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Thomas Jefferson: Scientist, Inventor, Gadgeteer 220

Posted by Soulskill
from the celebrate-the-nation-by-blowing-up-a-small-part-of-it dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, whose signing we celebrate today, was considered an expert in architecture, civil engineering, geography, mathematics, ethnology, anthropology, mechanics, and the sciences. Although Jefferson never failed to acknowledge that in science he was 'an amateur,' Jefferson's home at Monticello was filled with examples of his scientific philosophy. An inventor and gadgeteer of great ingenuity, Jefferson's practical innovations or improvements on others inventions included: the swivel chair, the polygraph, letter press, hemp break. pedometer, mouldboard plow, sulky, folding chair, dumb-waiter, double acting doors, and a seven day clock. Throughout his life Jefferson experimented in agriculture with studies in crop rotation, soil cultivation, animal breeding, pest control, agricultural implements and improvement of seeds. Jefferson promoted science as President by recommending to Congress a coast survey to accurately chart the coast of America that later evolved into the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey. Jefferson's expert testimony before Congress led to the establishment of the Naval Observatory and the Hydrographic Office and Jefferson's report to Congress on a plan of coinage and weights and measures based on the decimal system was expanded into the National Bureau of Standards. Jefferson never applied for a patent, which was consistent in his belief in the natural right of all mankind to share useful improvements without restraint."
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Thomas Jefferson: Scientist, Inventor, Gadgeteer

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  • by TemperedAlchemist (2045966) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @08:17AM (#40540417)

    Now I know who to blame for my dizziness. Damn you and your fun contraptions!

  • Being such a influential and powerful person, it is unfortunate that as president Jefferson didn't go on to dismantle the patent system since he saw for himself that 'useful improvements should be shared without restraint".

    It would have saved us all from the broken system we have today where big corps sue each other until one leaves or theres a cross licensing agreement in place to block new players from entering the market.

    • by drcln (98574) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @08:56AM (#40540673)

      Jefferson's position on the granting of patents [1]changed through the years. In his article "Godfather of American Invention," Silvio Bedini notes that in 1787 Jefferson's opposition to monopoly in any form led him to oppose patents.[2] But by 1789, Jefferson's firm opposition had weakened. Writing to James Madison, Jefferson said he approved the Bill of Rights as far as it went, but would like to see the addition of an article specifying that "Monopolies may be allowed to person for their own productions in literature, and their own inventions in the arts, for a term not exceeding --- years, but for no longer term and for no other purpose."[3] Also in 1789, while Jefferson was still in Paris, the first patent act was introduced during the first session of Congress and enacted into law April 10, 1790. Under the new law, the Secretaries of War and State and the Attorney General constituted a three-man review board, with the Secretary of State (Jefferson), playing the leading role. Two months after the law was passed, Jefferson remarked it had "given a spring to invention beyond his conception."[4]

      http://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/patents [monticello.org]

      Thomas Jefferson was the first patent examiner and granted quite a few patents.

      • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @09:58AM (#40541205)

        As the president, or member of his cabinet, you are supposed to Execute the laws even if you don't like them. The exception being unconstitutional laws (as required by your oath). Since the patent law was constitutional, Jefferson did his job and obeyed the constitution. (Something recent presidents ought to learn to do.) That doesn't mean he approved of patents as shown by the fact he could have granted one to himself but never did.

        • As the president, or member of his cabinet, you are supposed to Execute the laws even if you don't like them. The exception being unconstitutional laws (as required by your oath). Since the patent law was constitutional, Jefferson did his job and obeyed the constitution. (Something recent presidents ought to learn to do.) That doesn't mean he approved of patents as shown by the fact he could have granted one to himself but never did.

          He could also have granted himself a golden palace and used the army to defend it. The fact that he didn't doesn't mean that he disapproved of gold or palaces, just as the fact that he never granted a patent to himself doesn't mean that he disapproved of patents... Rather, they show that he wasn't corrupt.

