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Louis Agassiz. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103949).

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Agassiz, Louis (26 May 1807–14 December 1873), zoologist and geologist, was born Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz in Motier, Switzerland, the son of Rodolphe Agassiz, a Protestant pastor, and Rose Mayor. Louis early in life spurned family pressure to become a businessman and planned to devote himself to the professional study of nature. At the age of twenty-one he predicted he would become “the first naturalist of his time, a good citizen and a good son… . I feel within myself the strength of a whole generation to work toward this end” (Lurie [1960], p. 31)....

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Allen, Arthur Augustus (28 December 1885–17 January 1964), ornithologist, was born in Buffalo, New York, the son of Daniel Williams Allen, a railroad and land developer, and Anna Moore. He was raised in Hamburg, New York, ten miles south of Buffalo, and he graduated from Buffalo High School in 1903. Allen then attended Cornell University, where he received an A.B. in 1907 and an M.A. in 1908. A graduate assistant in zoology from 1907 to 1911, he completed his formal training in 1911 with his doctoral dissertation, “The Red-Winged Blackbird: A Study in the Ecology of a Cattail Marsh,” which was praised by leading ornithologists of the day, including ...

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Allen, Glover Morrill (08 December 1879–15 February 1942), mammalogist and ornithologist, was born in Walpole, New Hampshire, the son of Nathaniel Glover Allen, a minister, and Harriet Ann Schouler Allen. His father, who was 68 when his son was born, retired in 1885, at which time the family moved to Newton, Massachusetts. He died when his son was ten. Allen attended the local public schools and Newton High School and then entered Harvard, becoming a member of Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year and graduating magna cum laude in 1901. The early natural history interests Allen had evinced from boyhood prompted him to concentrate in botany, zoology, and foreign languages. His first major publication, ...

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Joel Allen Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102410).

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Allen, Joel Asaph (19 July 1838–29 August 1921), zoologist and museum official, was born near Springfield, Massachusetts, the son of Joel Allen, a carpenter, housebuilder, and later a farmer, and Harriet Trumbull, a former schoolteacher. Allen attended the local public schools in the wintertime, but his father, a rigidly puritanical Congregationalist, insisted that he work on the family farm during good weather. From the age of about fourteen, as Allen’s interest in natural history, particularly birds, increased, his interest in farming diminished. He nevertheless worked long hours for his father in a spirit of filial loyalty, possibly laying the foundation for the serious bouts of ill health that would plague him in later years. Whenever possible, he prepared study specimens of birds and animals for his own private collection. From 1858 to 1862 Allen’s father supported his intermittent attendance at nearby Wilbraham Academy....

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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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Anthony, Harold Elmer (05 April 1890–29 March 1970), mammalogist, museum curator, and author, was born in Beaverton, Oregon, the son of Alfred Webster Anthony and Anabel Klink. His father, a mining engineer and amateur ornithologist and collector, encouraged the boy’s interests in natural history. Anthony was an avid hunter, as were other lads in his community, but he early evinced an interest in preserving small mammal and bird skins for further study. Educated in the local public schools of Portland, Oregon, Anthony attended Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, for one year (1910–1911)....

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Anthony, John Gould (17 May 1804–16 October 1877), conchologist, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Joseph Anthony and Mary Gould. As a child he became interested in natural history, particularly in marine mollusks, the study of which absorbed him all his life and led to his appointment as first curator of conchology in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. Before that he was an accountant by profession and a collector at heart....

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Bailey, Florence Augusta Merriam (08 August 1863–22 September 1948), ornithologist, was born in Locust Grove, New York, the daughter of Clinton Levi Merriam, a banker, and Caroline Hart. She grew up on the family’s country estate, Homewood, in the rural Adirondack foothills. Bailey’s father encouraged his children’s curiosity about nature and wildlife, camping and exploring with them in the countryside. He had met and corresponded with the naturalist ...

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Baird, Spencer Fullerton (03 February 1823–19 August 1887), zoologist and scientific administrator, was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Baird, a lawyer, and Lydia McFunn Biddle. He initially attended Reading Grammar School, but after his father died, when Baird was ten years old, his family moved to Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He attended a Quaker boarding school near Port Deposit, Maryland, for six months, then attended the Carlisle grammar school. In 1836 he entered Dickinson College, from which he graduated with an A.B. in 1840. By then, both Spencer and his eldest brother Will had become avid collectors of birds and other natural history specimens. They jointly published their first scientific paper ( ...

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Bonaparte, Charles Lucien Jules Laurent (24 May 1803–29 July 1857), ornithologist, was born in Paris, France, the son of Lucien Bonaparte, a younger brother of Napoleon Bonaparte and a senator and president of the Council of Five Hundred during the Directorate, and Alexandrine de Bleschamps. His early life was full of turmoil since Napoleon bitterly opposed his father’s marriage considering it insufficiently elevated for the brother of a future emperor. Lucien, an ardent republican who disapproved of Napoleon’s empire, refused to divorce his wife. In 1804 he left France for Rome, where he placed himself under the protection of Pope Pius VII. His eldest son, Charles, banned by Napoleon from the line of succession, nevertheless spent a childhood surrounded by luxury until Napoleon’s break with the pope forced his father to flee in 1810. Lucien planned to emigrate to the United States, but he and his family were captured by the British off Sardinia and taken to England. During the next four years, Charles was privately tutored. He concentrated on his favorite subject, natural history, and learned English. In 1814, after Napoleon’s exile to Elba, Lucien and his family returned to Rome, where Pope Pius VII granted Lucien the title of prince of Canino and named Charles prince of Musignano. Charles continued to study plants, insects, and vertebrate animals (including birds) in Rome and at Lucien’s estates in Frascati and Canino; he also commenced a natural history of the birds of Rome....

