Biographical Directory of Notable Immigrants Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

An annotated list of notable U.S. immigrants.

Agassiz, Louis

Agassiz, Louis(1807-1873). Scientists;Louis Agassiz[Agassiz]Scientist and academic. Born in Motier, Switzerland, Agassiz already had a distinguished academic career–which included a doctorate from the University of Erlangen and a professorship at Neuchatel University–before going to Massachusetts’s Harvard University in 1848 to chair the department of natural history. Opposed to Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, Agassiz pioneered the study of the ice age and glaciology in such works as Natural History of the United States (1847-1862) and Geological Sketches (1866, 1876).

Albright, Madeleine

* (1937-    ). Czechoslovakian-born scholar of international relations who became the first female U.S. secretary of state.

Alexanderson, Ernst Frederick Werner

Alexanderson, Ernst Frederick Werner(1878-1975). Inventors;Ernst Frederick Werner[Werner]Inventor and longtime electrical engineer for General Electric. Born in Uppsala, Sweden, Alexanderson became a graduate of the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology. Strongly influenced by the writings of Steinmetz, Charles ProteusCharles Proteus Steinmetz, he journeyed to the United States in 1901 to work under Steinmetz at General Electric. He remained with that company and with the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) through most of the rest of his life. His most notable invention was the Alexanderson (high-frequency) alternator, which enabled the transmission of global radio broadcasts. Alexanderson held patents and made groundbreaking discoveries in the areas of facsimile (FAX) transmission, radio, television, and transportation electronics.

Allende, Isabel

Allende, Isabel(1942-    ). Journalist and novelist born in Lima, Peru. Allende’s father, a Chilean diplomat, vanished–probably murdered–when Allende was two. After her cousin, Chilean president Salvador Allende, was overthrown and perished during a military coup, she was threatened and fled into exile, first to Venezuela, then to the United States. She transitioned from a journalistic to a literary career in 1982, with the publication of The House of the Spirits, followed by works such as Eva Luna (1987), Paula (1995), and The Sum of Our Days (2008).

Antin, Mary

* (1881-1949). Russian-born author and political activist.

Arnaz, Desi

Arnaz, Desi (1917-1986). Musician and film and television personality. Arnaz was born in Santiago, Cuba, to a wealthy family that lost almost everything when Batista, FulgencioFulgencio Batista took over as dictator in 1933. The family went into exile in Florida, where they had to subsist on whatever employment was at hand. Arnaz learned English from scratch and eventually formed his own Cuban musical band. Fellow immigrant and bandleader Cugat, XavierXavier Cugat helped him to get his first break, a role in a Broadway musical. Afterward, Arnaz began appearing in Hollywood films. From 1951 to 1960, he and his first wife, Ball, LucilleLucille Ball, starred in the popular television situation comedy I Love Lucy. He and Ball also founded Desilu Studios in 1950 and produced many other television shows through the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Astor, John Jacob

* (1763-1848). German-born American businessman.

Atlas, Charles

* (1892-1972). Italian American physical fitness expert.

Audubon, John James

Audubon, John James(1785-1851). Painter and naturalist born in Les Cayes, Haiti. After being sent to France, Audubon immigrated to the United States in 1803 to avoid being drafted for service in the Napoleonic Wars. He was self-taught in ornithology and painted birds as a hobby while running a dry-goods business. After going bankrupt in 1819, he undertook wilderness treks while his wife tutored. From 1827 to 1838, he illustrated and published The Birds of America and other works on natural history.

Baekeland, Leo Hendrik

Belgian immigrants;Leo Hendrik Baekeland[Baekeland]Inventors;Leo Hendrik Baekeland[Baekeland]Baekeland, Leo Hendrik(1863-1944). Chemist and inventor born in Ghent, Belgium. Baekeland earned his doctoral degree in 1884, at the age of twenty-one. While he was in New York on a graduate fellowship in 1889, he accepted a chemist’s position with Anthony Photographic Company and remained in the United States. While struggling through the economic depression of 1893 and bouts of ill health, he suddenly became wealthy in 1898 by selling his patented Velox photographic paper to Eastman Kodak Company. He later invented a plastic that was named Bakelite for him.

Balanchine, George

Russian immigrants;George Balanchine[Balanchine]Balanchine, George(1904-1983). Ballet master, choreographer, and composer born in St. Petersburg, Russia. After graduating from the Petrograd Conservatory, Balanchine was so harassed by the new Soviet’s regime’s censorship and manipulated that he left the country in 1924. After a brilliant, though erratic, career in Europe, Balanchine was recruited to come to the United States in 1933. After forming several ballet companies, he established the New York City Ballet. Balanchine worked closely with a fellow Russian immigrant, composer Stravinsky, IgorIgor Stravinsky, many of whose works he choreographed. He also produced retrospectives in Stravinsky’s honor.

