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Cram, Ralph Adams (16 December 1863–22 September 1942), architect and cultural critic, was born in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, the son of William Augustine Cram, a Unitarian minister, and Sarah Elizabeth Blake. Cram’s early career was strongly affected by his father’s decision to abandon his profession and return to the family farm in New Hampshire to care for his elderly parents. As a result, the young Cram received no formal education after completing high school in 1880; instead, he was formed by a combination of apprenticeship in the office of the Boston, Massachusetts, architectural firm of Rotch and Tilden; extensive travel abroad, financed in part through prizes won in architectural competitions; and voluminous personal reading....

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Flagg, Ernest (06 February 1857–10 April 1947), architect and urban reformer, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Jared Bradley Flagg, a clergyman and artist, and Louisa Hart. After his mother’s death in 1872, Flagg abandoned his formal education and found employment in a series of marginal businesses in New York City. Later he worked as a developer in partnership with his father and brother, an experience that stimulated his interest in architecture and urban reform. Flagg’s cousin ...

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

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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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Owings, Nathaniel Alexander (05 February 1903–13 June 1984), architect, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the son of Nathaniel Owings, a fine-wood importer, and Cora Alexander. After his father’s death in 1914, his mother supported the family by working as an accountant. In 1920 Owings won a Rotary Club trip to Europe, where he saw the cathedrals of Notre Dame, Chartres, and Mont-Saint-Michel. The experience determined his course in life. In 1921 he began studies in architecture at the University of Illinois but left after a year on account of illness. He returned to school, attending Cornell University, where he graduated in 1927 with degrees in architecture and engineering. He began his career in the New York architecture firm of York and Sawyer. In 1931 he married Emily Hunting Otis; they had four children....

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Stokes, Isaac Newton Phelps (11 April 1867–18 December 1944), architect and historian, was born in New York City, the son of Anson Phelps Stokes, a banker, and Helen Louisa Phelps. His education was interrupted by episodes of ill health, but he entered Harvard University in 1887 and graduated in 1891. Stokes worked briefly in banking before he began to study at the School of Architecture of Columbia University from 1893 to 1894. He left without taking a degree and went to Paris to study housing design at the École des Beaux Arts. Improved tenement housing was to be a lifelong interest of his. In 1895 he married Edith Minturn. They had an adopted daughter....