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Glenn H. Curtiss. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-106325).

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Curtiss, Glenn Hammond (21 May 1878–23 July 1930), aeronautical inventor and manufacturer, was born in Hammondsport, New York, the son of Frank R. Curtiss, the owner of a harness shop, and Lua Andrews. After the death of his father in 1883, Curtiss was raised by his mother and his strong-willed grandmother Ruth Curtiss in the bucolic Finger Lake region of western New York. After graduating from the eighth grade in 1892, Curtiss secured a job stenciling numbers on the backing of photographic film for the Eastman Dry Plant and Film Company (later Eastman Kodak Company) of Rochester. The next year he purchased a bicycle and found employment as a messenger for Western Union....

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Gorrell, Edgar Staley (03 February 1891–05 March 1945), aviator and industrialist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Charles Edgar Gorrell, a carpenter, and Pamelia Smith. He entered the U.S. Military Academy in 1908, graduating in 1912 with a commission as a second lieutenant of infantry. In 1915 he attended the army’s Signal Corps Aviation School in Coronado, California, where he became a pilot. While serving with the First Aero Squadron during the Mexican Punitive Operation in 1916, he came to the attention of Brigadier General ...

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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....

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Ley, Willy (02 October 1906–24 June 1969), science journalist and spaceflight publicist, was born in Berlin, Germany, the son of Julius Otto Ley, a wine merchant, and Frida May. Educated in primary and secondary schools in Berlin, he studied paleontology, physics, and astronomy at the Universities of Berlin and Königsburg. While he did not obtain a degree, Ley developed a broad command of the sciences and became fluent in a variety of languages....

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Link, Edwin Albert, Jr. (26 July 1904–07 September 1981), inventor and businessman, was born in Huntington, Indiana, the youngest son of Edwin Albert Link, Sr., and Katherine Martin. In 1910 the family moved to Binghamton, New York, when Link’s father purchased the bankrupt Binghamton Automatic Music Corporation. Renamed the Link Piano and Organ Company, the firm established a reputation for manufacturing theater organs, player pianos, and nickelodeons. Because he was less interested in academics than in tinkering with mechanical devices, Link’s educational record was erratic. He spent a brief time at the Rockford Training High School (Ill.), Los Angeles Polytechnic High School, Bellefonte Academy (Pa.), and Lindsley Institute (W.Va.). In 1922 he returned to Binghamton and entered Central High School. He also worked for his father’s company, where he rebuilt and repaired organs....

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Schroeder, Rudolph William (14 August 1886–29 December 1952), aviation and flight safety pioneer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of John August Schroeder and Nora Ann Reidy. Little is known of his early life beyond the facts that he attended Crane Technical High School in Chicago and that his father died before Schroeder completed school. He then went to work in a garage as an automobile mechanic. One of the other mechanics, Otto Brodie, learned to fly an airplane, and Schroeder became his mechanic about 1910. For several years, Schroeder toured the country, working with a number of early aviators....