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William Edward Ayrton (1847–1908) by W. & D. Downey, pubd 1893 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Ayrton, William Edward (1847–1908), electrical engineer and physicist, was born in London on 14 September 1847 to the accomplished barrister and linguist Edward Nugent Ayrton (1815–1873), and his wife, thereby joining a family long connected with law and music, and traditionally supportive of women's rights. ...

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Bell, Ronald Percy (1907–1996), physical chemist, was born on 24 November 1907 at Willowfield, Court House Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire, the eldest child of Edwin Alfred Bell (d. 1954) and his wife, Beatrice Annie, née Ash (d. 1929), elementary school teachers. He had a younger brother and an adopted younger sister. He was educated at ...

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(John) Desmond Bernal (1901–1971) by Wolfgang Suschitzky, 1949 © Wolfgang Suschitzky / National Portrait Gallery, London

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Bernal, (John) Desmond (1901–1971), physicist, was born on 10 May 1901 at Brookswatson, Nenagh, co. Tipperary, eldest of the three sons and two daughters of Samuel George Bernal, a farmer of Limerick, and his wife, Elizabeth Miller, elder daughter of the Presbyterian minister in ...

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Patrick Maynard Stuart Blackett, Baron Blackett (1897–1974) by Lucia Moholy, 1936 © Lucia Moholy

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Blackett, Patrick Maynard Stuart, Baron Blackett (1897–1974), physicist and government and military adviser, was born on 18 November 1897 at Kensington, London, the only son and the second of three children of Arthur Stuart Blackett (1865–1922), stockbroker, and his wife, Caroline Frances (1868–1954)...

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Brearley, Harry (1871–1948), metallurgist, was born on 18 February 1871 at 23 Spital Street, Sheffield, the youngest of five sons and the eighth of nine children of John Brearley, steelworker, and his wife, Jane Senior. Brearley's father was 'an expert steel melter and also an expert ale-supper...

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Buckman, Sydney Savory (1860–1929), geologist and palaeontologist, was born on 3 April 1860 at Dollar Street, Cirencester, the eldest son of James Buckman (1814–1884), naturalist, and his wife, Julia, née Savory (1834–1865). After his father lost his job as professor of botany and geology at the ...

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Burch, Cecil Reginald [Bill] (1901–1983), physicist and engineer, was born at 2 Museum Road, Oxford, on 12 May 1901, the fifth child of George James Burch (1852–1914) and his wife, Constance Emily Jeffries, otherwise Baker. Soon after birth Burch was nicknamed Bill by his family and friends. His father was professor of physics at ...

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Church, Arthur Harry (1865–1937), botanist, was born on 28 March 1865 at 32 Oxford Place, Plymouth, the eldest son of Henry Church (b. 1830/31), a saddler, and his wife, Mary Head, née Brown (c.1824–1887). He was educated at Ashburton grammar school...

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Clapham, (Arthur) Roy (1904–1990), botanist, was born in Norwich on 24 May 1904, the eldest of three children and only son of George Clapham, schoolmaster, and his wife, Dora Margaret, née Harvey. His childhood was spent in Norwich, where he attended the City of Norwich School...

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Sir Arthur Charles Clarke (1917–2008) by unknown photographer, 1968 Everett Collection / Rex Features

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Clarke, Sir Arthur Charles (1917–2008), science and science fiction writer, was born on 16 December 1917 at 4 Blenheim Terrace, Minehead, Somerset, the eldest of the four children of Charles Wright Clarke (1888–1931) and his wife, (Mary) Nora Jessie, née Willis (1892–1980). His father was a ...

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Corner, (Edred) John Henry (1906–1996), botanist, was born on 12 January 1906 at 37 Harley Street, London, the son of Edred Moss Corner (d. 1950), surgeon, and his wife, Henrietta, née Henderson (d. 1966). He was educated at Arnold House, St John's Wood...

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Dalton, Sir Howard (1944–2008), microbiologist, was born at Woodside Nursing Home, Epsom Road, Sutton, Surrey, on 8 February 1944, the son of Leslie Alfred Dalton, lorry driver, and his wife, Florence Gertrude, née Evans. At the time of his birth registration his parents lived at ...

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Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac (1902–1984) by Ramsey & Muspratt, 1934 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Dirac, Paul Adrien Maurice (1902–1984), theoretical physicist, was born at 15 Monk Road, Bishopston, Bristol, on 8 August 1902, the son of Charles Adrien Ladislas Dirac (1866–1936), a native of Monthey in the canton of Valais, Switzerland, and a teacher of French in the ...

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Dover, Cedric Cyril (1904–1961), entomologist, anthropologist, and poet, was born on 11 April 1904 in Calcutta to Eurasian parents, Percy and Sophy Dover. He was a descendant of Colonel James Skinner, the founder of what became Skinner's Horse, himself born to a Scottish father and a ...

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Essen, Louis (1908–1997), physicist, was born on 6 September 1908 in Nottingham, the younger son and second of the three children of Fred Essen, bespoke bootmaker, and his wife, Ada, daughter of Fred Edson, builder and joiner. Both parents were Strict Baptists (his grandfather ...