Tag Archives: Science

Some will always argue with the facts!

altho’ these facts [about the nature of the yellow fever] are now palpable to every unprejudiced observer, yet the disposition in men to schismatize [divide into strongly opposed camps] & dispute, has produced some contradiction to them … among the advantages to be derived from the progress of science, I am happy to observe that chemistry promises a more speedy & effectual mode of disinfecting the air of contagious houses & vessels than the oppressive practice of Quarentine a barbarous continuation of antient ignorance & habit.
Thomas Jefferson to Giovanni Fabbroni, April 30, 1806

In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders know facts won’t convince some people.
Fabbroni (1752-1822), was an Italian scientist with specialties in agronomy and chemistry. He and Jefferson had been friends and correspondents for 30 years. Jefferson offered what was known about the yellow fever in America, so Fabbroni could compare it with similar illnesses in Italy. Unfortunately, people had a natural inclination to ignore the facts and dispute those who disagreed.

Still believing the cause of the disease to be foul air, the science-minded Jefferson held that chemistry, an attempt to change the environment, would be a more effective cure than quarantine, an attempt to change human behavior.

Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak to your audience.
Call 573-657-2739

NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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I love that stuff, but duty prevents me!

Th: Jefferson … asks the favor of mr Rodney to be the bearer of his thanks to mr Copes for his communication on the theory of Magnetism … 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 [scientific] 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 Augustus Rodney, March 8, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Focused leaders have to say “No.” to favored things.
Thomas Jefferson wanted to thank “mr Copes” for his scientific material that had come into the President’s hands. He did not know where to write to Copes and asked his young friend Rodney (1772-1824), a Delaware lawyer and political ally, to do so for him.

Jefferson loved all things related to science! Those subjects were “infinitely more pleasing to his mind” than politics and government. Yet, he knew his public duties required his “unremitting attentions.” In addition to conveying his thanks to Copes, he asked Rodney to explain why he could not give Copes’ theory the attention it deserved, attention he would have preferred to give.

Family and science were Jefferson’s twin loves. While he could sidestep scientific interests, he would not do so with his remaining daughter and his growing brood of grandchildren. At the moment of thanking Copes, he was trying to clear the decks for “a short visit to his family” at Monticello.

“…the addition of first person interpretation was new to the conference this year …
Thomas Jefferson and William Clark have set the standard for future conferences.”
Director Of Education, Indiana Historical Society
Either Thomas Jefferson or Lewis & Clark’s William Clark will set a high standard for your meeting!
Invite either man to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
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I cannot do this worthwhile thing.

… the theatre is proposed to be built by private individuals, it is to be their private property, for their own emolument, & may be conveyed to any other private individual. to cede to them public grounds for such a purpose1 whether appropriated, or open spaces, would be a donation of it: and I do not find that the President has a power to make such a donation of the public lands … knowing, as I do, that this enterprise is undertaken with no view to their private benefit, but is really a sacrifice to advance the interest of the place, I am sorry that the accomodation desired cannot be obtained from the public, and that their funds are to be diminished either by a purchase of the site, or a ground rent for it. but I see no remedy…
To Thomas Munroe, April 7, 1803

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Conscientious leaders respect the limits to their authority.
Munroe was Superintendent of the nation’s capital city. He had written a letter to the President with proposed designs for streets and tree-plantings. He concluded with an appeal made to him by private citizens seeking a donation of public land for the building of a theater.

Jefferson responded that it was a private endeavor in every way, including the opportunity for profit. He had no power to donate public lands for private use. He acknowledged that the purpose of the theater was not for “private benefit” but public good, that his denial of a land donation meant some of the funds that could have gone toward that public good must be used instead on a building site. Yet, “I see no remedy,” he replied.

The theater was subsequently built on land donated by an individual.

“It was a great pleasure to have you return to the Old Courthouse …
We look forward to working with you again …”
Superintendent, Jefferson National Expansion Museum, St. Louis
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak at your meeting,
either for the first time … or again.

Call 573-657-2739
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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 …


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

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.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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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.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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Who exactly is in charge here? Part 11 D (OR Yours is yours. Mine is mine. We do not mix well.)

