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Abbot, John (31 May 1751–1840), artist-naturalist, was born in London, England, the son of John Abbot, an attorney in the court of King’s Bench, Plea side, and Ann Clousinger. (Although baptismal records list his birth date as 31 May, Abbot, in his “Notes on My Life” [1834], claimed he was born on 1 June.) Little is known about Abbot’s early education. The family rented a country home near London where young John read books and studied insects in the field. His father had a collection of good paintings and encouraged his son’s interests with books and arranged for home art lessons under the engraver and drawing master Jacob Bonneau. Nevertheless, Abbot’s career was assumed to be in law, and in February 1769 he began to clerk in his father’s law office. In his free time he continued to study insects, purchase books that illustrated insects and birds, and paint pictures. In 1770 Abbot exhibited two lepidoptera watercolors at the Society of Artists of Great Britain in London. By early 1773 he had determined to go to North America to collect and paint insects. The Royal Society of London and two English naturalists, Thomas Martyn and Dru Drury, commissioned Abbot to collect natural history specimens....

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Adams, Charles Baker (11 January 1814–18 January 1853), naturalist and educator, was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, the son of Charles J. Adams, a Boston merchant, and Hannah Baker. At an early age Adams showed great interest and ability in natural history and chemistry. His parents encouraged him by setting aside a room for his rocks and fossils and the apparatus he used for chemistry experiments. He began his formal education at Boston schools and then attended Phillips Academy in Andover before entering Yale College in 1830. After a year at Yale he transferred to Amherst College, where he flourished, graduating in 1834 with highest honors. He entered the Theological Seminary at Andover with the intention of preparing for the ministry, but he left in 1836 to assist professor ...

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Audubon, John James (26 April 1785–27 January 1851), naturalist and artist, was born Jean Rabin Fougère in Les Cayes, Santo Domingo, the son of Captain Jean Audubon, a French sea captain, planter, and slave dealer, and Jeanne Rabin (or Rabine), a young Frenchwoman employed as a chambermaid on the island. The traditional view, that Mlle Rabin was a Creole woman native to Santo Domingo, has been disproved. Audubon’s mother died before he was seven months old, and the child was cared for by another mistress of the father’s with whom he had several children. In 1791, fearing worsening conditions in Santo Domingo, Captain Audubon arranged for his son and a younger daughter by his mistress Catherine “Sanitte” Bouffard to be taken to France. There both were well cared for by Captain Audubon’s legal spouse, Anne Moynet Audubon, who had no children of her own. Both children were formally adopted by the couple in 1794, as was required if they were legally to inherit Captain Audubon’s name and property, and were baptized in 1800. At this time the boy received the name Jean-Jacques Fougère Audubon....

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John James Audubon. Lithograph in Gallery of Illustrious Americans, 1850. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-28111).

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Bailey, Jacob Whitman (29 April 1811–27 February 1857), naturalist and educator, was born in Ward (now Auburn), Massachusetts, the son of Rev. Isaac Bailey and Jane Whitman. From an early age Bailey was an avid collector and classifier of natural history specimens. Because his family was of modest means, Bailey’s formal schooling ended at age twelve, but employment with a bookseller and circulating library in Providence, Rhode Island, permitted him to continue studies on his own. His scholarly habits earned him the patronage of John Kingsbury, secretary of Brown University, with whom he studied Latin. By 1828 he was able to enter West Point, graduating fifth in his class in 1832 and receiving a commission as second lieutenant of artillery in 1833....

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Bartram, William (09 April 1739–22 July 1823), naturalist, artist, and explorer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Bartram, a naturalist, and Ann Mendenhall. Unlike his father, who was essentially self-taught, William Bartram benefited from a rigorous formal education at the Philadelphia Academy, where he studied history, Latin, French, and the classics. From an early age, however, his overriding interest was in nature. He spent much of his time as a young man traveling with his father to collect and draw plants and other specimens for John Bartram’s overseas patrons and scientific correspondents....

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Bates, Marston (23 July 1906–03 April 1974), naturalist and educator, was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the son of Glen F. Bates, a farmer and horticulturist, and Amy Mabel Button. In 1916 his father moved the family to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where young Bates was reared. An only child in a rather isolated environment, he developed an interest in insects (he collected butterflies) and an ambition to visit the tropics. He earned a B.S. in biology at the University of Florida in 1927....

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Beard, James Carter (06 June 1837–15 November 1913), artist, author, and naturalist, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of James Henry Beard, a portrait, genre, and animal painter, and Mary Caroline Carter. He spent his childhood there and in nearby Covington, Kentucky, then attended Miami University at Oxford, Ohio, during the mid-1850s. Later he read law in Cincinnati under ...

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John Burroughs Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-99738).

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John Burroughs In his cabin, “Slabsides.” Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103950).