Bannister, Edward Mitchell

Canadian immigrants;Edward Mitchell Bannister[Bannister]Bannister, Edward Mitchell(c. 1828-1901). Landscape painter born in St. Andrew’s, New Brunswick, Canada, of African and European parentage. Bannister was orphaned at the age of sixteen, and he immigrated to Boston around 1848. There he established himself within the African American community, joined the Crispus Attucks Choir and Histrionics Club, and married the wealthy Christina Carteaux. He became a noteworthy Victorian-era painter who specialized in dreamlike landscapes. After relocating to Providence, Rhode Island, he cofounded the Rhode Island School of Design.

Bell, Alexander Graham

* (1847-1922). Scottish inventor of the telephone and educator.

Berlin, Irving

* (1888-1989). Russian-born songwriter.

Blackwell, Elizabeth

Blackwell, Elizabeth(1821-1910). Physician, abolitionist, and suffragette born in Bristol, England. When Blackwell’s father got in deep financial trouble, he took his wife and daughters to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1832, only to die shortly afterward, leaving his family destitute. Elizabeth Blackwell became a teacher and helped her mother manage a school. She then studied medicine at Geneva Medical College in Geneva, New York, and became the first woman in the United States to earn a medical degree, in 1849. While enduring prejudice and ridicule, she opened a New York City dispensary that in 1857 became the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. While not practicing medicine, she plunged herself into the abolition and suffrage movements, and she founded other medical facilities in both the United States and Britain.

Boas, Franz

German immigrants;Franz Boas[Boas]Boas, Franz(1858-1942). Trailblazing anthropologist born in Minden, Germany. After earning a doctorate in physics from Kiel University in 1881, Boas undertook a scientific voyage to study the Inuit peoples. Drawing on this experience, he published The Central Eskimo (1888). Meanwhile, in 1887, he was offered the assistant editorship of the journal Science, which was published in New York, so he took up residence in the United States. From 1896 to 1937, he held a faculty position at Columbia University, where he established an anthropology program. Combative by nature, he resigned in disgust from an assistant curatorship at the American Museum of Natural History in 1905, and he was an ardent crusader against racism and anti-Semitism.

Boiardi, Ettore “Hector”

Italian immigrants;Ettore Boiardi[Boiardi]Boiardi, Ettore(1897-1985). Chef, caterer, and entrepreneur born in Piacenza, Italy. After immigrating to the United States through Ellis Island in 1914, Boiardi eventually acquired such a reputation as a chef in New York hotel restaurants that he was offered the position of head chef at Cleveland’s Hotel Winton in 1917. Four years later, he opened his own Italian restaurant in Cleveland. Soon, his sauces were in such demand that he established a factory for bottling and distributing them that grew into a nationwide million-dollar company that took the homonymic name "Chef Boyardee"“Chef Boy-Ar-Dee” (later Boyardee). In 1946, Boiardi sold the company to American Home Foods, but the Boyardee brand name and Boiardi’s image have remained on the products into the twenty-first century.

Brin, Sergey

* (1973-    ). Russian-born cofounder of Google.

Cabrini, Frances Xavier, Mother

Cabrini, Frances Xavier (Mother)(1850-1917).Missionaries;Mother Cabrini[Cabrini]Roman Catholic missionary born in Sant’Angelo Lodigiano, Italy. In 1880, Cabrini founded and became the mother superior-general of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Dispatched by Pope Leo XIII to the United States in 1889, she overcame her frail health to minister to Italian immigrant communities and found schools, hospitals, and Orphans;Roman Catholic orphanagesorphanages. While working in Seattle, Washington, in 1909, she became an American citizen. In 1946, the Roman Catholic Church made her the first American citizen to be canonized as a saint.

Chandrasekhar, Subrahmanyan

Asian Indian immigrants;Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar[Chandrasekhar]Chandrasekhar, Subrahmanyan(1910-1995). Academic and physicist born in Lahore, in what was then British India. The son of a civil servant, Chandrasekhar earned a doctorate at England’s Cambridge University in 1933. Academic disputes over his astrophysical theories led to his leaving England to accept a faculty post at the University of Chicago in 1937. Noted for his work on stellar phenomena, he won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983. His publications include An Introduction to the Study of Stellar Structure (1939), The Mathematical Theory of Black Holes (1983), and Newton’s Principia for the Common Reader (1995).

Claiborne, Liz

* (1929-2007). Belgian-born fashion designer and entrepreneur.

Cleburne, Patrick Ronayne

Irish immigrants; Patrick Ronayne Cleburne[Cleburne]Cleburne, Patrick Ronayne(1828-1864). Controversial Confederate general born in Ovens, County Cork, Ireland. After a three-year stint as a corporal in the British army, Cleburne emigrated to the United States and settled in Arkansas as a pharmacist and lawyer. In 1861, he joined the Confederate Army, in which he rose to the rank of major general and commanding a division in December, 1863. The following year, he caused a stir by proposing that the South’s best chance of victory lay in emancipating all its slaves and inducting them to fight for the Confederacy. Confederate president Davis, JeffersonJefferson Davis quickly rejected Cleburne’s suggestion, and Cleburne received no further promotions, despite his exceptional command record. He was killed at the Battle of Franklin in Tennessee on November 30, 1864.

