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Denys de la Ronde, Louis (02 August 1675–25 March 1741), French military officer, explorer, and spy, was born in Quebec City, Canada, the son of Pierre Denys de la Ronde, a landowner and merchant (the Crown had given the aristocracy in Canada permission to engage in trade), and Catherine Leneuf de la Potherie. He entered naval service in 1687 as a midshipman in France. During the war of 1689–1697 he served in exiled British king James II’s expedition to Ireland, then off the coast of England, and finally on several voyages to New France and along the coast of New England. Captured at sea in 1695, he was soon released in an exchange of prisoners of war. He served in ...

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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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René-Robert Cavalier de La Salle. Engraving by H. B. Hall, 1882. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-5545).

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La Salle, René-Robert Cavalier de (21 November 1643–19 March 1687), explorer, was born in Rouen, France, the son of Jean Cavelier, a haberdasher, and Catherine Geest. The family was part of the prosperous bourgeoisie. The sobriquet “de La Salle” referred to an estate they owned outside Rouen. La Salle’s initial intention, however, seems to have been to escape his position, for after having studied with the Jesuits in Rouen, he renounced any claim to the family fortunes and entered the novitiate for the order in Paris in 1658. He actually took vows in 1660, continued, apparently rather brilliantly, his studies of mathematics, and taught in Jesuit schools until 1666. Having requested missionary assignments several times and been denied because he had been unable to demonstrate spiritual maturity and submission to the discipline of the order, he was released from his vows in 1667 and only a few months later went to New France, penniless but with many influential connections. There his brother, a Sulpician, was doubtless responsible for his obtaining from that order a grant of a seigneury on Montreal Island, but after two years La Salle sold most of it back to them and began his career of exploration by attaching himself to the Dollier and Galinée missionary party bound for the western Great Lakes. Hearing of the Ohio River from Iroquois Indian guides, he left the party, claiming illness, and virtually disappeared for four years....

Article

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 ...