“I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together in the White House—with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”
-John F. Kennedy
Thomas Jefferson was one of America’s first Renaissance Men.
An avid self-study; a rabid learner; a fearless experimenter; a stickler for accuracy and excellence. His knowledge ran broad and deep. His interests varied and eccentric. His hands and heart were in the earth – in plants and fruit trees and gardening, as much as in freedom and furniture. He loved liberty and horseback riding and a fine cider as much as fine art, architecture, and food. He was great friends with the Law of Economy and seemed to refine or even improve nearly everything he focused his great heart and mind upon.
There is a term, a label if you will, to describe a man of history such as Thomas Jefferson. Those whose genius seemed boundless. A polymath. Greatness, for these Souls, was not a culmination of a life’s work – a peak or apex, but rather a mark they often hit often, if not daily. In history there is the Egyptian Imotep, and the Greeks Pythagoras, Aristotle, and Ptolemy. Fellow Founding Father Benjamin Franklin and the great Italian, Leonardo Da Vinci, who is perhaps the most famous.
A short list of Jefferson’s “genius” includes:
- Agriculture – Jefferson received several honorary degrees for his work in the “garden”
- Archeology – TJ is considered the father of scientific archeology in America
- Architecture – self-taught, Jefferson’s Palladian influenced, neo-classical style was practical as well. Monticello is a marvel to look at today. Imagine what it looked like to 18th century America! It must have looked like something downloaded from another planet!
- Art – not known for painting, TJ was nonetheless a connoisseur, and was particularly fond of portraits, as is evidenced by the Parlor at Monticello.
- Books – anyone who can sell 7,000 books to the government and then go about and rebuild your collection loves books!
- Economics – invented our system of money (though his genius apparently did not extend to personal finance!)
- Education – the father of Mr. Jefferson’s University was all about education – not just his grandchildren either
- Food – his tastes ranged from the simple to the fancy; popularized the first ice cream in America
- Geography – just ask Mr. Lewis and Mr. Clark, as well as that French guy he conned convinced to sell the Midwest to us
- History – he was big on the Ancients – Greece and Rome
- Languages – literate in Anglo-Saxon, English, French, Greek, Italian, Latin, and Spanish. Was fascinated by Native American languages as well
- Law – few people know that Jefferson was a successful lawyer, trying over 100 cases a year
- Mechanical Devices – credited with only one invention, TJ was a master at practical, yet artful devices. Monticello is full of them
- Natural History/Paleontology
- Weights and Measures