Colosimo, James “Diamond Jim”

"Diamond Jim" (James Colosimo)[Diamond Jim (James Colosimo)]Crime;James Colosimo[Colosimo]Colosimo, James(1878-1920). Mobster born in Cosenza, Italy. Colosimo arrived in the United States at the age of seventeen with practically nothing to his name. After settling in Chicago, he quickly became involved in political and racketeering activities, moving rapidly from small-time operations, through an advantageous marriage in 1902, to the control of a criminal empire revolving around prostitution, gambling, and the protection racket. He was known as “Diamond Jim” because of his opulent lifestyle. He was assassinated in 1920, apparently by his lieutenants,Capone, AlAl Capone andTorrio, JohnnyJohnny Torrio, possibly because he opposed a business expansion into the lucrative bootleg liquor market. Colosimo’s gang formed the core of Capone’s future crime empire.

Cugat, Xavier

Spanish immigrants;Xavier Cugat[Cugat]Cugat, Xavier(1900-1990). Latin songwriter and bandleader born in Gerona, Spain, and taken to Cuba as a child. In 1915, Cugat’s family came to New York. For a period, Cugat drew cartoons for the Los Angeles Times while playing in musical bands in the evenings. He soon focused on music and formed several Latin bands until one of his groups achieved fame for its 1931 performances at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Over the next forty years, Cugat composed and directed musical performances and recorded in such Latin genres as the rumba, the tango, the mambo, and the conga.

Danticat, Edwidge

* (1969-    ). Haitian-born author.

Davis, James John

* (1873-1947). Welsh-born politician who served as U.S. secretary of labor under three presidents.

De Kooning, Willem

Dutch immigrants; Willem De Kooning[DeKooning]De Kooning, Willem(1904-1997). SculptorsPainter and sculptor born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. De Kooning entered the United States illegally in 1926 and settled at Newport News, Virginia. He worked at irregular carpentry and house- and sign-painting jobs, and from 1935 to 1937, he was employed on the art project of the New Deal Works Progress Administration (WPA) program. Thereafter, he gained fame as a leader of the abstract expressionist movement. He legally naturalized as an American citizen in 1962.

du Pont, Eleuthère Irénée

French immigrants;Eleuthère Irénée du Pont[duPont]du Pont, Eleuthère Irénée(1771-1834). Chemical and explosives manufacturer born in Paris, France. Du Pont’s family was persecuted by the French Revolutionary government for their conservative views. After the government shut down their printing firm in 1797, the family immigrated to the United States. At the age of thirty, du Pont set up a gunpowder manufacturing company while he was living in a crude log cabin near Wilmington, Delaware. By the time of his death, E. I. Du Pont de Nemours had become one of the most prosperous corporations in the United States.

Einstein, Albert

* (1879-1955). German-born physicist.

El-Baz, Farouk

El-Baz, Farouk(1938-    ) Scientists;Farouk El-Baz[El Baz]Egyptian immigrants;Farouk El-Baz[El Baz]space and geological scientist born in Zagazig, Egypt. Upon receiving a bachelor of science degree in Egypt in 1958, El-Baz was awarded a fellowship at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, where he received a doctorate in 1964. Three years later, he joined the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as a special trainer for astronauts and contributed to the success of the first manned moon landing in 1969. A recognized authority on lunar geology, El-Baz left NASA to join the staff of the Smithsonian Institution in 1972. A decade later, he joined the faculty of Boston University.

Ericsson, John

Swedish immigrants;John Ericsson[Ericsson]Inventors;John Ericsson[Ericsson]Ericsson, John(1803-1889). Maritime engineer and inventor born in Langbanshyttan, Sweden. Though Ericsson’s father went bankrupt and his own finances were tight, Ericsson secured engineering credentials and gained some reputation as an inventor in England before he accepted an invitation by Captain Robert Stockton to travel to New York in 1839. Ericsson designed the innovative warship USS Princeton in 1843, but his reputation suffered a reverse when a cannon aboard the vessel exploded, killing two federal government cabinet secretaries. Although Ericsson was personally exonerated of wrongdoing, he was never paid for his work and only reluctantly undertook the commission that led to his greatest invention–the pioneer ironclad warship USS Monitor, which saved the Union Navy from the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia during the Civil War battle of Hampton Roads on March 9, 1862. Ericsson later tinkered with solar-powered engines and with torpedoes.

Factor, Max

Polish immigrants;Max Factor[Factor]Factor, Max(1877-1938). Pharmacist and cosmetics manufacturer born in Lodz, Poland. Factor was already well known in the Russian Empire as the makeup specialist for the Royal Ballet in 1904, when he immigrated to the United States to escape anti-Jewish pogroms. After a slow start in New York and St. Louis, he moved to Los Angeles, where in 1909 he founded the cosmetics company that still bears his name. Factor became the leading cosmetics supplier for the Hollywood film industry, and the Max Factor company grew into a multimillion-dollar international concern.

