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Category Archives: Natural history (science)

Is an inventor entitled to profit from their invention?

should you propose to secure to yourself by a patent the benefit of the ideas contained in your letter, I will lodge it in the patent office of the Secretary of state: or should you prefer a communication of it to the world, I would transmit it to the Philosophical society at Philadelphia. either the one or the other shall be done as you shall direct.
To Thomas McLean, June 9, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Some inventor leaders are motivated by service, not profit.
McLean had written a detailed, complicated letter about theoretical improvements for mills that grind grain. He asked the President’s opinion of his theory and for patent help that would allow him to develop a prototype. Jefferson expressed his great interest but declined to study it. It fell into the realm of “philosophical speculations.” His duties as President left him no time to pursue such things, no matter how much he enjoyed them.

He gave McLean a choice. He would either submit McLean’s theory to the patent office for its protection or offer his idea to the world for free, through the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. (Jefferson was president of the APS, too.)

Jefferson was an inventor who never patented any of his creations. He thought the inspiration for his inventions was in the atmosphere, just as easily retrieved by someone else as by him. Thus, he sought no proprietary control, but offered his ideas to the public. He compared his choice to lighting another’s candle from his own. Someone else now had light, and his own was not diminished.

Jefferson’s decades-long precarious financial position might have been improved had he chosen to patent and profit from his inventions.

“…the standing ovation you received …[proved]
we are grateful for what you did for us.”
President, National Speakers Association
Your audience will appreciate the value Mr. Jefferson brings.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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Class discrimination? Clever marketing? Or common sense?

… a thought coming into my head which may be useful to your son who is carrying the Mammoth to Europe, I take time to hint it to you. my knolege of the scene he will be on enables me to suggest what might not occur to him a stranger. when in a great city, he will find persons of every degree of wealth. to jumble these all into a room together I know from experience is very painful to the decent part of them, who would be glad to see a thing often, & would not regard paying every time but that they1 revolt at being mixed with pickpockets, chimney sweeps &c…
To Charles Willson Peale, May 5, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
A practical leader offers the benefit of his experience to others.
C. W. Peale was a noted painter, scientist and museum owner. His sons had mounted a mastodon skeleton for public display in New York. In September, they would take their exhibit to cities in Europe, where they would charge admission to view it. Drawing on his experience across the Atlantic, he had a suggestion for his friend’s sons.

Jefferson said wealthier patrons would object to mingling with the lowest working classes and swindlers at an exhibit open to all. He suggested three viewings at three prices. The highest price should be charged when the “beau monde” (fashionable society) would be most likely to attend. A lower price should be offered when “merchants and respectable citizens” would have the leisure to come. The cheapest price would for the “the lower descriptions” (pickpockets, chimney sweeps, etc.). He suggested the greatest amounts paid by the fewest attendees would make up for the many at the lowest price.

He concluded with his belief they would make a fortune with this display. And when people tired of seeing it, he hoped they would sell it and make another fortune. (Jefferson loved big bones!)

“…the standing ovation you received showed how much
our members enjoyed your characterization…”
Deputy Director, Washington Association of County Officials
Mr. Jefferson hopes to bring your audience to its feet, as well.
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Clouds and and a crummy clock compromised this 1778 eclipse!

We were much disappointed in Virginia generally on the day of the great eclipse [June 24, 1778], which proved to be cloudy. In Williamsburgh, where it was total, I understand only the beginning was seen. At this place which is in Lat. 38° 8′ and Longitude West from Williamsburgh about 1° 45′ as is conjectured, eleven digits only were supposed to be covered. It was not seen at all till the moon had advanced nearly one third over the sun’s disc. Afterwards it was seen at intervals through the whole. The egress particularly was visible. It proved however of little use to me for want of a time peice that could be depended on;
To David Rittenhouse, July 19, 1778

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
On this day when the solar eclipse crosses the United States, this is young Jefferson’s (age 35) comment on the 1778 eclipse, which darkened the southeastern portion of the country three weeks before. Monticello was north of the zone of totality, perhaps in the 90% range. The presence of clouds and the absence of a reliable clock thwarted his ability to make scientific observations.

Rittenhouse (1732-1796) was a famed American astronomer, mathematician and clockmaker. Two of his many accomplishments were recording the transit of Venus across the face of the sun in 1769 and the creation of an orrery, a mechanical representation of our solar system.

Jefferson reminded his friend of his offer to make for him “an accurate clock,” essential for astronomers, and asked when that clock might arrive.

“Your performances … were exactly what our conference needed
to take it over the top.”
Director of Member Services & Education, Minnesota Rural Electric Association
Mr. Jefferson will add greatly to the success of your conference!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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There is ALWAYS a reason to explore, regardless of the results.

