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Blackner, John (1770?–1816), radical and county historian, was born in Ilkeston, Derbyshire. He served an apprenticeship to a stocking maker in his native town, and there married Sarah, née Brown, sister of a 'respectable' farmer in Kirk Hallam, Derbyshire, with whom he had four sons and three daughters. Illiterate at the time of his marriage, he taught himself to read and write soon after moving to ...

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Henry Thomas Buckle (1821–1862) by Mayall & Co., 1850s © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Buckle, Henry Thomas (1821–1862), historian, was born on 24 November 1821 at Lee in Kent, the son of Thomas Henry Buckle (1779–1840), partner in a London shipping firm, and his wife, Jane Middleton (d. 1859) of Yorkshire. He had two sisters. Originally from ...

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Detrosier, Rowland [formerly Rowley Barnes] (1800?–1834), freethinking radical and popular lecturer, was born in London, the son of a Manchester merchant, Robert Norris, and a Frenchwoman named Detrosier. His parents abandoned him soon after his birth and he was adopted by a Swedenborgian tailor from ...

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Martin Folkes (1690–1754) by William Hogarth, 1741 © Royal Society

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Folkes, Martin (1690–1754), antiquary and natural philosopher, was born on 29 October 1690 in Queen Street in the parish of St Giles-in-the-Fields, Westminster, the eldest of three sons and two daughters of Martin Folkes (1640–1705), one of the benchers of Gray's Inn, and his wife, ...

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Maker: James Northcote

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William Godwin (1756–1836) by James Northcote, 1802 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Johnson, Richard (1753–1807), East India Company servant and collector of oriental art and manuscripts, was born on 16 November 1753, the third son of Alexander Johnson MD (bap. 1716, d. 1799), lawyer, and of his wife, Mary Pellins (b. 1720, d. in or after 1800)...

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Maker: David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson

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Robert Knox (1791–1862) by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson Scottish National Portrait Gallery

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Knox, Robert (1791–1862), anatomist and ethnologist, descended from a family of Kirkcudbright tenant farmers who claimed kinship with the ancient family of Ranfurly in Renfrewshire, which included the reformer John Knox, was the eighth child and fifth son of Robert Knox (d...

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Minor, William Chester (1834–1920), military surgeon, asylum inmate, and contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary, was born on 21 June 1834 at Manepay, Ceylon, the elder child of Eastman Strong Minor (1809–1867), printer and Congregational missionary of Milford, Connecticut, and his first wife, ...

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(John) Ramsay Bryce Muir (1872–1941) by Elliott & Fry © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Muir, (John) Ramsay Bryce (1872–1941), historian and politician, was born on 30 September 1872 at Otterburn, Northumberland, the oldest of five children of the Revd Alexander Bryce Muir and his wife, Jane, daughter of Thomas Rowatt of Edinburgh. Muir's father, Reformed Presbyterian minister at ...

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Oxenford, John (1812–1877), playwright and translator, was born on 12 August 1812 at Camberwell, Surrey, the son of William Oxenford (1783–1867), merchant, and his wife, sister of Thomas Massa Alsager. Acquiring most of his compendious knowledge as an autodidact, he was also privately educated for some two years under the tutorship of ...