Fermi, Enrico

Italian immigrants;Enrico Fermi[Fermi]Fermi, Enrico(1901-1954). Physicist born in Rome, Italy. A scientific prodigy, Fermi rose to hold a professorship at the University of Rome. Feeling threatened by the Fascist government, he took his family to the United States in 1938–the same year that he received the Nobel Prize in Physics for originating the theory of nuclear fission. He helped devise the first nuclear reactor at the University of Chicago in 1942 and actively participated in the Manhattan Project that developed the first atomic bomb at Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Flanagan, Edward J., Father

* (1886-1948). Irish-born social activist and humanitarian who founded Boys Town in Nebraska.

Frankfurter, Felix

* (1882-1965). Austrian-born law professor and political activist who became a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

Gallatin, Albert

Swiss immigrants;Albert Gallatin[Gallatin]Gallatin, Albert(1761-1849). Politician and diplomat born in Geneva, Switzerland. Gallatin was born into a wealthy family but was orphaned at an early age. In 1780, he traveled to Boston, Massachusetts, out of a sense of adventure while he was still a teenager. After suffering some financial reverses, he entered politics in 1789. In 1795, he became a U.S. congressman. A strong supporter of Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party, he served as secretary of the treasury in the Jefferson and Madison administrations from 1801 to 1814. In 1814, he helped negotiate the Treaty of Ghent that ended the War of 1812. Afterward, he served as U.S. diplomatic minister to France (1815-1823) and Great Britain (1826-1827).

Garvey, Marcus

* (1887-1940). Jamaican immigrant, social activist, and journalist who founded a worldwide organization for peoples of African descent.

Geneen, Harold

Geneen, Harold(1910-1997). Businessman born in Hampshire, England. Geneen immigrated to the United States as a child. After studying accounting at New York University, he rose to senior vice president of Raytheon (1956-1959) and then moved to International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT), of which he eventually became president. Over nearly two decades, he built the modest-sized company into a multinational conglomerate with close ties to the federal government and its intelligence community. The growth of ITT was fueled by Geneen’s purchase of a variety of other businesses in eighty countries, including rental car agencies, commercial and residential real estate, and hotels.

Gibran, Kahlil

Gibran, KahlilLebanese immigrants;Kahlil Gibran[Gibran](1883-1931). Author, poet, and artist born in Besharri, Lebanon. After Gibran’s father was accused of corruption and imprisoned by the Ottoman government, his destitute family made its way to New York in 1895. The members of the family survived in modest circumstances by undertaking menial jobs and engaging in door-to-door sales. Gibran himself began selling his illustrations when he was only fifteen. His poetry is highly religious in its tone and content; his first notable publication in English was The Madman (1918). His most-acclaimed book was The Prophet (1923).

Godkin, Edwin Lawrence

Irish immigrants; Edwin Lawrence Godkin[Godkin]Godkin, Edwin Lawrence(1831-1902). Author and journalist born in Moyne, county Wicklow, Ireland. During the mid-1850’s, Godkin served as war correspondent for the London Daily News in the Crimean War. Afterward, he sailed for New York. While writing for various New York publications, he branched out on his own in 1865 to found and edit The Nation. From 1883 to 1899, he edited the New York Evening Post.

Goldman, Emma

* (1869-1940). Lithuanian-born anarchist and feminist.

Gompers, Samuel

* (1850-1924). English-born labor leader.

Grove, Andrew

* (1936-    ). Hungarian-born chief executive officer of Intel.

Guggenheim, Meyer

* (1828-1905). Swiss-born industrialist.

Hayakawa, S. I.

* (1906-1992). Japanese Canadian immigrant who became a college president and one of California’s U.S. senators.

Hill, James Jerome

Canadian immigrants;James Jerome Hill[Hill]Hill, James Jerome(1838-1916). A railroad magnate dubbed the “Empire Builder,” Hill was born in Rockwood, Ontario, where he received limited schooling. His father’s early death and his family’s impoverished circumstances compelled him to seek work at various odd jobs–and he was further hindered by blindness in one eye from an arrow wound. In 1856, he relocated to St. Paul, Minnesota, where he later purchased the St. Paul & Pacific Railroad in 1878. Over the next twelve years, he built it into the conglomerate Great Northern RailroadGreat Northern Railroad. In 1901, he allied with J. P. Morgan to form the mammoth Northern Securities Company.

