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Thumbnail of Thomas Jefferson (source)
Thomas Jefferson
(13 Apr 1743 - 4 Jul 1826)

American statesman, astronomer, scholar and inventor who wrote the Declaration of Independence (1776) and organized the Lewis and Clark expedition (1803). His only full-length book, Notes on the State of Virginia contains an outline of the geography, flora and fauna of Virginia, and established his reputation as a scholar and a pioneering American scientist.


Thomas Jefferson
“Nature intended me for the tranquil pursuits of science”

Illustrated Quote - Medium (500 x 250 px)

Thumbnail, portrait of Thomas Jefferson holding a fossil claw, head and shoulders.
Jefferson holding fossil claw (source)
“Nature intended me for the tranquil pursuits of science, by rendering them my supreme delight. But the enormities of the times in which I have lived, have forced me to take a part in resisting them, and to commit myself on the boisterous ocean of political passions.”
— Thomas Jefferson
In letter to Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours (1809)

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The fourth quadrennial U.S. presidential election was held from Friday, 31 Oct 1800 to Wednesday, 3 Dec 1800. Individual states scheduled elections at different times. The voting system of the times was flawed, and problematic, but the result was decided on 17 Feb 1801: Thomas Jefferson had defeated President John Adams (for whom he had served as Vice President) and became the nation’s third President. The campaign had been contentious and ugly, so he had the protection of a contingent of sword-bearing soldiers as he was escorted to his inauguration on 4 Mar 1801. Jefferson held the office for two terms, which ended on 4 Mar 1809.

Shortly before leaving the Washington, Jefferson wrote from there to Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours on 2 Mar 1809 about the embargo in place on exports from the U.S. With his retirement imminent, he mentioned his successor was to be James Madison. Jefferson was preparing to return to his Virginia estate and become, as he described to Dupont, “the hermit of Monticello.” This is how Jefferson described his feelings about leaving the White House:

“I am now leaving to be settled by my friend Mr. Madison. Within a few days I retire to my family, my books and farms; and having gained the harbor myself, I shall look on my friends still buffeting the storm, with anxiety indeed, but not with envy. Never did a prisoner, released from his chains, feel such relief as I shall on shaking off the shackles of power.

“Nature intended me for the tranquil pursuits of science, by rendering them my supreme delight. But the enormities of the times in which I have lived, have forced me to take a part in resisting them, and to commit myself on the boisterous ocean of political passions.

I thank God for the opportunity of retiring from them without censure, and carrying with me the most consoling proofs of public approbation.”

P.S. du Pont was a French political economist, public administrator, and reformer. He was one of the diplomats in the long negotiations (1783) after the American Revolution. In 1799, he moved his family to America and befriended Thomas Jefferson. Du Pont developed strong ties with industry and government. He helped his son Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, a chemist, establish a gunpowder mill on the Brandywine River near Wilmington, Delaware. This business thrived, and the E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company became one of America’s most important scientific industries.

Letter to Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours (2 Mar 1809). In Thomas Jefferson and John P. Foley (ed.) The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia (1990), 766. (source)


See also:
  • Science Quotes by Thomas Jefferson.
  • 13 Apr - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Jefferson's birth.
  • Jefferson As A Man Of Science - Preface to The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 19.
  • Thomas Jefferson on Education and Science from a report on establishing the University of Virginia (1818).
  • Thomas Jefferson - context of quote “To indulge in the rich fields of nature” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • Thomas Jefferson - context of quote “To indulge in the rich fields of nature” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Thomas Jefferson - context of quote “The plough ... is really like sorcery” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • Thomas Jefferson - context of quote “The plough ... is really like sorcery” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Thomas Jefferson - context of quote “Chemistry … among the most useful of sciences” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • Thomas Jefferson - context of quote “Chemistry … among the most useful of sciences” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Thomas Jefferson - context of quote “The patient … sometimes gets well in spite of the medicine. ” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • Thomas Jefferson - context of quote “The patient … sometimes gets well in spite of the medicine. ” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Thomas Jefferson on Quack Medicine - from Letter to Dr. Caspar Wistar (1807)
  • Thomas Jefferson - context of quote “Nature intended me for the tranquil pursuits of science” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Thomas Jefferson - context of quote “The ocean ... like the air, is the common birthright of mankind” - Medium image (500 x 250 px)
  • Thomas Jefferson - context of quote “The ocean ... like the air, is the common birthright of mankind” - Large image (800 x 400 px)
  • Thomas Jefferson: Scientist, by Edwin Thomas Martin. - book suggestion.

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
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- 90 -
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- 40 -
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- 30 -
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