Eakins, Thomas (1844–1916) This Philadelphia-based painter produced portraits with psychological penetration worthy of a great novelist. In these works, and in depictions of such outdoor sports as swimming and boating, he brought the realist style to its greatest height of expression.
Earhart, Amelia (1897–1937) Earhart served as a military nurse during World War I and as a social worker after the war. In 1920–1921, she defied her family by learning to fly and in 1928—as a passenger—was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. She piloted a plane solo across that ocean on May 20–21, 1932, setting a record time of 14 hours 56 minutes. Celebrated worldwide, she flew solo from Hawaii to California in 1935, the first aviator to complete that route successfully. In 1937, with navigator Fred Noonan, she set out on a round-the-world flight, only to vanish in the central Pacific. No trace of her, Noonan, or their Lockheed Electra has ever been found.
Eastman, George (1854–1932) In 1880 Eastman founded the Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company to manufacture dry photographic plates of his own invention. This improvement over the clumsy wet plate system was followed in 1888 by the introduction of what he called the Kodak—two nonsense syllables Eastman thought mimicked the sound of the camera’s shutter—which was a simple box camera anyone could use. Eastman’s advertising slogan said it all—“You press the button, we do the rest”—and photography for the masses was born.
Eastman, Max (1883–1969) A philosophy professor at Columbia University, Eastman edited The Masses, a radical political and literary journal whose editors were tried twice in 1918 for opposing America’s entry into World War I. After the war, Eastman edited The Liberator, another popular radical magazine, then traveled to the Soviet Union in 1922 to see firsthand the effects of the Bolshevik Revolution. Appalled by what he believed was a betrayal of the Communist ideal, he wrote a series of anti-Soviet books, and in 1941 became a roving editor for The Reader’s Digest, the only mainstream periodical he ever worked for.
Ebbers, Bernard (1941– ) Bernard “Bernie” Ebbers was born in Canada to the family of a traveling salesman. He started in business as the operator of motels in Mississippi and in 1983 invested with others in the newly formed Long Distance Discount Services, Inc (LDDS). Named CEO in 1985, he presided over the acquisition of more than 60 other independent telecommunications firms to create WorldCom in 1995. The explosive expansion of WorldCom attracted many investors, but in 2005 Ebbers was convicted of fraud and conspiracy for spectacularly overstating the financially strapped company’s earnings—at a cost to investors of $180 billion. Ebbers was sentenced to 25 years.
Eckert, J. Presper (1919–1995) With his University of Pennsylvania professor, John W. Mauchly, Eckert created, in 1946, ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), the first all-electronic (not electromechanical) digital computer. Commissioned by the U.S. government, it was used primarily for military applications and contained, in rudimentary form, all of the circuitry employed in modern computers.
Eddy, Mary Baker (1821–1910) Raised in the Congregational church, Eddy suffered from chronic, debilitating disease until 1866, when she claimed to have been suddenly healed as a result of reading the New Testament. This inspired her to create a new religion, Christian Science, in which spiritual faith is linked to physical healing. The religion grew rapidly and now has about 2,500 congregations in 70 countries.
Edison, Thomas Alva (1847–1931) Almost certainly the most famous inventor in the world, Edison held 1,093 patents, an international record that remains unbroken to this day. His inventions include the phonograph, the incandescent electric light, the elements of the electric power industry, and the basic constituents of motion picture technology, among much else.
Edwards, Jonathan (1703–1758) A Connecticut clergyman and religious philosopher, Edwards was an orator of electrifying spiritual eloquence, whose most celebrated sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (1741), had his congregation writhing with a sense of hellfire. His preaching stimulated the “Great Awakening,” a mass religious revival that swept America during the mid 18th century. Edwards was the forerunner of the modern American evangelist preachers.
Ehrlich, Paul R. (1932– ) A Philadelphia-born zoologist who served as Bing Professor of Population Studies at Stanford University, Ehrlich writes about the dangerous impact of runaway population growth on the United States and the world and is the author of the best-selling The Population Bomb, published in 1968, which warned of the collapse of civilization unless world governments institute policies to control population growth.
Ehrlichman, John (1925–1999) Ehrlichman was officially assistant for domestic affairs in the administration of President Richard M. Nixon, but his mission was, in effect, to selectively insulate the president from the public and from other members of the government. Early in the administration, Ehrlichman created a covert and illegal team of operatives he called the Plumbers, because their role was to stop information leaks. They also illegally acquired political intelligence. Ehrilchman resigned in April 1973, during the Watergate scandal, and was subsequently convicted of conspiracy, perjury, and obstruction of justice, for which he served 18 months in prison.
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (1890–1969) Born in Texas and raised in Kansas, “Ike” Eisenhower graduated from West Point in 1915 and rose through the U.S. Army to become Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, during World War II. From this position, he coordinated the Allied victory over fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. After the war, he served briefly as president of Columbia University, returned to active duty as supreme commander of the newly formed NATO forces, then ran for president on the Republican ticket in 1952. Elected by a landslide over Democrat Adlai E. Stevenson, he served two terms, during which the United States experienced a decade of business and economic expansion as well as a certain postwar complacency, despite the early ferment of the civil rights movement at home and the ongoing Cold War.
Eliot, T. S. (1888–1965) A native of St. Louis, Eliot was educated at Harvard but lived his literary life in England, where, during the 1920s, he became a leading light of the “modernist” movement in poetry. His lyrical yet challenging works explore the alienation of 20th-century humanity and search for answers in a spiritual wasteland. His masterpieces include the long poems The Waste Land (1922) and The Four
Quartets (1943)—the latter earning him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948. Ellington, Edward Kennedy “Duke” (1899–1974) Washington-born Duke Ellington was the elegant embodiment of big band jazz, a great pianist, and perhaps the most prolific jazz composer in history. The ensemble sound he created has never been duplicated, and his compositions combined classical tone poem traditions with swing-era jazz. While Ellington was a great jazz symphonist, he also wrote some of the most memorable songs in the pop repertoire, including “Sophisticated Lady,” “Satin Doll,” “Don’t Get Around Much Any More,” and “Prelude to a Kiss.”