If mr Peale can succeed in producing fresh from salt water by a filtering apparatus, it will be a valuable discovery. there are parts of the world where a want of pure water may render the separation of impurities by filtration of value, provided they are better separated, or more cheaply, than by distillation. but besides the utility of the immediate discovery, no discovery is barren. it always serves as a step to something else.
To Robert Patterson, April 17, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders encourage experimentation, regardless of results.
Patterson (1743-1824, compared to Jefferson, 1743-1826) was a noted Irish-born mathematician, scientist, and professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He was one of Meriwether Lewis’ tutors, at Jefferson’s request, before the young man headed up the Missouri River with William Clark in 1804.
Here, Jefferson commented on another scientist’s (Charles Willson Peale) efforts to desalinate ocean water. He lauded the experimentation, because it might prove cheaper than distillation, the only other method available.
While Jefferson hoped for an immediate application, he would not be dismayed if that did not happen. He was noted for taking the long view. “No discovery is barren,” he wrote. “It always serves as a step to something else.”

“…your contribution to our Annual Education Workshop …
added immeasurably to [its] success …
Assistant Director of Education, Missouri Department of Corrections
Mr. Jefferson will add to the success of your meeting, and hopefully, immeasurably so.
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Does a family compromise your value to society?

You mention in your letter that you are proceeding with your family to Fort Massac. this informs me that you have a family, & I sincerely congratulate you on it. while some may think it will render you less active in the service of the world, those who take a sincere interest in your personal happiness, and who know that by a law of our nature we cannot be happy without the endearing connections of a family, will rejoice for your sake as I do.
To William Clark, September 10, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders with strong family connections make for happy leaders.
Clark wrote Jefferson in June, 1808, but the letter took 13 months to reach its destination. That letter mentioned the skin of a Rocky mountain sheep and a blanket manufactured by the Indians that he had already sent to Jefferson and three boxes of bones yet to come. The latter he would deliver to Fort Massac, Illinois country, on the Ohio River, for shipment through New Orleans and on to Virginia, when he moved his family from Louisville to St. Louis. Two months later, the former President wrote his thanks for the sheep skin and blanket he had received and the bones that had not yet arrived. (See “Enclosure” for a description of the bones.)

The last Jefferson knew, William Clark was single. Now he learned that Clark would be traveling with his family to St. Louis to take up his new duties there. Jefferson was delighted to learn that his accomplished explorer was now a family man! (The 37 year-old Clark had married 17 year-old Julia Hancock in January, 1808. A year later, they named their firstborn son, Meriwether Lewis Clark.)

Jefferson disagreed with those who claimed family responsibilities made one less capable of public service. Citing his desire for Clark’s “personal happiness” coupled with “a law of our nature” that family connections were essential to that happiness, he congratulated the new husband and father. Those connections would make him a happier … and better … leader.

“…your command of Mr. Jefferson’s persona and mind,
and your facility
in answering complex questions were impressive.”
Chairman, Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Committee, St. Louis
Mr. Jefferson will impress and inspire your audience, too.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Exploration, Family matters, Natural history (science) Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Here is a helping hand. PLEASE accept it.

This will be handed you [by] mr Bradbury, an English botanist, who proposes to take St Louis in his botanising tour … besides being a botanist of the first order, he is a man of entire worth & correct conduct … perhaps you can consult no abler hand on your Western botanical observations. I am very often applied to to know when your work will begin to appear; and I have so long promised copies to my literary correspondents in France, that I am almost bankrupt in their eyes. I shall be very happy to recieve from yourself information of your expectations on this subject. every body is impatient for it …
To Meriwether Lewis, August 16, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Mentoring leaders strive long with struggling protégés.
When Lewis returned from his epic journey west in 1806, then President Jefferson gave him the task of preparing for publication a written account of their journey, with an emphasis on its scientific accomplishments. Jefferson had widely promised the resulting book to his friends and fellow scientists.

Almost three years after that return, Jefferson was still waiting. He had written Lewis several times to encourage him in this endeavor and was now sending a helping hand.

What Jefferson didn’t know was that his young protégé had yet to write a word of their westward journey. Probably in the grip of depression, Lewis’ inability to satisfy his patron was one of several crippling failures he endured after their return. Less than two months later, Lewis would take his own life.

“From all the comments, your appearance as Thomas Jefferson was a big hit …
and your comments were most appropriate.”
President, The Hawthorn Foundation (New and Expanding Business Conference)
Mr. Jefferson will be a big hit with your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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What does a local library mean for US? Part 3 of 4

these should be such [books in your library] as would give them a general view of other history & particular view of that of their own country, a tolerable knolege of geography, the elements of Natural philosophy, of agriculture & mechanics. should your example lead to this, it will do great good.
To John Wyche, May 19, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Educated leaders encourage foundational reading for all.
What types of books should be in a county library for circulating among its citizens?