          • by cpu6502 (1960974)

            >>>He could also have granted himself a golden palace and used the army to defend it. The fact that he didn't doesn't mean that he disapproved of gold or palaces

            Yeah sure if we lived in a vacuum. But we ALSO have Jefferson on record that he did not think copyrights/patents should exist. "There is not in nature a natural right to protection of the thinking power we call an idea." He says that nature "designed" ideas to be freely shareable around the world, for the betterment of mankind. So it's

            • But we ALSO have Jefferson on record that he did not think copyrights/patents should exist. "There is not in nature a natural right to protection of the thinking power we call an idea."

              Actually, believe it or not, your post is the sole hit on Google for that phrase. Apparently the robots hit Slashdot a half hour ago.

              On the contrary, what Jefferson said was:

              It has been pretended by some, (and in England especially,) that inventors have a natural and exclusive right to their inventions, and not merely for their own lives, but inheritable to their heirs... If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it.

              The quote, from a letter to Issac McPherson, is in context of a discussion as to whether patents are a natural right, like property ownership, that may be passed on to progeny forever. And Jefferson concludes that:

              Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility, but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society, without claim or complaint from anybody.

              Basically, unlike a right to privacy, or a right to speech, or a right to free exercise of religion, patents are not a natu

          • ust as the fact that he never granted a patent to himself doesn't mean that he disapproved of patents... Rather, they show that he wasn't corrupt.

            Note that he could have granted himself patents on his own inventions quite legally as a patent examiner.

            Which would not require corruption on his part.

        • by Jawnn (445279)

          As the president, or member of his cabinet, you are supposed to Execute the laws even if you don't like them. The exception being unconstitutional laws (as required by your oath). Since the patent law was constitutional, Jefferson did his job and obeyed the constitution. (Something recent presidents ought to learn to do.)

          So..., you're saying that..., so called "signing statements" wherein a President will attempt to put his own spin on legislation passed on brought before him for his signature (or veto) is an inexcusable perversion of the system's separation of powers? Wow. We really are fucked, because there has not been any kind of public outrage that should accompany such an egregious abuse.

      • by jedidiah (1196) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @10:00AM (#40541217) Homepage

        > Thomas Jefferson was the first patent examiner and granted quite a few patents.

        He also DENIED quite a few that would have been approved by the current PTO. He had a much more stringent idea about what should be allowed since in his mind the entire thing was a compromise and all inherently dangerous.

        Patents should be treated like the toxic waste they are.

    • by mschaffer (97223)

      I am certain he didn't believe in the copyright systems, too. Ever read John Locke's works? Jefferson sure did:
      http://www.anesi.com/q0033.htm [anesi.com]

  • by Swampash (1131503) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @08:24AM (#40540473)

    "It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

    "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State."

    "Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law."

    "And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerve in the brain of Jupiter."

    "I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature."

    -- Thomas Jefferson

    • by PRMan (959735) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @09:26AM (#40540921)
      Thomas Jefferson went to church regularly inside the House of Representatives building, where he had built a non-denominational church. http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel06-2.html [loc.gov]

      It is no exaggeration to say that on Sundays in Washington during the administrations of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) and of James Madison (1809-1817) the state became the church. Within a year of his inauguration, Jefferson began attending church services in the House of Representatives. Madison followed Jefferson's example, although unlike Jefferson, who rode on horseback to church in the Capitol, Madison came in a coach and four. Worship services in the House--a practice that continued until after the Civil War--were acceptable to Jefferson because they were nondiscriminatory and voluntary. Preachers of every Protestant denomination appeared. (Catholic priests began officiating in 1826.) As early as January 1806 a female evangelist, Dorothy Ripley, delivered a camp meeting-style exhortation in the House to Jefferson, Vice President Aaron Burr, and a "crowded audience." Throughout his administration Jefferson permitted church services in executive branch buildings. The Gospel was also preached in the Supreme Court chambers. Jefferson's actions may seem surprising because his attitude toward the relation between religion and government is usually thought to have been embodied in his recommendation that there exist "a wall of separation between church and state." In that statement, Jefferson was apparently declaring his opposition, as Madison had done in introducing the Bill of Rights, to a "national" religion. In attending church services on public property, Jefferson and Madison consciously and deliberately were offering symbolic support to religion as a prop for republican government.