Hillman, Sidney

Lithuanian immigrants;Sidney Hillman[Hillman]Hillman, Sidney(1887-1946). Labor leader born into a Jewish family in Zagare, Lithuania, which was then part of the Russian Empire. Hillman became active in the revolutionary labor movement and was twice imprisoned. After the 1905 Russian Revolution, he escaped from the right-wing terror of the Black Hundreds and found his way to Chicago. Active from the beginning in trade unionism, he served as president of the radical Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America from 1914 to 1946,. Hillman was instrumental in delivering the political support of organized labor behind the administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. He also helped found the Congress of Industrial OrganizationsCongress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in 1935.

Huffington, Arianna

* (1950-    ). Greek-born author and journalist.

Jennings, Peter

* (1938-2005). Canadian-born television journalist.

Kissinger, Henry

* (1923-    ). German-born scholar who became U.S. secretary of state.

Kuniyoshi, Yasuo

Kuniyoshi, Yasuo(1889-1953). Artist born in Okayama, Japan. After coming to the United States in 1906, Kuniyoshi lived in Seattle, Washington, and Los Angeles, California, where he studied art and earning money as a photographer and by doing odd jobs. After relocating to New York, he pursued advanced studies in art under master artists Robert Henri and Kenneth Hayes Miller and was mounting one-man shows in both Japan and in the United States by 1922. His work is generally seen as a synthesis of Eastern and Western elements. While supporting the American war effort from 1941 to 1945, he served as designer and Japanese-language broadcaster for the War Information Office.

Lahiri, Jhumpa

* (1967-    ). British-born author of Asian Indian descent.

Latrobe, Benjamin Henry

Latrobe, Benjamin Henry(1764-1820). Architect born in Fulneck, England. Latrobe was educated in architecture, surveying, and engineering. After his wife died and he went bankrupt, he sailed to Norfolk, Virginia, in 1795. His first architectural commission in the United States was the Virginia state penitentiary in Richmond. This was followed by the Bank of Philadelphia, the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., the New Orleans customs house, and Baltimore’s Roman Catholic basilica. Latrobe is credited with bringing the Neoclassical Revival in architecture to the United States.

Lennon, John

* (1940-1980). English musician and political activist most famous as a member of the Beatles rock band.

Lim, Shirley Geok-lin

* (1944-    ). Malaysian author and academic.

Lipmann, Fritz Albert

German immigrants;Fritz Albert Lipmann[Lipmann]Lipmann, Fritz Albert(1899-1986). Biochemist and academic born in Königsberg, Germany. After earning his doctoral degree at the University of Berlin, Lipmann faced increasing danger as Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime intensified its persecution of Jews. He spent time conducting research in New York and in Copenhagen, Denmark, before deciding in 1939 to reside in the United States permanently. After working at Cornell University and Massachusetts General Hospital, he taught at Harvard Medical School from 1949 to 1957 and then spent three decades at Rockefeller University in New York City. Lipmann is noted for his research in the field of oncology, phosphates, and the discovery of coenzyme A, for which he was awarded the 1953 Noble Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Loon, Hendrik Willem van

Dutch immigrants;Hendrik Willem van Loon[Loon]Loon, Hendrik Willem van(1882-1944). Prolific historian and illustrator born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. From 1902 to 1905, Loon attended Cornell University, where he later taught history. Naturalized in 1919, he authored–and also often illustrated–forty-four books between 1913 and 1944. Among the best known are The Fall of the Dutch Republic (1913), The Story of Mankind (1921), and Van Loon’s Lives (1942).

Lyon, Matthew

Irish immigrants;Matthew Lyon[Lyon]Lyon, Matthew(1750-1822). Revolutionary soldier and legislator born in county Wicklow, Ireland. After arriving in Connecticut in 1765, Lyon worked as a printer and farm laborer and later moved to Vermont. There he served in the Continental Army from 1775 until 1778, when he won election to Vermont’s legislature (1779-1796). During 1797-1801 and 1803-1811, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Meagher, Thomas Francis

Irish immigrants;Thomas Francis Meagher[Meagher]Meagher, Thomas Francis(1823-1867). Military commander and government administrator born in Waterford, Ireland. His involvement during an 1848 Irish uprising against British rule led to his transportation to a prison colony in Tasmania. However, he escaped to New York in 1852. There he put himself through law school, started a legal practice, and published newspapers. During the Civil War, U.S.;Irish inU.S. Civil War, he formed and led the Irish Brigade as a brigadier general in the Union army. In 1865, he became acting governor of Montana;Irish governor ofMontana Territory.

Mergenthaler, Ottmar

German immigrants;Ottmar Mergenthaler[Mergenthaler]Inventors;Ottmar Mergenthaler[Mergenthaler]Mergenthaler, Ottmar(1854-1899). Inventor born in Germany and apprenticed to a watchmaker. In 1872, Mergenthaler immigrated to Baltimore, Maryland, where he worked in a machine shop of which he eventually became a partner. At the age of thirty-two, he created a prototype of his first linotype composing machine, in which type could be set and cast in one step by entering letters on a keyboard similar to a typewriter. His invention revolutionized the printing and publishing industries and earned him the nickname “Second Gutenberg,” for the inventor of movable type.