 [This is the 14th post in a series abstracted from Jefferson’s famous “My Head and My Heart” dialogue written to Maria Cosway. This is part of Heart’s final reply.]

Heart: When nature assigned us [both Head and Heart] the same habitation, she gave us over it a divided empire. To you she allotted the field of science; to me that of morals. When the circle is to be squared, or the orbit of a comet to be traced; when the arch of greatest strength, or the solid of least resistance is to be investigated, take up the problem; it is yours; nature has given me no cognizance of it. In like manner, in denying to you the feelings of sympathy, of benevolence, of gratitude, of justice, of love, of friendship, she has excluded you from their controul. To these she has adapted the mechanism of the heart.

Morals were too essential to the happiness of man to be risked on the incertain combinations of the head. She laid their foundation therefore in sentiment, not in science.
To Maria Cosway, October 12, 1786

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders correctly discern between realms of science and morality.
Jefferson’s Heart freely gave Head total control over anything scientific or mathematic. Nature had decreed it so. Heart had no knowledge of them.

In contrast, nature gave to the Heart alone expressions of love, kindness, justice and friendship, Since these “morals” were necessary for man’s happiness, they were founded “in sentiment, not in science,” in the Heart, not in the Head.

The next post will give two examples of moral issues, involving a battle-worn soldier and a poor woman, where Head stepped out of his territory and told Heart what to do and why. Heart went along and was wrong on both counts. Only one could be corrected.

Invite Thomas Jefferson to inspire your audience!
Call 573-657-2739
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Can there be cooperation in the midst of war?

I mention these things, to shew the nature of the correspondence which is carried on between societies instituted for the benevolent purpose of communicating to all parts of the world whatever useful is discovered in any one of them. These societies are always in peace, however their nations may be at war. Like the republic of letters, they form a great fraternity spreading over the whole earth, and their correspondence is never interrupted by any civilized nation. Vaccination has been a late and remarkable instance of the liberal diffusion of a blessing newly discovered.
To John Hollins, February 19, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders encourage societies for the public good.
Prior to this excerpt, Jefferson described the sharing of seeds, wool, a new weaving machine and a plow between men, himself included, in benevolent societies in different nations. All of these items were for improving the human condition.
Even if tangible items were not exchanged, a regular flow of letters between men in these societies kept their contemporaries in other nations up-to-date with the latest discoveries in the scientific realm. Jefferson himself was president of the American Philosophical Society, America’s premier society of learned men, from 1797-1815. (APS, founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743, the year of Jefferson’s birth, still thrives today.)
Jefferson extolled the value of such societies, a “great fraternity” which continued its humanitarian efforts even when their nations were at war. They had recently lent their efforts to promoting public health through vaccination.
Jefferson wrote this letter just two weeks before retiring the Presidency. His joy at finally abandoning politics for family, farming, books and science at Monticello must have been palpable!

“We especially appreciated your ability to tailor the presentation
to fit the theme of the conference …”

President, Linn State Technical College

For a presentation tailored to your interests, invite Thomas Jefferson to speak!
Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739

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We did our part. Now, you do yours.

We have spent the prime of our lives in procuring them the precious blessing of liberty. Let them spend theirs in showing that it is the great parent of science and of virtue; and that a nation will be great in both, always in proportion as it is free.
To Doctor Willard, March 24, 1789

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders understand that freedom is the basis for all other advancements.
Dr. Joseph Willard was the president of Harvard University. Jefferson thanked the University for his honorary degree, and commented on issues in literature, mathematics and chemistry. He wrote about Thomas Paine’s design for an iron bridge and Mr. Rumsey’s for steam powered navigation. He speculated on how much more there was yet to learn, “What a field we have at our doors to signalize ourselves in!”
Jefferson commended Dr. Willard and his institution, “so eminent a seat of science,” for their work in producing young men who would explore such wonders. Then he wrote the sentences above:
1. We gave our best years to procure the “precious blessing of liberty” that allows for such exploration.
2. With this freedom, let your students now labor to develop in both science and virtue.
3. These qualities will flourish only to the degree that freedom flourishes.
4. It is freedom and the advantages that flow from it that truly make a nation great.

Mr. Jefferson will inspire your audience to remain free … and be great!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739

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