      He also granted federal money to spread the gospel to Indians http://vftonline.org/EndTheWall/indian_evangelization.htm [vftonline.org]

      Notice that during his administration, Jefferson appropriated funds for Christian missionaries to evangelize the heathen, as Justice Rehnquist noted: As the United States moved from the 18th into the 19th century, Congress appropriated time and again public moneys in support of sectarian Indian education carried on by religious organizations. Typical of these was Jefferson's treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians, which provided annual cash support for the Tribe's Roman Catholic priest and church. The treaty stated in part: "And whereas, the greater part of said Tribe have been baptized and received into the Catholic church, to which they are much attached, the United States will give annually for seven years one hundred dollars towards the support of a priest of that religion . . . [a]nd . . . three hundred dollars, to assist the said Tribe in the erection of a church." 7 Stat. 79.

      • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @10:37AM (#40541543) Journal

        Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Muslim] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

        Treaty of Tripoli. Passed unanimously by the Senate. Three newspapers printed it whole. Each Senator got a printed copy. Not a single letters to the editor in protest. Not a single sermon recorded anywhere in protest. No protest from anyone in the USA. Almost all the founding fathers were still alive. No concern about it even in their private correspondence. John Adams made a special signing statement about this treaty. Against such specific and unambiguous statements, you look for symbolic meaning on their various acts.

        I am a Hindu. I am here. I have as much rights and as much American as you are. Deal with it.

        • I agree with you about the separation of church and state, but I never hear anyone mention the problem with the Tripoli as evidence for this: we signed the treaty of Tripoli along with sizable ransom payments to convince the Barbary pirates to stop raiding and capturing our ships in the Mediterranean and North Atlantic. So, in essence, we were extorted into signing the treaty of Tripoli by a hostile power that disliked the Christian religion. Perhaps, then, something like the Virginia Statute for Religious [wikipedia.org]

          • My point was not mainly about the Treaty of Tripoli. It is about the dog that did not bark. The lack of public protests. The lack of concern about it in news papers and sermons and private correspondence. There was no, "look what we are forced to agree to by the damn Barbery pirates" anywhere. If the elder statesmen felt extorted into signing it, the local reverend whose sermon will never be heard in Tripoli did not have to constrain himself. He could have blasted it. Or explained to his congregation, "it i
            • Maybe. I have yet to see any actual historical evidence to indicate that there were no protests, but I would not be surprised in either case, since there was little in the way of mass media in 1797. More importantly, though, remember the context: when this treaty was signed, states continued to recognize and fund, with taxpayer dollars, state churches, and some would continue to do so for decades (particularly Connecticut, which disestablished its state church in 1818 and Massachusettes which had disestabli

              • Maybe. I have yet to see any actual historical evidence to indicate that there were no protests, but I would not be surprised in either case, since there was little in the way of mass media in 1797.

                So on one hand even the casual routine activities by the founding fathers are to be analyzed for deep secondary and hidden meanings. "Oh! He said Creator in singular not creators in plural, and don't forget the capitalization!" or "He attended a prayer service on public property" or "They allowed churches to bid for public service contracts". On the other hand, explicit declaration like this article of a treaty ratified unanimously by the Senate without provoking any recorded protest should be dismissed, "m

                • To start, I think you're somehow missing the fact that I am a big big supporter of the separation of church and state. I just don't think that the historical argument for it is very compelling. And I think the historical argument is beside the point anyway. I don't advance any of the conflicting arguments you suggest I advance.

                  And, again, there is no serious debate among constitutional scholars about what the establishment clause meant when it was written: it meant only that the federal government could not

      • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @10:40AM (#40541557)

        The word "God" does not appear in the US Constitution, nor is there any other reference to a deity except in the date on the document "In the year of our Lord 1787".

        Jefferson and Madison (primary author of the Constitution) had the opinion that there needed to be a very strong separation between state and religion. Madison wrote a famous petition when Virginia was considering the issue of state support of religion which included the phrase "not three pence" which has been cited in several Supreme Court decisions regarding the state support of religion.

