Thirty years ago TODAY, May 5, 1990, I made my first presentation as Thomas Jefferson to the American Diabetes Association, Missouri Affiliate Annual Meeting in Jefferson City, Missouri. Woo woo!
Th: Jefferson presents his friendly respects to Mr. Rittenhouse. He has two young ladies at his house whose time hangs heavily on their hands, and the more so, as their drawing master cannot attend them. If Mr. Rittenhouse then does not take his Camera obscura with him into the country, Th:J. will thank him to permit them the use of it a few days, that they may take a few lessons in drawing from nature.
Thomas Jefferson to David Rittenhouse, September 6, 1793
In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about the 1793 yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia, the nation’s capital at the time, which killed 5,000 of the city’s 50,000 residents.
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders can be out of their league at teaching teenagers!
This is Jefferson’s entire letter to an old friend. Rittenhouse (1732-1796) was an extraordinary scientist, mathematician and astronomer. At the time of this letter, he was Director of the U.S. Mint.
Jefferson needed help. For safety reasons, he had removed his 15 year old daughter and her friend from their boarding school in Philadelphia, and now dealt with a familiar problem facing sequestered teens, “time weighs heavily on their hands.” He asked to borrow Rittenhouse’s camera obscura to occupy them in their drawing education.