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Burroughs, John (03 April 1837–29 March 1921), naturalist and author, was born in Roxbury, New York, the son of Chauncey A. Burroughs and Amy Kelly, farmers. He attended district schools in Roxbury and later studied briefly at two academies in Upstate New York. He became a teacher in 1854, at the age of seventeen, and for the next decade he taught in rural schools in New York, New Jersey, and Illinois. He studied medicine for a few months with a physician in Tangore, New York, where he met Ursula North, a farmer’s daughter. The two married in 1857; they adopted one child, born in 1878 to a woman with whom Burroughs had an extramarital affair (his wife did not learn of the child’s paternity until several years later). During the 1850s Burroughs discovered the Transcendentalist writings of ...

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Dewey, Chester (25 October 1784–15 December 1867), clergyman, educator, and scientist, was born in Sheffield, Massachusetts, the son of Stephen Dewey and Elizabeth Owen, farmers. After receiving a common-school education, he entered Williams College in 1802. While at Williams, Dewey excelled in mathematics and classical studies. Although he maintained the interest in the natural sciences he had developed in childhood, he felt compelled to enter the ministry after becoming a Christian in his senior year. Following his graduation in 1806, he studied theology in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, with Stephen West, D.D., and was licensed to preach by the Berkshire Congregational Association in 1807. He then briefly held a pastorate at Tyringham, Massachusetts, from July until November 1808, after which he returned to the Williams College campus as a tutor....

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Fuertes, Louis Agassiz (07 February 1874–22 August 1927), artist, naturalist, and scientific illustrator, was born in Ithaca, New York, the son of Estevan Antonio Fuertes of Puerto Rico, a professor of civil engineering at Cornell University, and Mary Perry of Troy, New York. Named after but unrelated to the great nineteenth-century naturalist Louis Agassiz of Harvard, Fuertes was the youngest in a family of six. He traveled widely throughout the world but always considered Ithaca his home....

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Hamilton, William John, Jr. (11 December 1902–17 July 1990), mammalogist, naturalist, and educator, was born in Corona, Queens, New York, the son of William John Hamilton and Charlotte Richardson. His interest in nature was kindled in boyhood by a Sunday school teacher who gave him a plant to care for when Hamilton was seven. He was soon involved in gardening (which would remain a major avocation all his life), bird watching, muskrat trapping, and kindred activities. In his teens, he raised needed income by supplying timber rattlesnakes to the New York Zoological Society’s Bronx Zoo and moth cocoons to a shop on lower Fifth Avenue in New York City....

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Holder, Charles Frederick (05 August 1851–10 October 1915), naturalist and sportsman, was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph Bassett Holder and Emily Augusta Gove. He entered but did not graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy. Influenced by his father’s interest in natural sciences, Holder became an assistant curator of zoology at the American Museum of Natural History, where he worked from 1871 to 1875....

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Lesueur, Charles Alexandre (01 January 1778–12 December 1846), artist and naturalist, was born in Le Havre, France, the son of Jean-Baptiste-Denis Lesueur, an officer in the admiralty, and Charlotte Geneviève Thieullent, the daughter of a naval captain. At the age of nine Lesueur entered the Royal Military School at Beaumont-en-Auge. In 1793 he enrolled in a military school in Le Havre called the “Batillon de l’Esperance,” and from 1797 to 1799 he was an under-officer in the National Guard of Le Havre. For a few months in 1798 he served aboard the dispatch boat ...

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Miller, Harriet Mann (25 June 1831–25 December 1918), author and naturalist, known by the pseudonym Olive Thorne Miller, was born in Auburn, New York, the daughter of Seth Hunt Mann, a banker, and Mary Field Holbrook. During her youth she lived in Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Missouri and was educated in private schools....

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John Muir Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-52000).

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Muir, John (21 April 1838–24 December 1914), naturalist, conservationist, and writer, was born in Dunbar, Scotland, the son of Daniel Muir and Anne Gilrye, farmers. He was educated in Dunbar’s common school and by his father’s insistence that he memorize a Bible chapter every day. With his father and two siblings, John migrated to Wisconsin in 1849; the rest of the family soon followed. On the family’s homestead near Portage, Daniel worked John, just entering his teens, as if he were an adult field hand, inflicting corporal punishment; John Muir later believed that this hard farm labor stunted his growth. The boy’s escape was to devour every book that he came across, and when his father forbade his reading at night, he devised a sort of wooden alarm clock attached to his bed. This “early-rising machine” awakened him very early in the morning, and he would read until it was time for his exhausting chores....

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Ord, George (04 March 1781–24 January 1866), naturalist, writer, and lexicographer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of George Ord, a retired sea captain who in 1798 became a ship chandler and rope maker, and Rebecca Lindemeyer. Educated in Philadelphia, Ord devoted himself from an early age to the study of science and literature. He entered his father’s rope-making business in 1800 and continued the business after his father’s death in 1806; he retired from the business in 1829 to devote more time to his avocational interests. In 1804 Ord married Margarette Biays, with whom he had three children, only one of whom survived infancy....