Muir, John

* (1838-1914). Scottish-born writer, naturalist, and conservationist.

Mukherjee, Bharati

* (1940-    ). Indian-born teacher and author.

Nabokov, Vladimir

Russian immigrants;Vladimir Nabokov[Nabokov]Nabokov, Vladimir(1899-1977). Author and zoologist born in St. Petersburg, Russia. Nabokov was born into a wealthy family, but the Russian RevolutionRussian Revolution sent his family into exile in Berlin, where Nabokov’s father was murdered in 1922. After fleeing from the Nazis to the United States in 1940, Nabokov secured a position at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, where he could pursue his passion for studying butterflies. He also taught literature at Cornell and Wellesley universities and founded the latter’s Russian language department. His first English-language novel was The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (1941), which was followed by Bend Sinister (1947) and a 1964 translation of Alexander Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin (1825-1832). However, it was Nabokov’s 1955 novel Lolita that secured his fame.

Pei, I. M.

* (1917-    ). Chinese-born architect.

Pinkerton, Allan

* (1819-1884). Scottish-born founder of a detective agency.

Ponzi, Charles

* (1882-1949). Italian-born swindler who gave his name to fraudulent “Ponzi schemes.”

Pulitzer, Joseph

* (1847-1911). Hungarian-born newspaper publisher.

Pupin, Michael Idvorsky

Inventors;Michael Idvorky Pupin[Pupin]Pupin, Michael IdvorskySerbian immigrants;Michael Idvorsky Pupin[Pupin](1858-1935). Inventor born in the village of Idvor in Serbia. Pupin took care of his father’s cattle until he was sixteen, when his father’s untimely death impelled him to board a ship to America. Broke and unable to speak English, he spent five years working at a variety of menial jobs while he learned English, and he saved until he could attend Columbia University in 1879. He then obtained a scholarship to the University of Berlin, where in 1889 he received a doctoral degree. From 1889 to 1931, he served on the Columbia University faculty and achieved wealth and fame for his invention of the Pupin long-distance induction coil, which was bought by American Telephone and Telegraph. Pupin also developed sonar and X-ray photography. His autobiography, From Immigrant to Inventor (1924), won a Pulitzer Prize.

Rand, Ayn

Russian immigrants;Ayn Rand[Rand]Rand, Ayn(1905-1982). Philosophical novelist who originated Objectivism, born in St. Petersburg, Russia. After the Russian Revolution, Rand fled from repressive conditions in the Soviet Union and went to America in 1926. She had to learn English and worked in a series of part-time jobs in Hollywood. In 1936, she published her first novel, We the Living. It and Anthem (1938) and The Fountainhead (1943) established her literary reputation. Her capstone novel, Atlas Shrugged (1957), elevated her to near-cult status on college campuses.

Rapp, George

* (1757-1847). German-born founder of the Rappite religious community.

Rickover, Hyman

* (1900-1986). Polish-born U.S. Navy admiral.

Riis, Jacob

Danish immigrants;Jacob Riis[Riis]Riis, Jacob(1849-1914). Journalist, author, photographer, and social activist born in Ribe, Denmark, One of fifteen children in his Danish family, Riis immigrated to the United States in 1870 and spent three years enduring harsh conditions in New York slums and flophouses. He finally escaped the poverty of the tenements and poorhouses by securing a position as reporter for the New York Evening Sun and later the New York Tribune. He specialized in photojournalistic essays on life in the most impoverished, crime-infested areas of the city and was among the first photographers to use flash cameras. His most notable publications include How the Other Half Lives (1891), The Children of the Poor (1892), The Battle with the Slum (1902), and his autobiography, The Making of an American (1901).

Rockne, Knute

* (1888-1931). Norwegian-born football coach at the University of Notre Dame.

Roebling, John Augustus

German immigrants;John Augustus Roebling[Roebling]Roebling, John Augustus(1806-1869). Engineer born in Mulhausen, Germany. Roebling studied civil engineering at the Royal Polytechnic Institute in Berlin, where he graduated in 1826. With the economic situation in Germany worsening and the political climate becoming increasingly repressive, Roebling left for the settlement of Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, in 1831. He tried his hand at farming until 1837, then returned to engineering. Among his most significant commissions were the Allegheny aqueduct bridge in Pittsburgh (1844), the Niagara Falls suspension bridge (1854), the Roebling suspension bridge in Cincinnati (1867), and New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge (1883). This last project was completed by his son, Washington Roebling.

Schurz, Carl

* (1829-1906). German-born journalist, lawyer, social activist, Civil War general, and statesman.

Schwarzenegger, Arnold

* (1947-    ). Austrian American bodybuilder and film star who became governor of California.

Sidhwa, Bapsi

* (1938-    ). Pakistani-born author.

