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Thomas Edison (1847-1931) was a legendary figure in his lifetime, and even decades after his death he is considered one of history's most significant inventors. Edison's enduring achievement in this realm was tied to the incandescent light bulb, but he also came up with a safe, efficient way to deliver the power that lit those bulbs. It ushered in a new era, changing the way the modern world lived, worked, and played. He also made improvements to the telephone invented by Alexander Graham Bell (1847–1922), devised the first working phonograph, and made important scientific contributions to the early motionpicture industry. His accomplishments in the final two decades of the 19th century were so valuable that the period was once commonly called the "Age of Edison" in school history books for many years.
Source: "Edison, Thomas." Development of the Industrial U.S. Reference Library, edited by Sonia G. Benson, et al., vol. 2: Biographies, UXL, 2006, pp. 60-70.
Edison, Thos. A. "On the Phenomena of Heating Metals in Vacuo by Means of an Electric Current. By Thos. A. Edison, of Menlo Park, N. J." Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1880
Edison, Thomas A. "On a Magnetic Bridge or Balance for Measuring Magnetic Conductivity. By Dr. Thomas A. Edison, Orange, New Jersey." Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Mar. 1888
Parton, Sara Payson Willis (1811-1872), author, known to the reading public as Fanny Fern, was born in Portland. After her husband’s death, she was obliged to earn a living for herself and two children. The editor of a Boston home magazine paid her fifty cents for a paragraph called “The Model Minister,” signed “Fanny Fern.” The paragraph was copied in several Boston papers and thereafter she found a ready market for her life essays. For the New York Ledger she wrote a weekly article, and this, together with her contributions to other papers, made her work amount to a story or sketch a day. She thought out her articles while engaged in other occupations and then wrote them rapidly; they show neither deep reflection nor intellectual quality. She wrote spontaneously, from experience and observation, on every-day subjects of human appeal, and was popular because her combination of common sense, sentiment, and occasional religious teaching met the demands of her age. (Adapted from: “Sara Payson Willis Parton.” Dictionary of American Biography, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1936).
American philosopher and statesman Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was the third president of the United States. A man of broad interests and activity, he exerted an immense influence on the political and intellectual life of the new nation. Jefferson rose to fame in the councils of the American Revolution. Insofar as the Revolution was a philosophical event, he was its most articulate spokesman, having absorbed the thought of the 18th century Enlightenment. Jefferson's political thought would become the quintessence of Enlightenment liberalism, though it had roots in English law and government. The tradition of the English constitution gave concreteness to American patriot claims, even a color of legality to revolution itself, that no other modern revolutionaries have possessed. (Source: "Thomas Jefferson." Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed., vol. 8, Gale, 2004).
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) is widely viewed as the greatest president in American history. He presided over the nation during one of its most difficult trials—the Civil War. Lincoln rose from humble beginnings in Kentucky to become a successful lawyer and state legislator in Illinois. In 1858, his growing concern over the expansion of slavery convinced him to join the antislavery Republican political party and oppose Democrat Stephen A. Douglas (1813–1861) for the U.S. Senate. Lincoln lost the election, but the spirited debates between the two candidates propelled him to national attention. In 1860, he became the 16th president of the United States. But Lincoln's election convinced the slaveholding states of the Southern United States to secede (withdraw) from the Union and form a new country that allowed slavery, called the Confederate States of America. Lincoln considered this act an illegal rebellion against the national government, and the two sides soon went to war. (Source: Hillstrom, Kevin, and Laurie Collier Hillstrom. "Abraham Lincoln." American Civil War Reference Library, edited by Lawrence W. Baker, UXL, 2000).
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) is recognized as one of the foremost progenitors of modern literature, both in its popular forms, such as horror and detective fiction, and in its more complex and self-conscious forms, which represent the essential artistic manner of the 20th century. Poe's stature as a major figure in literature is primarily based on his ingenious and profound short stories, poems, and critical theories, which established a highly influential rationale for the short form in both poetry and fiction. In his use of the demonic and the grotesque, Poe evidenced the impact of the stories of E.T.A. Hoffmann (1776-1822) and the Gothic novels of Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823), while the despair and melancholy in much of his writing reflects an affinity with the Romantic movement of the early 19th century. His early verse reflects the influence of English romantics, while also foreshadowing his later poetry, which demonstrates a subjective outlook and surreal, mystic vision. (Adapted from: "Poe, Edgar Allan." Gale Contextual Encyclopedia of American Literature, vol. 3, Gale, 2009).
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) was the founder of modern secular nursing, a social activist, and a pioneer in the use of social statistics. After the start of the Crimean War (1854–1856), the public reacted with outrage to newspaper reports of the horrid conditions endured by British soldiers wounded in battle, and Nightingale was appointed to bring nursing care to the military. Nightingale took firm administrative measures, set up sanitary kitchen and laundry facilities, and procured supplies with private funds. The death rate fell from 42.7% to 2.2% in six months. Nightingale used her Crimean experience to lobby for the reform of medical care in the army, and a Royal Commission for the Health of the Army was set up in 1857, and a similar commission was established for the army in India in 1859. Nurse training programs based on her system were established during her lifetime in twenty countries, including a thousand in the United States alone. (Adapted from: Miké, Valerie. "Nightingale, Florence." Ethics, Science, Technology, and Engineering: A Global Resource, edited by J. Britt Holbrook, 2nd ed., vol. 3, Macmillan Reference USA, 2015).
George Augustus Henry Sala (1828-1895) was a journalist, widely regarded as the first ‘celebrity’ journalist in Britain. He is best known as a foreign correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, which he joined in 1857. He reported from around the globe, and his writing was a fundamental element in establishing the reputation of the paper, and his own as one of the most popular voices in the British press. From 1860 he contributed ‘Echoes of the Week’ in the Illustrated London News, which ran until 1886 before moving to other newspapers.
Author of the best-selling novel of the 19th century, and among the best-paid writers of her day, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) is best known for her antislavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life among the Lowly (1852), a novel that, it is sometimes suggested, pushed the nation over the brink of the Civil War. Her work is often classified as regionalism, or literature that emphasizes the landscape, dialect, customs, and folklore of a particular geographic region. She is considered a primary architect of the “New England myth” and is sometimes referred to as a sentimentalist—a pejorative term describing writers who tend to idealize characters and events instead of creating a more complete, realistic picture. Her major antislavery works, however, transcend both regionalism and sentimentalism and are sometimes placed alongside other major abolitionist works of the mid 19th century. (Adapted from: "Stowe, Harriet Beecher." Gale Contextual Encyclopedia of American Literature, vol. 4, Gale, 2009).
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