Olcott, Colonel Henry Steel and Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

Colonel Henry Steel Olcott and Helena Petrovna Blavatsky were the founders of the Theosophical Society, a group with interests ranging from the mysteries of ancient Egypt and Greece to Eastern religions. In 1878 Olcott and Blavatsky went to India and Sri Lanka, and took the five lay precepts of Buddhism — likely the first Americans to do so. Olcott became especially concerned about pan-Buddhist unity, eventually writing a Buddhist Catechism and designing a Buddhist flag.