Sigel, Franz

German immigrants;Franz Sigel[Sigel]Sigel, Franz(1824-1902). Civil War general born in Sinsheim, in what was then the Grand Duchy of Baden, Germany. Sigel served as an officer in Baden’s army from 1843 to 1847 and during the German Revolutions of 1848;Germanyrevolution of 1848, as a colonel in the insurgent forces. After the revolt was suppressed in 1849, he fled Germany. Three years later, he became a professor and school administrator in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1861, he joined the Union Army as a colonel. Because of his influence within Missouri’s large German community, he played an important role in keeping Missouri from falling under Confederate control. After the war, he became involved in politics and journalism.

Singer, Isaac Bashevis

Polish immigrants;Isaac Bashevis Singer[Singer]Yiddish;literatureSinger, Isaac Bashevis(1904-1991). Author born in Leoncin, Poland. The son of a village rabbi, Singer went to Warsaw to take up a career in journalism; however, the threat posed by Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany led him to come to the United States in 1935. Initially dismayed by the stresses of adjusting to a new environment, he turned to writing novels in Yiddish. When his works began to be translated into English he achieved an international reputation and won the 1978 Nobel Prize in Literature. Among his major works are The Family Moskat (1950), Satan in Goray (1955), Enemies: A Love Story (1972), and Yentl: The Yeshiva Boy (1983).

Steinmetz, Charles Proteus

German immigrants;Charles Proteus Steinmetz[Steinmetz]Inventors;Charles Proteus Steinmetz[Steinmetz]Steinmetz, Charles Proteus(1865-1923). Inventor and electrical engineer born in Breslau, Germany. Steinmetz’s activities in Germany’s socialist movement brought down government repression that motivated him to emigrate to the United States in 1889. When he arrived in New York with neither money nor any knowledge of English, he was nearly turned back at Ellis Island. He first worked for the Eikenmeyer Transformer Company, then for General Electric beginning in 1893. Steinmetz’s most influential discoveries lay in the field of alternating currents, artificial lightning, and induction motors.

Strauss, Levi

* (1829-1902). German-born clothing manufacturer and philanthropist.

Stravinsky, Igor Fedorovitch

Russian immigrants;Igor Fedorovitch Stravinsky[Stravinsky]Stravinsky, Igor Fedorovitch(1882-1971). Musical composer born in Oranienbaum, Russia. Stravinsky immigrated to the United States in 1939, shortly after the deaths of his mother, wife, and daughter, and the start of World War II. When he arrived, he already had a well-established reputation as a composer in Europe. He became an American citizen in 1946 and lived in Los Angeles and New York. His best-known compositions include the symphony Orpheus (1947), the opera The Rake’s Progress (1951), and The Flood (1962), a made-for-television opera.

Teller, Edward

Scientists;Edward Teller[Teller]Hungarian immigrants;scientistsTeller, Edward(1908-2003). Nuclear scientist born in Budapest, Hungary. Teller was studying physics in Germany when Adolf Hitler came to power. In 1935, he emigrated to the United States and settled in Washington, D.C. During World War II, he worked on the Manhattan Project that developed the first atomic bomb. After 1945, he continued his work in nuclear physics, turning his attention to fusion, and was the driving force behind the development of the hydrogen bomb during the 1950’s.

Tesla, Nikola

* (1856-1943). Serbian-born engineer and inventor.

Trapp, Maria Augusta

Austrian immigrants;Maria Augusta Trapp[Trapp]Trapp, Maria Augusta(1905-1987). Teacher and musician born in the Tyrol, Austria. Orphaned at an early age, Trapp entered the Benedictine Order of nuns and became a tutor to the family of the aristocrat Georg Von Trapp, whom she married in 1927. After her husband lost his fortune in 1935, Trapp organized her large family into a singing troupe that became known as the Trapp Family Singers. After Germany occupied Austria in 1938, the Trapps left Europe. They eventually settled in Vermont and continued to perform as a musical troupe. A highly romanticized version of Trapp’s story was made into the Broadway musical The Sound of Music (1959), which was later adapted to the screen.

Underwood, John T.

Underwood, John T.(1857-1937). Born in London, Underwood emigrated to the United States in 1873 and later founded the Underwood Typewriter Company, which produced typewriter ribbons. When Remington, his company’s principal buyer, decided to produce its own ribbons, Underwood decided to manufacture his own brand of typewriters. He purchased the patent for an innovative front-stroke model that allowed operators to see the letters as they were typed. Underwood later opened a typewriter factory in Hartford, Connecticut, which by 1915 was the largest of its kind in the world, producing five hundred machines per day.

Von Neumann, John

Hungarian immigrants;John Von Neumann[Von Neumann]Scientists;John Von Neumann[Von Neumann]Von Neumann, John(1903-1957). Mathematician and nuclear scientist born in Budapest, Hungary. A mathematical prodigy, Von Neumann earned his doctorate in mathematics from Pazmany Peter University in 1925. After his father’s death he immigrated with his family to the United States in 1930. Three years later he was appointed to the faculty of Princeton University, where he taught for twenty-four years. Von Neumann is renowned for his innovative set and game theories, his work in quantum mechanics, and contributions to computer and nuclear science, including the crucial role he played during the Manhattan Project.

