Medicine: Dr. Burchell

When Edgar Burchell was 16, he got a job as porter at Manhattan's Eye and Ear Infirmary—7 a.m. to 7 p.m., $17 a month. To bolster his meager earnings, he began making anatomical specimens on the side; by way of continuing his education, which had stopped with primary school, he went to free lectures at Cooper Union and Washington Irving High School. Some nights after work, in the hospital's empty laboratory, he practiced experiments he had seen others do. Eventually, he became one of the laboratory assistants.

By 1931, when King Prajadhipok of Siam...

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