  1. History in general, to know what preceded us on a global scale
  2. History in particular, that of the United States
  3. Basic geography, how the elements of our earth are represented
  4. Science (“Natural philosophy”)
  5. Agriculture, how we feed and clothe ourselves
  6. “Mechanics,” how things work

A basic knowledge in these six areas would be sufficient for citizens to know, respect and safeguard their rights as free Americans.

“It is my pleasure to write about my professional experience with Patrick Lee …
Our members were thrilled.”
Executive Director, Florida Surveying and Mapping Society
Your members will be thrilled with Mr. Jefferson, too.
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1 Comment Posted in Agriculture, Education, History, Natural history (science), Protecting ourselves Tagged , , , , , , , |

I have 30 years invested in that missing trunk!

On the subject of the trunk No 28. I am not without a hope [you] may yet discover it’s fate … containing principally writing paper of various qualities, but also some other articles of stationary, a pocket telescope with a brass case, a Dynamometer… a collection of vocabularies of the Indian languages … the value was probably about 150. Dollars exclusive of the Vocabularies, which had been the labour of 30 years in collection for publication.
To George Jefferson, May 18, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Sometimes, things just go wrong despite your best efforts.
When Jefferson left Washington City to retire to Monticello, he carefully inventoried his possessions and packed them for shipment home. This is the 2nd or 3rd letter he had written on this subject. One of his trunks was missing! He wrote to his business agent and distant cousin for help. George Jefferson would have been the one to accept the trunks off the ship in Richmond, for transport by land to Monticello.

It would appear he was primarily interested in the dynamometer, explained in an earlier post. His real concern, however, may have been his “collection of vocabularies of the Indian languages.” He was always interested in languages in general and those of native Americans inparticular. It was a subject he wanted to study in depth but the time required to do so meant postponing the project until his retirement. To that end, he had collected material on that subject for three decades. Now it was missing.

He told his cousin to offer a reward of $20-30 for its return.

“Patrick Lee was our first guest speaker, and he set the bar very high
with his remarkable portrayal of Thomas Jefferson.”
Sedalia Heritage Foundation
Mr. Jefferson will set the bar very high for other speakers at your meetings!
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Leave a comment Posted in Native Americans, Natural history (science), Personal preferences Tagged , , , , , , , , |

I love science, home and FREEDOM!

you have wisely located yourself in the focus of the science of Europe. I am held by the cords of love to my family & country, or I should certainly join you. within a few days I shall now bury myself in the groves of Monticello, & become a mere spectator of the passing events. on politics I will say nothing, because I would not implicate you by addressing to you the republican ideas of America, deemed horrible heresies by the royalism of Europe.
To Alexander von Humboldt, March 6, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Retired leaders needn’t lose their zeal!
German-born Humboldt (1769-1859) shared Jefferson’s passion for exploration and scientific analysis, wrote volumes on a wide variety of subjects, and sent some of them to the President, who proffered his thanks.

If Jefferson were not so loyal to his country and family, he might have joined this eminent scientist in Europe. Instead, he looked forward to immersing himself in all-things- Monticello and becoming an observer of politics rather than a participant. Retirement didn’t lessen his passion for freedom, but he spared Humboldt any “republican ideas of America,” which the non-republican governments of Europe considered “horrible heresies.”

“…what a pleasure it was having you entertain our guests …
a top-notch performance …”

CEO, Riverbarge Excursion Lines
Does your audience appreciate “a top-notch performance”?
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What to think about fish raining from the sky?

I do not say that I disbelieve the testimony, but neither can I say I believe it … a most respectable, sensible & truth speaking friend of mine gave me a circumstantial account of a rain of fish to which he was an eye witness. I knew him to be incapable of speaking an untruth. how he could be decieved in such a fact was as difficult for me to account for, as how the fact should happen. I therefore prevailed on my own mind to adjourn the decision of the question till new rains of fish should take place to confirm it.
To Andrew Ellicott, October 25, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders don’t discredit the unprovable. They await proof.
Pre-eminent surveyor Ellicott forwarded to Jefferson another’s report on stones falling from the sky and speculated how that might happen. The President neither believed nor denied the account, stating there was no proof either way. He described hail as being without explanation, too. Yet they had seen it and had to accept it, with no understanding how it happened.

He then described “a most respectable, sensible & truth speaking friend” who claimed to have seen fish fall from the sky! Jefferson had no idea how that could happen, nor could attribute deception to the friend who told him so. What to do? A wise man doesn’t automatically dismiss what he does not understand. Jefferson would postpone any conclusion until there was more evidence.

Can fish really rain from the sky?

“…thank you for your excellent presentation as Captain William Clark …
We also appreciated your taking the time to mingle with the guests after your performance …
I continue to hear compliments.”
Secretary/Treasurer, Virginia Association of Surveyors
Mr. Jefferson recommends Lewis & Clark Expedition Co-Leader William Clark to your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-273
Leave a comment Posted in Natural history (science)