Waksman, Selman Abraham

Waksman, Selman AbrahamUkrainian immigrants;Selman Abraham Waksman[Waksman](1888-1973). Biologist born in Pryluky in Ukraine. Waksman left for the United States in 1910. He worked his way through Rutgers University and the University of California at Berkeley, receiving his doctorate from the latter institution in 1918. Afterward, he devoted himself to teaching and research as a faculty member at Rutgers from 1918 to 1958. He coined the term “antibiotic” and developed actinomycin, neomycin, and streptomycin–for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1952.

Whipple, Prince

Whipple, Prince(c. 1750-1784). Soldier and abolitionist born in Africa, possibly in what is now the nation of Ghana. His well-to-do parents paid a ship’s captain to take him to be educated in the United States. The captain betrayed them and sold the young man into slavery. He was purchased by William Whipple, a businessman in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. William Whipple became a general in the Continental Army and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and his slave Prince accompanied him into combat. In 1779, Prince Whipple petitioned for his freedom on the basis of the Declaration of Independence, but he was not manumitted by General Whipple until 1784. The long-accepted legend that he was the black soldier depicted in Emanuel Washington Crossing the Delaware (Leutze)Leutze, Emanuel GottliebGottlieb Leutze’s painting of Washington, George[p]Washington, George;painting ofGeorge Washington crossing the Delaware has of, late, been disputed.

Wiesel, Elie

Romanian immigrantsWiesel, Elie(1928-    ). Holocaust;survivorsHolocaust survivor, author, and human rights advocate born in Sighet, Romania. In May, 1944, Wiesel was sent to the Nazis’ Auschwitz concentration camp, along with the entire Jewish community of Sighet. Both of Wiesel’s parents and a sister died in the camp, but Wiesel survived. In 1955, he came to the United States, where he worked as a journalist. During that same year, he published his autobiography, Un di Velt hot geshvign, in Yiddish. A French edition appeared in 1958, but it was the 1960 English edition, titled Night, that won Wiesel international renown as an author. In 1986, he received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Wirz, Henry

Swiss immigrants;Henry Wirz[Wirz]War criminalsGerman immigrants;war criminalsWirz, Henry(1823-1865). Confederate prison warden born in Zurich, Switzerland. Wirz immigrated to the United States in 1849. He practiced medicine in Kentucky and Louisiana before joining the Confederate Army in 1861. After being promoted to captain, he served as commandant of the notorious prisoner-of-war camp at Andersonville, Georgia, from February, 1864, until May, 1865. After the war, he was tried for war crimes for his complicity in the deaths of nearly 13,000 Union prisoners under his charge. He was convicted and hanged.

Yang, Jerry

* (1968-    ). Taiwanese-born entrepreneur who cofounded Yahoo!

Yezierska, Anzia

* (c. 1880-1970). Polish-born novelist.

Zworykin, Vladimir

Russian immigrants;Vladimir Zworykin[Zworykin]Inventors;Vladimir Zworykin[Zworykin]Zworykin, VladimirTelevision;Vladimir Zworykin[Zworykin](1889-1982). Inventor born in Murom, Russia. Zworykin graduated from the St. Petersburg Institute of Technology in 1912 and served briefly in the Russian army. After siding with the unsuccessful White Russian movement during the Russian Civil War, he emigrated to the United States. While working as an engineer for Westinghouse Corporation, he built upon research he had done in St. Petersburg to develop the prototype for television. In 1929, he went to work for the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), in which he rose to a vice presidency and remained until retiring in 1954. At RCA, he completed his work on television by inventing the iconoscope picture tube.

Albright, Madeleine

Alvarez, Julia

Antin, Mary

Astor, John Jacob

Atlas, Charles

Bell, Alexander Graham

Berlin, Irving

Brin, Sergey

Claiborne, Liz

Danticat, Edwidge

Davis, James John

Einstein, Albert

Flanagan, Edward J.

Frankfurter, Felix

Garvey, Marcus

Goldman, Emma

Gompers, Samuel

Grove, Andrew

Guggenheim, Meyer

Hayakawa, S. I.

Huffington, Arianna

Jennings, Peter

Kissinger, Henry

Lahiri, Jhumpa

Lennon, John

Lim, Shirley Geok-lin

Muir, John

Mukherjee, Bharati

Pei, I. M.

Pinkerton, Allan

Ponzi, Charles

Powderly, Terence V.

Pulitzer, Joseph

Rapp, George

Rickover, Hyman G.

Rockne, Knute

Santiago, Esmeralda

Schurz, Carl

Schwarzenegger, Arnold

Sidhwa, Bapsi

Simon, Julian Lincoln

Strauss, Levi

Tocqueville, Alexis de

Yang, Jerry

Categories: History Content