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Dixon, Roland Burrage (06 November 1875–19 December 1934), anthropologist and natural historian, was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, the son of Louis Seaver Dixon, a physician, and Ellen R. Burrage. Appointed an assistant at the Peabody Museum after graduating from Harvard in 1897, he engaged in the archaeological excavation of burial mounds in Madisonville, Ohio. After earning his M.A. in 1898, he joined the Jesup North Pacific Expedition, doing fieldwork in British Columbia and Alaska. He was also a member of the Huntington Expedition in California in 1899. His 1900 Harvard doctoral dissertation dealt with the language of the Maidu Indians of California. It was included by its de facto supervisor, Columbia anthropologist ...

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Eiseley, Loren Corey (03 September 1907–09 July 1977), anthropologist, writer, and philosopher of science, was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, the only son of Clyde Edwin Eiseley, an amateur actor turned hardware salesman, and Daisey Corey, a self-educated artist. The family’s financial instability and his mother’s handicap (she was deaf and, as he later wrote, “always on the brink of mental collapse”) made his formative years in Nebraska a time of profound isolation. For solace, he turned to the Nebraska prairie and its fauna. He enrolled in the University of Nebraska in 1925, but physical and psychological crises kept him from graduating until eight years later. Near the end of his life, he recalled dropping out of college at least three times—to work in a poultry hatchery, to recuperate from tuberculosis in Colorado and the Mojave Desert (1928–1929), and to drift, riding the rails in the West (1930–1931). His father’s death in 1928 brought Eiseley to the brink of mental collapse. During this period, however, he worked on his first archaeological dig, published his first poetry, and cultivated a deep affinity for animals and landscape. In the same year he finished college (1933) Eiseley went to the University of Pennsylvania for graduate work in anthropology. He earned his Ph.D. in 1937, completing a dissertation titled “Three Indices of Quaternary Time and Their Bearing upon Pre-History: A Critique.” With this work an intensely private man began an unexpected career as a prominent public intellectual and literary naturalist....

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Fewkes, Jesse Walter (14 November 1850–31 May 1930), marine biologist and anthropologist, was born in Newton, Massachusetts, the son of Jesse Fewkes, a craftsman, and Susan Emeline Jewett. Fewkes studied natural history under Louis Agassiz at Harvard University (B.A., 1875; M.A. and Ph.D., 1877). In 1881, following study with Rudolph Leuckart at Leipzig and work on the Italian coast around Naples and the southern coast of France, he became an assistant at the Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology in charge of lower invertebrates. From that time until 1883 he regularly accompanied zoologist ...

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Gibbs, George (17 July 1815–09 April 1873), ethnographer, geologist, and historian, was born at “Sunswick Farms” near Astoria, Long Island, New York, the son of George Gibbs, a gentleman farmer and amateur geologist, and Laura Wolcott. Both of his parents descended from wealthy, old-stock colonial families. At the age of nine, George was sent to the Round Hill School in Northampton, Massachusetts, which was directed by historian ...

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Henry W. Henshaw Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98679).

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Henshaw, Henry Wetherbee (03 March 1850–01 August 1930), ornithologist, ethnologist, and government official, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of William Henshaw and Sarah Holden Wetherbee. His interest in natural history was demonstrated from early childhood, and he began focusing has attention on birds. He completed his primary and secondary education in the local public schools, but poor health compelled him to defer plans to take the entrance examination at Harvard in 1869. While in high school, Henshaw met ...

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William Henry Holmes. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-48333).

