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Robert Fulton. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102509).


Fulton, Robert (14 November 1765–23 February 1815), artist, engineer, and entrepreneur, was born on a farm in Little Britain (later Fulton) Township, south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the son of Robert Fulton, a Scotch-Irish tailor and tradesman, and Mary Smith. Fulton’s father had left the prosperous market town of Lancaster to establish his family on the land, but like so many others with the same goal, he failed. The farm and the dwelling were sold at sheriff’s sale in 1772, and he took his family back to Lancaster. He died two years later....


Lear, William Powell (26 June 1902–15 May 1978), electrical engineer and aeronautical entrepreneur, was born in Hannibal, Missouri, the son of Reuben Lear, a carpenter and teamster, and Gertrude Powell. His parents separated when Lear was six, and his mother married a plasterer in Chicago. The family’s meager income represented a lifelong goad to Lear to become financially secure. After finishing the eighth grade, he left school and found work as a mechanic. At age sixteen Lear decided to leave home and enter military service. Lying about his age, he signed up in 1918 with the navy and was posted to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station, where he was trained in radio technology. After the armistice, he found employment with a succession of electrical and radio businesses and developed several technical improvements while gaining valuable experience in a rapidly developing industry. During the early 1920s he built and patented the first practical radio for autos but lacked financial support to go into production and sold the design to Motorola in 1924....