Literary Dimensions Seminar
Networks of knowledge that bridged disciplines and fostered the communication and cross fertilization of ideas among scholars and others have been very much a part of academic life in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In the last few decades, scientists, philosophers, anthropologists and historians have looked back at earlier examples of scholarly communication and intellectual networks as they thought about their own. This talk looks at Thomas Jefferson's network of knowledge, where it came from, and how he fit into an international network of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century natural philosophers. How did he become part of that world? How did it shape his life? And what contributions did he make? From his childhood, hiking on the banks of the Rivanna River and observing the natural world with his father; to his years in Williamsburg at the College of William and Mary and studying law with George Wythe; to his time in Philadelphia, where he made the acquaintance of astronomer and inventor David Rittenhouse, physician Benjamin Rush, and botanist-explorer John Bartram; to his presidency and retirement, Jefferson maintained life-long friendships and correspondence with national and international scientific communities. This talk examines the relationships that formed the foundation of his own network of knowledge, which he nurtured, used, and passed on to future generations.