Ellison, Ralph (1914–1994) Educated at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute, Ellison began writing for publication in the late 1930s, publishing his only finished novel, Invisible Man, in 1953. The semi-realistic, semi-surrealistic novel tells the story of an idealistic Southern black youth who seeks opportunity in Harlem and joins the struggle against white oppression, only to find that he is “invisible,” ignored by blacks and whites alike. The book won the National Book Award. Ellison produced little else during the rest of his literary career, but Invisible Man secured his legacy as an acutely poetic analyst of what it means to be black in America.
Ellsberg, Daniel (1931– ) Employed by the RAND Corporation “think tank” as a military analyst during the Vietnam era, Ellsberg was one of the authors of a top secret study commissioned by President Lyndon Johnson’s secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, analyzing the process and circumstances by which the United States became involved in the Vietnam War. Ellsberg turned against the war and in 1971 leaked the top-secret study to the New York Times. The so-called “Pentagon Papers” revealed the Vietnam War to have been the product of official deceit and deception, combined with tragic miscalculation and misjudgment, during the administrations of four American presidents. The document galvanized the antiwar movement and caused many Americans to lose their trust in the integrity of government.
Ellsworth, Oliver (1745–1807) A Hartford, Connecticut, lawyer during the American Revolution, Ellsworth resolved a major obstacle to approval of the new U.S. Constitution by coauthoring with Roger Sherman the Connecticut Compromise—or Great Compromise—of 1787, which synthesized the Virginia Plan (favoring representation in Congress based on population) and the New Jersey Plan (favoring equal representation for every state). Ellsworth and Sherman proposed a bicameral Congress, in which representation in the House of Representatives would be based on population and representation in the Senate apportioned equally among all states. Ellsworth went on to write the Judiciary Act of 1789, which established the federal court system, and he served as the nation’s third chief justice of the Supreme Court (1796–1800).
Emerson, Ralph Waldo (1803–1882) Trained as a Unitarian minister, Emerson pursued instead a life as a man of letters and a philosopher, the leading exponent of Transcendentalism, which posited the unity in nature of all creation, the innate goodness of man, the primacy of intuitive insight over received wisdom and logic, and the belief that a close experience of the natural world would reveal the deepest spiritual truths. Inspired by these beliefs, Emerson wrote excellent poetry and some of the most beloved essays in American literature. As a philosopher, he earned an international reputation. As a man of letters, he encouraged other American writers to create a genuinely original American literature, free from the bonds of tradition and imitation.
Equiano, Olaudah (Gustavus Vassa) (c. 1745–c. 1797) Kidnapped in Benin, Africa, at age 11 or 12, Equiano was enslaved and sent to America. Eventually freed by his master, he went to England, where he became an abolitionist, lecturing on the cruelty of the British slave owners of Jamaica. British abolitionists funded publication of his 1789 autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, a dramatic account of his abduction and his first voyage via the “Middle Passage” to the West Indies and America. His book was the most widely read work by an African American prior to the Civil War and did much to awaken the world to the suffering of slaves.
Eriksson, Leif (circa A.D. 960) The Norse explorer Leif Eriksson—Leif the Lucky—is generally believed to have been the first European to land in North America, when, about A.D. 1000, he spent a winter in Newfoundland at a place he called Vinland (from the abundance of grapes there), establishing the first North American European settlement at present-day L’Anse aux Meadows.
Ervin, Sam (1896–1985) Ervin was a Democratic senator from North Carolina from 1954 until 1974. At the beginning of his Senate career, he served on the Senate committee that censured the anti-Communist “witch hunter” Senator Joseph McCarthy, but it was for his work at the culmination of his career, as chairman of the Senate Select Committee to Investigate Campaign Practices, known as the “Ervin Committee,” that he is best known. It was this committee that publicly investigated the Watergate scandal and brought down the presidency of Richard M. Nixon in 1974.
Evans, Walker (1903–1975) On assignment for the Resettlement Administration (later renamed the Farm Security Administration [FSA]) beginning in 1935, Walker recorded in breathtaking detail the lives of people hit by the Great Depression. He produced intensely moving documents of pride and poverty, which convey as much about the human spirit as they do about the hardships of an era in America.
Evers, Medgar (1925–1963) Evers was an African-American businessman who became an NAACP leader in Mississippi, organizing voter-registration drives and other civil rights initiatives. On June 12, 1963, just hours after President John F. Kennedy delivered a broadcast on civil rights, Evers was gunned down in front of his Mississippi home. The murder made him a national figure, underscored Kennedy’s pronouncements, and focused national attention on civil rights and social justice. White segregationist Byron de La Beckwith was arrested and charged with the murder, but was freed in 1964 after two hung-jury trials. He was finally convicted in a third trial in 1994.
Exner, Judith Campbell (1934–1999) Born Judith Inmoor in New York and raised in Los Angeles, she married an actor (William Campbell), divorcing him in 1958 after she became romantically involved with Frank Sinatra, who introduced her to presidential candidate John F. Kennedy in 1960. She was having an affair with JFK when Sinatra next introduced her to Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana, with whom she also had an affair. Reputedly, Exner served as a liaison between Kennedy and Giancana, who is believed to have delivered critical votes in the 1960 presidential election. (Campbell’s name changed again when she married golfer Dan Exner in 1975.)