08. Man of the World

Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover in the garden at their "White House" in London, 1902.

From his late 20s throughout his 30s, Hoover's travels as an international "doctor of sick mines" brought him fame and prosperity. Between 1901 and 1914, Hoover saw the world of Rudyard Kipling, contracted malaria in an Asian rice paddy, and once backed out of a Burmese mine after discovering fresh tiger tracks.

After 1907 Hoover was based in London, but together with Lou and their two small boys, he spent three years aboard ships bound for nearly 40 nations. The couple jointly translated a 16th century Latin mining text, De Re Metallica, written by Georgius Agricola. Hoover also digested thick volumes of history, sociology, economics and philosophy to make up for his early deficiencies in education.

Hoover's reputation grew stronger every year. When a dishonest partner at Bewick, Moreing & Company embezzled half a million dollars from the firm, Hoover paid back much of the loss from his own pocket. He launched his own international consulting firm that employed 175,000 workers from Siberia to Peru. And after he joined the Board of Trustees at Stanford, a colleague said more was accomplished during Hoover's first hour on the Board than in the three preceding years.