        The concept of Jefferson granting money to missionaries to spread the gospel to Indians is a MAJOR distortion of the intent. Jefferson needed to convert the Indians from hunter-gatherers to farmers to be able to use the land they owned for the growth of the United States. This required educating the Indians in a new way of life. The fact that the money was granted to missionaries is simply because they were the low bidders; that is they were willing to take less money than anyone else to undertake the job because they had an ulterior motive.

        > It is no exaggeration to say that on Sundays in Washington during the administrations of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) and of James Madison (1809-1817) the state became the church

        Actually that is a gross exaggeration and something both Jefferson and Madison would have been horrified with if anyone had suggested it.

        One needs to understand the physical realities of Washington DC in the early days of the Republic. It was in fact generally a wilderness with a few large buildings dropped in. It wasn't a developed city with substantial infrastructure. If you wanted to hold services the only physical structures available were in fact the government buildings.

        Also - are you aware that Jefferson and Madison were Deists who denied the divinity of Christ and much of the Bible?

    • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @10:12AM (#40541329)

      When Jefferson was alive, his home state had an official religion that all taxpayers were required to support. In the 1800s Jefferson wrote an amendment to the Virginia Constitution to abolish it.

      And I take Jefferson's quote from your post and modify it. If he were alive today he'd probably say, "It does me no injury for my neighbor to have insurance or no insurance. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." He'd also probably re-publish his Kentucky Resolutions declaring that, per the 10th amendment, the power to mandate purchase of a private product is reserved to the People and their Legislatures..... not the Congress.

      >>>Thank Jebus he can't see the US today

      Indeed. In response to the Supreme Court decision he would declare: "When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the centre of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of state governments on the central government, and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated â¦. â" Letter to C. Hammond, July 1821

      I fear, dear Sir, we are now in such another crisis [as when the Alien and Sedition Laws were enacted], with this difference only, that the judiciary branch is alone and single-handed in the present assaults on the Constitution. But its assaults are more sure and deadly, as from an agent seemingly passive and unassuming. â" Letter to Mr. Nicholas, Dec. 1821

    • I'm a foreigner and regular critic of the American government and I think Jefferson is simply one of the best Presidents to ever exist.

    • His point is that this Separation protects religion from the state as much as the state from religion. The distinction he drew was between "actions" and "opinions", one of which is open to reason, debate and consensus, and the other only to the individual's conscience. Would that we made the same distinction between "science" and "creation", but then we'd have nothing left to talk about on /.
    • by DesScorp (410532)

      Thomas Jefferson

      All said or written when he was younger. When he was older ... especially after he was President... he changed his mind on a great many things. Not always completely, but his attitude on religion did a near-180. Jefferson never became a conventional Trinitarian Chirstian, but he did warm up to religion and came to understand it as healthy and necessary in America, to the point where he believed that American liberty might not survive without it. Jefferson recognized that while he wasn't a conventional Chris

  • What the hell is a "hemp break pedometer"?
  • and terrorist. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by quenda (644621) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @08:40AM (#40540555)

    a successful terrorist, otherwise known as a revolutionary.

  • And yet... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cardpuncher (713057) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @08:43AM (#40540585)

    ... he was never able to satisfactorily distinguish between "principle" and 'practice".

    As in the principle of being opposed to slavery while in practice shagging the property.

    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      And thus formed the template for all modern politics, profoundly condemning in others those things that they tacitly cherish the most.

  • by colordev (1764040) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @08:49AM (#40540607) Homepage
    I read somewhere that at the beginning of their revolutionary path Jefferson and many of the founding fathers were using various alias names and operated via proxies to conceal their true identity and goals. Ok, if they had been more open of their goals and identities they would have been shot and not remembered. Right to be anonymous, maybe it should have been written into constitution.

    maybe EFF could use that as a propaganda tool
    • by colordev (1764040)
      the Register [theregister.co.uk] said this about Jefferson's and his friends alias usage

      I've been reading Ron Chernow's exceptional "Washington: A Life" and have been struck by how venomous the press was in the days of the early republic – and how it was made more so by the common practice of prominent men taking pseudonyms to launch near-sadistic attacks on their opposition.

