|ID||Michel: 940 Scott: 1278 Stanley Gibbons: Yvert: UPU: N/A Category: Co|
|Stamps in set||1|
|Value||1c - Thomas Jefferson|
|Size (width x height)|
|Layout||50 stamps per sheet|
|Products||FDC x 1|
|Issuing Authority||U.S. Postal Servic|
Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States, was probably our most accomplished man in public life as well as the most versatile. President John F. Kennedy, while entertaining a group of Nobel Laureates, quipped that this was probably the greatest gathering of intellect in the White House since Jefferson dined there alone.
During his lifetime, Jefferson was an infallible oracle to half the population and a dangerous demagogue to the other half, but was universally recognized as a man of science. A fine mathematician and astronomer, he could reckon latitude and longitude as well as a ship captain. He calculated the eclipse of 1778 with great accuracy and was able to make suggestions for the improvement of almanacs on the equation of time. Jefferson was considered expert in anatomy, civil engineering, physics, mechanics, meteorology, architecture, and botany. He was able to read and write Greek, Latin, French, Spanish and Italian. He was recognized as a pioneer in ethnology, geography, anthropology and our subject paleontology. Because of his wide range of knowledge, Jefferson was ahead of his time in several lines of inquiry and advanced of contemporary scientists. Even so, Jefferson never failed to acknowledge that in science he was "an amateur."
One of the first glimpses of Jefferson's interest in paleontology can be found in his Notes on the State of Virginia. It is his most impressive
The entry room at Monticello had been turned by Jefferson into a natural history museum which showed his great interest in fossils. George Ticknor, when a young man, visited Jefferson in 1815 and describes the entry hall:
On one side hang the head and horns of an elk, a deer, and a buffalo; another is covered with curiosities which Lewis and Clark found in their wild and perilous expedition. On the third, among many other striking matters, was the head of a mammoth, or, as Cuvier calls it, a mastodon, containing only os frontis, Mr. Jefferson tells me, that has yet been found. (Letter by George Ticknor, 1818 as cited in Rosenberger, 1953). These fossils were from the famous cache at Big Bone Lick, Kentucky. Jefferson had commissioned William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore the site, at his own expense. He kept the above mentioned specimens "for a special kind of Cabinet I have at Monticello." Jefferson's was particularly proud do this collection and considered them the prize of his natural history collection. The majority of the bones he sent on to the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia.
This interest in paleontology often brought him the ridicule and wrath of his political opponents to whom scientific investigation meant neglect of his proper duties. This was particularly true in 1808 when the excitement over the embargo of commerce and the complications with Great Britain were at it height, he had a wagon load of specimens sent to the White House. Here he laid them out in the unfinished East Room, nicknamed the "Bone or Mastodon Room." "Mr. Mammoth" as Jefferson was nicknamed was also roasted in poem for his delight in fossils.
Paleontology seems to have been Jefferson's main interest in a pure science. Some such as Frederick Lucas and Henry Osborn have dubbed him the "Father of Paleontology". They felt that Jefferson laid the foundations of the science with his refutation of Buffon's degeneracy theory, his invention of "stratigraphical" observation which established the fundamental principle of scientific excavation and his work on the Megalonyx.
There are some though, who feel that Jefferson does not deserve the title. They argue that the entire basis of his beliefs about paleontology were mistaken since he denied that any animal species could ever become extinct. "Such is the economy of nature, that in no instance can be produced her having permitted any race of her animals to become extinct." It is this reasoning which allowed Jefferson to put forth the theory that there was a large herd of mammoths wandering wild in the Mississippi Valley and one of the reasons he sponsored expeditions to the West.
Perhaps Jefferson's greatest contribution to paleontology is that while President he helped to make it a respectable pursuit and was largely responsible through the American Philosophical Society for bringing together the materials necessary for its advancement. As the first citizen of the young nation, Jefferson's passion brought prestige and respectability to the young science.
|Used Cover||Stripe with stamps without perforation on top and button sides|
References: Early America
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Latest update 16.02.2016
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