orton, a theologian and scholar, and Minerva Squire. His father earned a meager salary as a country parson, and his family had few material advantages, but young Orton received much intellectual stimulation and support at home. He exhibited a keen interest in science, particularly natural history and mineralogy. While still in his teens he began to write about the things he observed on the numerous field trips he took near his rural home. After attending a boarding school in Oxford, New York, he went to Williston Seminary because his family felt he should prepare for the ministry. Maintaining his interest in the natural sciences, however, he wrote and published ...

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Porter, Russell Williams (13 December 1871–22 February 1949), Arctic explorer and astronomer, was born in Springfield, Vermont, the son of Frederick Wardsworth Porter, an inventor and toy maker, and Caroline Silsby. Porter attended Norwich University, the University of Vermont, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he studied architecture. While an undergraduate at MIT, ...

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John Wesley Powell. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-20230).