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One who educates himself by studying all or most of a conventional curriculum independently. Autodidacts were common in the United States prior to compulsory universal public school education, when only the sons of the wealthy could usually continue their education past primary school. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN’S Autobiography urged Americans without the opportunity to attend formal schools to educate themselves. Franklin was himself an autodidact, as was Thomas Paine, who believed, “Every person of learning is finally his own teacher.” Among the most famous American autodidacts were steel magnate/philanthropist ANDREW CARNEGIE, inventor Thomas A. Edison and HORACE MANN, the “father” of American public schools. Mann educated himself by reading and memorizing all the Greek, Latin and English books in the Franklin, Massachusetts, town library during his teenage years prior to matriculation at Brown University, from which he graduated as class valedictorian.
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