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Category Archives: Natural history (science)

These treasures from the west must be shared with the public!

the articles which had been forwarded by capt Lewis … I am now packing up for you  …
2. skins of the white hare
2. skeletons of do [ditto].
a skeleton of the small or borrowing wolf of the prairies
a male & female Blaireau [badger] … with the skeleton of the female
13. red fox skins
skins of the male & female antelope with their skeletons.
2. skins of the burrowing squirrel of the prairies
a living burrowing squirrel [prairie dog] of the prairies.
a living magpie
a dead one preserved.
these are the descriptive words of capt. Lewis.
To Charles Willson Peale, October 6, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders need their own “kid in the candy store” moments.
When Jefferson’s Corps of Discovery (aka Lewis & Clark Expedition) headed west into the unknown in April 1805, Lewis sent all the specimens collected in their first year back to the President. Jefferson was probably beside himself with excitement when these arrived!

He examined all of them, kept a few to display at Monticello, and forwarded the rest to Philadelphia, where Peale could display them in his renowned museum.

Note several entries near the bottom of the list. The Corps captured several live prairie dogs and magpies to send east. One of each survived a journey of months and 1,500 miles to delight the nation’s premier naturalist.

In this 1822 self-portrait, Peale draws the curtain back to reveal some of the wonders of his museum.

“It was a great pleasure to have you return …
Thank you very much for bringing Thomas Jefferson to life
during the presentations on July 4 and 5.”
National Park Service, Jefferson National Expansion Museum
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Leave a comment Posted in Animals, Natural history (science) Tagged , , , , , , , |

Chemistry, like all science, should serve a practical purpose.

… of the importance of turning a knolege of chemistry to houshold purposes I have been long satisfied. the common herd of philosophers [scientists] seem to write only for one another. the chemists have filled volumes on the composition of a thousand substances of no sort of importance to the purposes of life; while the arts of making bread, butter cheese, vinegar, soap, beer, cyder Etc remain totally unexplained. Chaptal has lately given the chemistry of wine making. the late Doctr. Pennington did the same as to bread … good treatises on these subjects would   recieve general approbation [approval].

…I recall with pleasure the many happy days of my youth spent at College with your father. the friendships which are formed at that period are those which remain dearest to our latest day.
To Thomas Beale Ewell, August 30, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Practical leaders want practical applications, not theory.
Ewell, a young physician, wrote Jefferson asking his opinion about developing some treatises on chemistry applied to practical purposes in America, such as soil improvement, baking, and glassmaking. Jefferson was all in favor if it improved life for their fellow countrymen. His assessment of most scholarship in chemistry was withering, written to impress other chemists rather than serve any practical purpose.

Ewell sent his father’s greeting and compliments on the President’s leadership. The two older men had been students together at the College of William and Mary in the late 1750s. Jefferson returned the sentiment, affirming that friendships made in youth were the most valued late in life.

“Your wonderful presentation as Daniel Boone was well received
and appropriate to the interests of our group.”
Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association
I am not always Thomas Jefferson.
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1 Comment Posted in Agriculture, Natural history (science) Tagged , , , , , , |

Forget political correctness. Pick gifted people, instead.

if you appoint all the members of the legislature to be members of the institution, it will gratify no particular member, nor lead him to feel any more interest in the institution than he does at present. on the other hand, a judicious selection of a few, friends of science, or lovers of the military art, will be gratifying to them inasmuch as it is a selection, and inspire them with the desire of actively patronising it’s interests.
To Jonathan Williams, July 14, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Visionary leaders want other leaders to be inspriring, too.
In addition to appointing Williams Superintendent of West Point in 1801, Jefferson asked him to revive a scientific society devoted to military history. Williams had asked the President about appointing a leadership board from Congress that would actively promote the society. He suggested appointing the entire Congress, so as not to give offense by leaving anyone out.

Jefferson disagreed. Appointing everyone would make the position special for no one, and the society would receive no benefit. Instead, it would be best to select a few gifted military history partisans. Not only would they would appreciate the honor of being chosen, they would actively work to promote the society’s agenda.

“I cannot say it better than the board member who wrote,
‘Well done, enjoyable and timeless.’

… what I was looking for in a closing speaker and what you provided so well.”
Conference Manager, NE Association of School Boards
& NE Association of School Administrators
Well done. Enjoyable. Timeless.
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1 Comment Posted in Congress, Military / Militia, Natural history (science) Tagged , , , , , , , |

Great idea. Not gonna do it.

In answer to M. De la Coste’s letter of the 27th Th: Jefferson is bound to observe to him that no authority has been given for the establishment of a Museum at this or any other place on account of the General government: indeed that this is not among the objects enumerated in the constitution to which Congress are authorised to apply the public monies. whenever the revenues of the Union shall be liberated from calls of the first urgency, it is probable that an amendment of the constitution may be proposed, to authorise institutions for the general instruction. in the mean time it is the duty of the public authorities to keep themselves within their legitimate powers.
To G. C. Delacoste, May 31, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Even visionary leaders have limits to their authority.
The recipient had closed his natural history museum in New York for lack of public support. He offered to sell his collection of hundreds of animal species for the formation of a National Museum in Washington City [D.C.].