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Holmes, William Henry (01 December 1846–20 April 1933), artist, scientist, and administrator, was born on a farm near Short Creek in southeastern Ohio, the youngest of three sons of Joseph Holmes and Mary Heberling Holmes. In 1856 Holmes's mother died and his grandparents, John and Mary Heberling, raised him in nearby Georgetown until 1860, when his father married Sarah I. Moore. At eighteen, Holmes entered McNeely Normal School to prepare for a teaching career. While excelling in drawing, geography, and natural history and immersing himself in the student life of McNeely, Holmes taught temporarily in the Harrison County schools. In 1870 he was asked to join the McNeely faculty to teach art and science. Art was Holmes's real passion, however; not teaching. Restless, he decided to go to the nation's capital between terms to study under Theodore Kaufmann. When not in the studio, Holmes was at the Smithsonian Institution drawing birds and, perhaps, also drawing attention to himself. He was discovered there by a Costa Rican ornithologist, José Zeledon, and hired on the spot as one of the Smithsonian's contract illustrators. Holmes liked his new work but learned that there was a difference between art and illustration when Assistant Secretary ...

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William John McGee Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103959).

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McGee, William John (17 April 1853–04 September 1912), geologist and anthropologist, was born near Farley, Dubuque County, Iowa, the son of James McGee, an Irish immigrant and farmer, and Martha Ann Anderson. McGee attended local schools intermittently until about the age of fourteen. An older brother who had attended college provided education in Latin, German, mathematics, and astronomy, and a maternal uncle helped teach McGee surveying, a skill for which there was much local demand. He learned blacksmithing and in the early 1870s manufactured and sold agricultural implements. With a brother and a cousin he obtained a patent in 1874 on an improved adjustable cultivator, which was not a financial success....

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

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Powell, John Wesley (24 March 1834–23 September 1902), explorer, geologist, and anthropologist, was born in Mount Morris, New York, the son of Joseph Powell, a tailor and Methodist Episcopal licensed exhorter, and Mary Dean. Powell’s parents, who were emigrants from England, moved the family successively west and finally settled in Wheaton, Illinois. Young Powell’s education was intermittent but included some course work at Wheaton and Oberlin Colleges. He worked on the family farm and taught school, but his real interests lay in all phases of natural history and in archaeology. He made numerous collections of natural objects, often by traveling overland or alone in a boat along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. He became well known among amateur natural historians and was elected secretary of the Illinois Society of Natural History in March 1861....

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Putnam, Frederic Ward (16 April 1839–14 August 1915), anthropologist, naturalist, and museologist, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of Ebenezer Putnam and Elizabeth Appleton. His early years were devoted to the study of natural history on his own, beginning with a serious interest in the study of birds. Remarkably, he became a curator of ornithology at the Essex Institute in Salem in 1856 at age seventeen. That same year Putnam entered the Lawrence Scientific Schools at Harvard University. There he was a pupil and an assistant of the eminent naturalist ...

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Stevenson, James (24 December 1840–25 July 1888), naturalist and ethnologist, was born probably in Maysville, Kentucky. Nothing is known of his parents or his early life. On 22 April 1856 Lieutenant Gouverneur K. Warren of the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers hired him in St. Joseph, Missouri, to accompany his expedition that summer. Stevenson became assistant to the party’s geologist and naturalist, ...

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Stevenson, Matilda Coxe Evans (12 May 1849–24 June 1915), ethnologist, geologist, and explorer, was born in San Augustine, Texas, the daughter of Alexander Hamilton Evans, a lawyer, writer, and journalist from Virginia, and Maria Coxe of New Jersey. Stevenson grew up in a privileged, middle-class household in Washington, D.C. Following her education in a girl’s finishing school and seminary, she defied convention and studied law as well as served an apprenticeship in chemistry and geology at the Army Medical School. Even though there were no opportunities for college or advanced degrees or employment in the sciences for women at the time, Stevenson decided to become a mineralogist and geological explorer. She was able to pursue these goals through her marriage, in 1872, to geologist and naturalist Colonel ...

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Wyman, Jeffries (11 August 1814–04 September 1874), comparative anatomist, naturalist, and anthropologist, was born in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, the son of Rufus Wyman, a physician, and Ann Morrill. He was named after the Boston physician James Jeffries, preceptor in medicine to Wyman’s father. Wyman’s family moved to Somerville, Massachusetts, when his father, a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, was appointed physician of the McLean Asylum for the Insane. Wyman exhibited a childhood interest in dissection and sketching, two skills in which he later excelled....