      This wasn't just relegated to the rabble of 18th Century America, either. Washington's own cabinet member, Thomas Jefferson, was one of his harshest anonymous critics, along with James Madison and others among the founding fathers. The attacks were often willfully false, cruel, and only possible because of their anonymous nature. Jefferson, indeed, opted to launch his attacks through intermediaries, rather than sully his own hands.

      However, the same anonymity that drove Washington to distraction (and an earnest desire to leave office after just one term, though he was persuaded to remain for two) was also critical in fostering the republic in the first place.

      Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay used pseudonyms to argue the case for a constitution and a harmonizing of interests in a grand republic, rather than a weak federation of sovereign states. They needed anonymity to be able to argue freely, allowing their arguments to be decoupled from the actual people advancing them.

      Indeed, this Janus-faced anonymity problem/opportunity is well-expressed by Madison's writings. He did profound good with anonymity in the Federalist Papers, and then put anonymity to destructive use against Washington throughout his presidency.

      As much as I hate the bile that web anonymity encourages, it's the price we have always paid to ensure free speech. Sometimes that speech is hateful and wrong. But that isn't sufficient justification to close mouths to establish a marketing bonanza for Google(+) or anyone else.

      Happy Birthday USA

  • In the spirit of Independence Day, there's an article on WSJ about what life was like in 1776 [wsj.com], in case you want to see just how much has changed since Jefferson's times and why we no longer have Jeffersons.

  • Amazing man (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Stanislav_J (947290) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @09:03AM (#40540729)

    It was not quite hyperbole when JFK jokingly addressed a group of Nobel winners at the White House: "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House - with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."

    Man, he accomplished so much, yet still found time to regularly impregnate the help!

    • by celle (906675)

      "Man, he accomplished so much, yet still found time to regularly impregnate the help!"

            As with Bill Clinton, fucking the public was the job and fucking the help was for fun. Republicans are just the opposite.

  • Um, Lewis and Clark? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by portforward (313061) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @09:04AM (#40540741)

    If you are going to mention the coastal survey, why not also mention the Lewis and Clark expedition? The "Corps of Discovery" was a huge cartographic, biological, geological, and sociological enterprise. They took the best scientific equipment they could, charted rivers and mountains, kept daily records, and brought back samples. They didn't know what was in the Rocky Mountains, and Jefferson told them to find Mastodons.

    Lewis was Jefferson's personal secretary, and Jefferson made sure that Lewis had all the scientific training possible at the time. I'd say that pushing through the funding and planning of the mapping of the the Rocky Mountains, Missouri River and Columbia River ranks up there with the dumb waiter.

    • It's interesting how Jefferson wanted them to seek out animals known only from fossils, like the woolly mammoth and giant ground sloth. He assumed there must still be living examples, for some reason; I think it was part of the intellectual mindset of the time.

    • by kermidge (2221646)

      Those and more were in the [ahem] article.

  • At the same time a young Abraham Lincoln was just starting his vampire-hunting career
  • by k(wi)r(kipedia) (2648849) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @09:31AM (#40540945)

    Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, whose signing we celebrate today, was considered an expert in architecture, civil engineering, geography, mathematics, ethnology, anthropology, mechanics, and the sciences.

    Not to take anything away from the Man, but being a polymath [wikipedia.org] appears to be a necessary qualification to be a national hero, one of the Founding Fathers, or the Great Leader [wikipedia.org] of a country. Why is it necessary to prove that a man is a larger-than-life expert in everything?

  • ... he sure did a great job as the author of the Patent Act and first Patent Examiner. Isn't it somewhat more reasonable to say that he never patented his own inventions because, y'know, he'd be the one examining them and granting the patent and that would be a huge ethical breach and lead to charges of corruption?
  • Metric System (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @09:36AM (#40540995)

    The Constitution contains a clause empowering the government to establish a system of weights and measures.

