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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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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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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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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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Child, Charles Manning (02 February 1869–19 December 1954), experimental zoologist, was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan, the son of Charles Chauncey Child and Mary Elizabeth Manning, farmers. He was delivered by his maternal grandfather, who practiced medicine in Ypsilanti. When Child was three weeks old, his mother took him home to the family farm in Higganum, Connecticut. Child was educated at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, and received a Ph.B. in 1890 and an M.S. in biology in 1892. After dabbling in experimental psychology at the University of Leipzig in Germany, he switched to zoology and earned a Ph.D. from that institution in 1894....

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Clapp, Cornelia Maria (17 March 1849–31 December 1934), zoologist, educator, and biologist, was born in Montague, Massachusetts, the daughter of Richard C. Clapp, a teacher and farmer, and Eunice Amelia Slate. Her parents ensured that she had an excellent education in the public and private schools of her home town, which had been home to several generations of her ancestors. A lifelong learner, Clapp summarized her eclectic academic career: “I was all bent on one thing, then another … first an entomologist, then a conchologist and then a fish woman.”...

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Clark, Henry James (22 June 1826–01 July 1873), zoologist and microscopist, was born in Easton, Massachusetts, the son of Henry Porter Clark, a Swedenborgian clergyman, and Abigail Jackson Orton. During his youth, the family moved to Brooklyn, New York, where Clark was educated. After receiving an A.B. in 1848 from New York University, he taught for two years in White Plains, New York. Attracted first to the study of botany, in 1850 he went to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to study with the renowned Harvard botanist ...

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James Dwight Dana. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103928).

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Dana, James Dwight (12 February 1813–14 April 1895), geologist, zoologist, and teacher, was born in Utica, New York, the son of James Dana, a businessman, and Harriet Dwight. His father was a descendant of Richard Dana who settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1640. Dana, a studious scholar, was educated in the Utica High School, where his interest in science appeared early and developed through hard work, talent, and intelligence, despite his father’s disparagement of science as a career. Attracted to Yale College by ...

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Darlington, Philip Jackson, Jr. (14 November 1904–16 December 1983), zoologist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Philip Jackson Darlington, an engineer. His mother, whose name is unknown, was a schoolteacher. His family moved when Darlington was young to Hartford, Connecticut, where he spent much of his childhood bird watching and collecting beetles. He entered Harvard College in 1922 to study botany and zoology and graduated with a B.A. in 1926. He received his M.S., also from Harvard, in 1927....

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De Kay, James Ellsworth (12 October 1792–21 November 1851), zoologist, was born in Lisbon, Portugal, the son of George De Kay, an American sea-captain, and Catherine Colman, a young woman of Irish descent. His father returned to New York when his son was two and died when James was ten years of age; his mother died four years later. De Kay received his secondary education in Connecticut. He developed an early interest in natural history and in 1807, when not quite fifteen years of age, entered Yale College, from which he graduated in 1812....

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Dean, Bashford (28 October 1867–06 December 1928), zoologist and expert on ancient armor, was born in New York City, the son of William Dean, a lawyer, and Emma Frances Bashford. At the age of six Dean was fascinated by a helmet and other pieces of medieval armor at the house of a friend of his father. His interest in fishes began in childhood as well, during fishing trips with his father and then with an introduction to zoologist ...

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Fernald, Charles Henry (16 March 1838–22 February 1921), zoologist, was born in Mt. Desert, Maine, the son of Eben Fernald, a farmer and shipowner, and Sophronia Wasgatt. He spent his summers at sea, and his parents hoped he would become a ship’s captain. But Fernald had intellectual interests and chose to attend the Maine Wesleyan Seminary, at that time the largest college preparatory school in Maine. In August 1862 he married Maria Elizabeth Smith, who had been a teacher at the seminary. They had one son. During the Civil War he served as an acting ensign in the U.S. Navy. He received an honorary M.A. from Bowdoin College in 1871, and a Ph.D. from Maine State College (now the University of Maine) in 1886. Upon returning from military service, Fernald served for one year as the principal of the Litchfield Academy in Litchfield Corners, Maine; in 1866 he became the principal of the Houlton Academy in Houlton, Maine, where he remained until 1871. While there he indulged his lifelong interest in natural history by studying the local rock formations....

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Fossey, Dian (16 January 1932– December 1985), naturalist and zoologist, was born in San Francisco, California, the daughter of George Fossey, an insurance agent, and Kitty Kidd, a fashion model. Her alcoholic father left the family when Fossey was three years old, and her stepfather, Richard Price, was unloving and discouraging. Her uncle Albert Chapin helped take care of Fossey and financed her schooling....