This was the type of venture that Jefferson, the private citizen, would have supported wholeheartedly. As President, he had to decline. Why? Because the Constitution gave neither authority to establish a museum nor power to Congress to spend public money on one. Case closed.

Jefferson speculated that once America’s debt from the revolution had been paid off, the Constitution might be amended “to authorize institutions for the general instruction,” such as museums. Until that time, federal power was limited to those few responsibilities specifically listed in that Constitution.

Delacoste’s letter is most interesting. He repeatedly addressed the President as “Your Excellency,” a phrase Jefferson probably found repugnant though he was far too polite to mention it. The writer also admits to hard times, having lost his property in “Dutch Guyana,” a result of the French Revolution. Thus, he was looking for a job, too, hoping the President would hire him to acquire more specimens for that National Museum. The letter concluded with an enclosure listing the many specimens he was offering, including “1 black ostrich and 1 Uppoe [Hippo?] from Africa” and “37 individuals from the coast of Guyana among which a patira a Jaguar, several monkeys, a three toed, and a two toed Sloth, a coendou, a Tatou, a great ant-eater or Tauranoir, a middle and a least ant eater &ca”

“Mr. Lee is the consummate professional
both on the stage and behind the scenes.”
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Leave a comment Posted in Constitutional issues, Natural history (science)

You gotta start somewhere.

… The work we are now doing, is, I trust, done for posterity, in such a way that they need not repeate it. for this we are much indebted to you not only for the labour & time you have devoted to it, but for the excellent method of which you have set the example, and which I hope will be the model to be followed by others. we shall delineate with correctness the great arteries of this great country: those who come after us will extend the ramifications as they become acquainted with them, and fill up the canvas we begin…
To William Dunbar, May 25, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Visionary leaders pioneer so others can follow.
This excerpt came the end of a long, technical letter about Dunbar’s commission to explore Red River from its mouth on the Mississippi between Natchez and Baton Rouge. It flows from the northwest, forms much of the southern border between Oklahoma and Texas, and has its source in the Texas Panhandle near Amarillo. Jefferson considered its exploration second only to the one Lewis & Clark had begun of the Missouri River a year before.

This would be the first investigation of the Red River. Jefferson wanted it done in such a manner that it provided an accurate foundation for future explorations. He commended Dunbar for his labor, time, and skill and the excellence of his example. It was for Jefferson’s generation to begin documenting the great rivers, so subsequent generations could “fill up the canvas we begin.”

“The address was fascinating history and presented with a flair
that kept the audience spellbound.”
Conference Chair, National Academic Advising Association, Region 7
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Leave a comment Posted in Exploration, Natural history (science) Tagged , , , , , , , , |

What is on your wish list?

I avail myself with thankfulness of the opportunity your kindness offers of procuring certain articles from London, which I have long wanted, and only waited a special opportunity to acquire. you will find a list of them on the next leaf …

Enclosure

Baxter’s history of England. the 8vo. edn would be preferred, if there be one 0-15-0
Combrun on brewing [this is a 4to. vol. published some 40. or 50. years ago, & much desired.] 0-15-0
Adams’s geometrical & graphical essays by Jones. 2. v. 8vo. 0-14-0
Adams’s introdn to practical astronomy or the use of the Quadrants & Equatorials 0-2-6
Arrowsmith’s 4. sheet map of Europe }on linen with rollers &, varnished about
   do Asia
   do Africa
Olmedilla’s map of S. America by Faden. do. 4-14-6
Jones’s New 18 I. British globes with the new discoveries to 1800. in common plain frames of stained wood 7-7-0
with a compass fitted to both the frames of do. 6.
 & a pr of red leather covers 1-4-0
A new portable drawing board & seat (the board folds up for the pocket & the legs formg. a walking stick) 0-18-0
for the 2. last articles see W. & S. Jones’s catalogue No. 30. Lower Holborn. London.
an additional telescope for an Equitorial. see drawg. 2-2-0
4 double turning plates for an Equatl. to stand on see drawg. 0-10-6
19-8-6

To William Tunnicliffe, April 25, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
What occupies leaders’ minds when they’re not leading?
Jefferson placed an order for items “which I have long wanted.” Governing demanded most of his attention, but sometimes he had the hours after dinner (which was at 3:30 pm) for personal interests, most commonly books and science. This wish list included:
1. One book on history and another on brewing (!)
2. Essays on mathematics and astronomy
3. Maps and globes
4. Telescopes
5. A portable drawing board/walking stick. (This may have been the inspiration for a chair/walking stick of his own invention.)

Jefferson estimated the cost at 20 pounds, about $100 then, perhaps $1,400 and $1,800 today. He was already in considerable debt, but that was rarely a consideration when he really wanted something.