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Brewer, Thomas Mayo (21 November 1814–23 January 1880), ornithologist and journalist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of James Brewer, a colonel in the revolutionary war (mother’s name unknown). He graduated from Harvard College in 1835 and from Harvard Medical School three years later. After a few years of practice in Boston’s North End, Brewer virtually abandoned medicine in favor of journalism and natural history....

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Brewster, William (05 July 1851–11 July 1919), ornithologist, was born in Wakefield, Massachusetts, the youngest of four children of John Brewster, a prominent Boston banker and philanthropist, and Rebecca Parker Noyes. Brewster was educated in the public schools of Cambridge. During his youth he became interested in natural history, particularly the study of birds. At the age of ten he fell under the influence of Daniel C. French, a neighbor who was a skilled taxidermist and enthusiastic outdoorsman. Young Brewster quickly mastered the techniques of bird preservation, and by the time he was fourteen, he had acquired an impressive number of mounted birds, which he expanded over the ensuing years into one of the largest ornithological collections in the United States. His father encouraged this activity by procuring ...

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Brooks, William Keith (25 March 1848–12 November 1908), zoologist, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Oliver Allen Brooks, a prosperous importing merchant, and Ellenora Kingsley. Brooks attended public schools in Cleveland. He suffered from a congenital heart defect that limited his athletic activities and may have contributed to his early intellectual development. He was said to have inherited from his mother an artistic skill and a highly studious and idealistic set of values....

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Burnett, Waldo Irving (12 July 1828–01 July 1854), zoologist and physician, was born in Southborough, Massachusetts, the son of Joel Burnett, a physician, and Sarah (maiden name unknown). His early education, obtained at local schools, seems to have been eclectic, and he neither sought nor received a college degree. From his father, who was a skilled physician and a dedicated botanist and entomologist, he acquired an interest and received training in medicine and zoology. In his early boyhood, he embarked on the study of insects and other animals with an intensity that would characterize his life. He was precocious, something of a prodigy, and an autodidact. He developed such ability in mathematics that his teachers were no longer capable of giving him instruction. Almost without assistance he mastered French, Spanish, and German. By the age of sixteen he had dedicated himself to the study of medicine; his decision was stimulated by involvement in his father’s professional activities. Equally enthralled by entomology, he collected, studied, and classified insects, demonstrating critical powers of inquiry and observation. A change in the family’s finances following his father’s death during Burnett’s sixteenth year made it necessary for him to begin teaching school as he embarked on the study of medicine. He received his medical education under the direction of Dr. Joseph Sargent of Worcester, Massachusetts, at the Tremont Medical School in Boston and Massachusetts General Hospital and became a skilled microscopist and essayist. For two consecutive years (1847 and 1848) he was awarded the prize for the best essay offered by the Boylston Medical Society. In the first of his prize essays, titled “Cancer,” he addressed the subject in terms of microscopic tissue structure, a pioneering insight for the time. His second essay, “The Sexual System,” was one of the earliest American contributions to the fields of reproductive biology and embryology. Burnett was awarded the degree of doctor of medicine in 1849 at the age of twenty-one. Shortly thereafter, he embarked for Europe, where he spent four months, mostly in Paris, engaged in microscopic observations and the study of natural history. While in Paris, he discovered that he had tuberculosis, the disease that eventually killed him. Returning to the United States, he became a peripatetic scholar for reasons of health. Based in Boston, he passed the winters in South Carolina, Georgia, or Florida. In spite of his constant travels, he was incessantly occupied with microscopic observations and accomplished an almost incredible amount of intellectual labor....

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Calkins, Gary Nathan (18 January 1869–04 January 1943), zoologist, was born in Valparaiso, Indiana, the son of John Wesley Calkins, a retail merchant, and Emma Frisbie Smith. In 1886 he entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he became keenly interested in biology through ...

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Carr, Marjorie H. (26 Mar. 1915–10 Oct. 1997), environmental activist and zoologist, was born Marjorie Harris in Boston, Massachusetts, to Charles Ellsworth Harris, a teacher, and Clara Louise Haynes. The couple wintered in Florida, eventually relocating in 1918 to a ten-acre orange grove south of Bonita Springs. Marjorie reveled in the natural beauty of rural southwest Florida, enjoying the nearby rivers and beaches while riding her beloved pony. In ...

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John Cassin Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-101868).

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Cassin, John (06 September 1813–10 January 1869), ornithologist and printing company executive, was born near the present site of Media, Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas Cassin, a Quaker farmer, and Rachel Sharpless. Cassin attended a Quaker School in Westtown, Pennsylvania, and studied under private tutors. His interest in natural history developed as the result of the emphasis placed on the subject by Quaker schools at that time; this proved decisive in Cassin’s choice of avocation. He began observing and identifying birds on the family property in his mid-teens, and as an adult he regretted that he had not gotten out into the field more often to go birdwatching. At age twenty-one he went to Philadelphia, where he worked first in merchandising and then at the U.S. Customs House. When J. T. Bowen, an engraver and lithographer, died, Cassin assumed the management of Bowen’s firm and continued to supply illustrations for various scientific books and periodicals and for federal government publications....