    Jefferson, in part because of his experience as a surveyor using chains divided into 100 links, and also from reading 'Disme: the art of tenths by Simon Stevin' was familiar with the benefits of doing measurement calculations in decimal units, and proposed that the US adopt a decimal system of weights and measures.

    Unfortunately Congress did not appreciate the usefulness of this idea and failed to act on the proposal setting a really bad precedent.

    As ambassadors to France he and Ben Franklin had access to French intellectuals and brought up this topic to the French. Whether the French would have developed this independently or not I don't know. Certainly they may have known about the idea from other sources.

    But if Congress had heeded his ideas the US would have had a decimal measurement system before any other nation. Jefferson may also have been the catalyst for the French adoption of their decimal measurement system.

    Because of Jefferson the US had the first decimal system of any type in its currency thanks to Jefferson, predating the metric system.

    So please add this quote to your list:

      ⦠every branch to the same decimal ratio, thus bringing the calculations of the principal affairs of
    life within the arithmetic of every man who can multiply and divide plain numbers.
                          - Thomas Jefferson

    • According to Andro Linklater, Jefferson actually proposed a form of the metric system where the unit of length was something that could be determined in a well equipped laboratory - the rod with a period of one second at 45 degrees latitude. The French decided on the length of the Paris meridian, which effectively required the meter standard to be an artifact (i.e. the platinum iridium bar with two scratches on it. "Science" (metrology) didn't catch up with Jefferson until 1960, when the meter was redefined

  • In my visit to Montecello, the factoid that impressed me most was the meat ration of his workers (yes, slaves). It was half a pound a week! Three quarter pounder burgers are routinely on the menu now a days. Most of us work in air conditioned offices clicking keyboards and mouse. Even the blue collar workers have so many machines assisting them it is practically a walk in the park compared to the work done by Teejay's workers. But they made do with just half a pound of meat!
  • Monticello (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dan East (318230) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @12:20PM (#40542301) Homepage Journal

    Monticello is really worth a visit. I thought the clock at the main entrance to the building was fascinating. It uses weights that look like cannon balls to power the mechanism. However, there wasn't enough room for the weights to descend downward to allow the clock to run for a full week at a time. Jefferson's solution? Cut holes in the floor and allow the weights to travel down into the cellar / basement area. He decided to leave the weights exposed because boxing them in would have blocked some of the windows. However, by leaving them exposed he was able to make additional use of them - he marked the days of the week on the wall, so that the position of the weight showed the day of the week.

    It's also interesting that the clock has two faces - one on the interior of the house, and the other above the main entrance on the exterior. Jefferson decided that the exterior face should only have an hour hand. Now, the reasoning given by the tour guides is that the slaves and farm hands didn't need to know the minute, only the hour - precision to the minute wasn't necessary for them. However, the more I've thought about it, I think Jefferson had a more practical reason in mind. With two hands, and from a far distance, it's difficult to make out which is the hour and which is the minute. With just an hour hand it would be easier to tell the time from a very far distance. That fits in more with his sense of invention and practicality.

  • If the Texas School Board Association had its way, school pupils in Texas would never hear of Jefferson. Instead, they'd learn how great a contributor to America was (wait for it...) Phyllis Schlafly.

    It is truly a strange world in which we live.

  • no vampire hunting? not even as a hobby?

  • along w the rest of the founders he was an avid supporter of growing hemp and smoking weed

    and yes he was jailed in turkey for smuggling mandarin hemp seed

  • He was also a non-Christian Deist at best, who perhaps accepted a Creator but considered Jesus merely a great philosopher. Reflecting those beliefs, late in life he penned what is now called the Jefferson Bible, his own personal rewrite of the New Testament which excluded what he termed the "mystical" elements but retained the ethical and philosophical teachings of Jesus which he admired. Allegations of atheism apparently dogged him throughout his political career, and he was quite keen to keep his true e

  • Wasn't the declaration signed on the 3rd?

    It was first read to the people on the 4th, and thus celebrations happen on that day, but the actual signing was the 3rd...

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