“The manner in which you tailored your comments …
made your presentation all the more meaningful to our members.”
Executive Director, Association of Indiana Counties
Mr. Jefferson will address the interests of your audience members.
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2 Comments Posted in Natural history (science), Personal preferences Tagged , , , , , , , |

I love cat videos, but …

he is sure also that mr Rodney can testify to him that unremitting attentions requisite to those matters which duty will not permit him to neglect, render it impossible for him to suffer himself to be drawn off by philosophical subjects, altho’ infinitely more pleasing to his mind. he is now hurrying to get through his business in order to make a short visit to his family.
To Caesar Rodney, March 8, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Effective leaders choose the essential over the pleasurable.
A “mr Copes” had sent the President information “on the theory of Magnetism.”  Jefferson didn’t respond directly but, writing in the third person, sent his thanks to Copes thru Rodney, a mutual acquaintance.

While matters of science were “infinitely more pleasing to his mind,” the President’s official duties meant he could not indulge all of his intellectual interests. Those would have to wait for retirement four years hence. It was a sacrifice he was willing to make.

“His [Patrick Lee’s] expertise in tailoring his program to your client is very effective.”
Executive Director, Missouri Concrete Association
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1 Comment Posted in Natural history (science)

I would LOVE to, but …

no person on earth can entertain a higher idea than I do of the value of your collection … and I very much wish it could be made public property … you know that one of the great questions which has divided political opinion in this country is Whether Congress are authorised by the constitution to apply the public money to any but the purposes specially enumerated [listed] in the Constitution? those who hold them to the enumeration, have always denied that Congress have any power to establish a National academy …
To Charles Willson Peale, January 16, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Constitutional leaders limit their authority, emotion notwithstanding.
Peale (1741-1827), noted artist and friend of Jefferson’s, established Peale’s American Museum in Philadelphia, to chronicle the nation’s natural (scientific) history. Peale asked his friend if the nation might purchase his museum and move it to Washington to become a national academy.

Jefferson the scientist would have jumped on such an offer but for the Constitution. Instead, he referred to the debate in Congress whether the national government was limited in spending money only on the purposes listed in that document. His opinion was that the majority of Congress agreed with a very limited role.

Though Jefferson loved the idea of acquiring Peale’s museum for the national capital, he held the same opinion as Congress, expressed in a recent post. Perhaps it was his friendship with Peale that kept him from declining the offer personally, as he did in that post, laying the responsibility with the Congress.

Peale’s museum did become the nation’s premier repository of natural history specimens, though it remained a private endeavor. Many plant and animal specimens collected by Lewis & Clark found their permanent home there. Some years later, one of Peale’s sons moved the museum to Baltimore.

“You are an amazingly talent man.
What an incredible portrayal you gave us … in Washington, D.C.”

President, National Speakers Association
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Originally posted at http://ThomasJeffersonLeadership.com/blog/

Leave a comment Posted in Constitutional issues, Natural history (science) Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Where is the beef? RIGHT HERE!

… this morning arrived the quarter you were so kind as to send me of the Mammoth-veal [young beef]. tho’ so far advanced as to be condemned for the table, yet it retained all the beauty of it’s appearance, it’s fatness & enormous size. a repetition of such successful examples of enlarging the animal volume will do more towards correcting the erroneous opinions of European writers as to the effect of our climate on the size of animals, than any thing I have been able to do.
To Michael Fry and Nathan Coleman, October 22, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
All leaders have their little quirks.
In previous posts, we’ve seen Jefferson’s consuming interest in documenting large animals in America. He had an ongoing campaign to refute the assertion of a noted French scientist who claimed the climate in North America produced animals smaller and inferior to those in Europe. Mostly, Jefferson used the largest bones he could find as proof to debunk that theory.
In this letter, he thanked those who sent him one-fourth of a “Mammoth-veal.” It had spoiled and could not be eaten, but he was impressed by its size and quality. Not only that, it gave even better scientific bragging rights to America than he’d be able to document.

“… please accept this letter of thanks and appreciation
for your outstanding presentation …”
University of Missouri, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
Mr. Jefferson will be outstanding for your audience.
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1 Comment Posted in Animals, Natural history (science) Tagged , , , , , , |

No bones about it!

I have to … congratulate you on the prospect you have of obtaining a compleat skeleton of the great incognitum [American mammoth], and [your having] zeal enough to devote himself to the recovery of these great animal monuments … whenever your skeleton is mounted, I will certainly pay it a visit.
To Charles Willson Peale, July 29, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
This leader liked BIG bones, the bigger the better.
Jefferson was interested in everything scientific! He had a particular interest in large bones to impress skeptical Europeans, who thought animals in America were inferior in size to ones on their continent.

Peale discovered this skeleton in New York and had retrieved enough bones to identify his find. The rest of the bones were still buried in a 12 foot pit full of water. Jefferson would order the Navy secretary to loan him a pump and tents to carry on his work!

Since Peale had already spent $300 on this project, needed financial backers. Jefferson wanted to be one but regretted the expenses of establishing himself in Washington City had put him under the greatest “pecuniary restraints” he had known. He hoped that situation would ease, allowing him to contribute before Peale no longer needed it.

This link contains a painting of the skeleton reassembled in Peale’s famous museum in Philadelphia.

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he made as Thomas Jefferson …”
President & CEO, Citizens National Bank
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Leave a comment Posted in Natural history (science)