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Allen, Ethan (1738–1789), revolutionary army officer and politician in America, was born on 10 January 1738 in Litchfield, Connecticut, the eldest of the seven children of Joseph Allen (1708–1755) and Mary Baker (1708–1774), farmers. The Allen family lived in what was then a frontier region of ...

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Annet, Peter (1693–1769), religious controversialist, was born in Liverpool but nothing further is known about his background and early life. He worked for a time as a schoolmaster and developed a widely used system of shorthand that received some recognition. Joseph Priestley learned it at school and corresponded with ...

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Joseph Barker (1806–1875) by John Cochran, pubd 1880 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Barker, Joseph (1806–1875), Methodist minister and politico-religious controversialist, was born on 11 May 1806 at Bramley, near Leeds. His ancestors, originally of Keighley, had been settled in this area for several generations as farmers and manufacturers. The identity of his parents has not been discovered, though it is known that his father was employed in woollen manufacture and served for some time in the militia, and that ...

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Barlow, Joel (1754–1812), poet and diplomatist, was born on 24 March 1754 at Redding, Connecticut, the fourth child of Samuel Barlow, farmer, and his second wife, Esther Hull. For several generations the Barlow family maintained a reputation as respectable farmers in America, and ...

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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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Brocklesby, Richard (1722–1797), physician, was the only son of Richard Brocklesby (d. c.1763), of Cork, and his wife, Mary Alloway, of Minehead, Somerset, in which town Brocklesby was born on 11 August 1722. He received his early education in his father's house and, as both parents were Quakers, he was sent at the age of twelve to a Quaker school at ...

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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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[Anon.]

revised by Alexander Du Toit

Burnett, John (1729–1784), philanthropist, was born in Aberdeen, the son of a city merchant; after education in Aberdeen, Burnett himself began a career in trade in 1750, shortly after the failure of his father's business due to a fall in prices—a result of ...

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Cleland, John (bap. 1710, d. 1789), novelist, was baptized on 24 September 1710 in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, the first of the three children of William Cleland (1673/4–1741) and his wife, Lucy (d. 1763), daughter of Samuel DuPass, a wealthy Anglicized Dutch Jewish merchant, and his wife, ...

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Cline, Henry (1750–1827), surgeon, born in London, was educated at Merchant Taylors' School, London. His sister, Frances, was the mother of the surgeon Joseph Henry Green (1791–1863). At the age of seventeen Cline was apprenticed to Thomas Smith, one of the surgeons to ...

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Frances Power Cobbe (1822–1904) by Florence Graham, 1897 © reserved; Cobbe Collection Trust

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Cobbe, Frances Power (1822–1904), writer and campaigner for women's rights, was born in Dublin on 4 December 1822. She was the fifth child and only daughter of Charles Cobbe (1781–1857), a landowner, of Newbridge House, co. Dublin, and his wife, Frances Conway (1777–1847)...

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Collet Dobson Collet (1812–1898) by unknown photographer © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Collet, Collet Dobson (1812–1898), radical and tax reformer, was born on 31 December 1812 in London. He was the eldest son of John Dobson (1778–1827), a London merchant, and his wife (and first cousin), Elizabeth Barker (1787–1875). Collet assumed the name of his maternal grandparents, as did his sister, ...

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Maker: David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson

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George Combe (1788–1858) by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, 1843 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Combe [Comb], George (1788–1858), phrenologist, was born in Livingstone Yards, Edinburgh, on 21 October 1788, one of the seventeen children of George Comb (d. 1815), a brewer, and Marion Newton (d. 1819), who came from a family of tenant farmers. Combe...

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Corbet, Denys (1826–1909), Guernsey patois poet, was born on 22 May 1826 in the Vale parish, Guernsey, the first of the two children of Peter Corbet, a seafarer, and his wife, Susan, née de Beaucamp. According to a family tradition Peter Corbet drowned while ...

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David, Sir (Tannatt William) Edgeworth (1858–1934), geologist, was born at the rectory at St Fagans, Glamorgan, on 28 January 1858, the eldest child of William David (c.1823–1897), rector of St Fagans, and his wife, Margaret Harriette, née Thomson (c.1834–1903)...