Thomas Jefferson: A man interested in everything

From Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

Two solid paragraphs from Gordon S. Wood on Thomas Jefferson’s endless curiosity.

He was interested in more things and knew about more things than any other American. When he was abroad he traveled to more varied places in Europe than Adam’s ever did, and kept a detailed record of all that he had seen, especially of the many vineyards he visited.

Wood, Gordon S. Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. New York: Penguin Press, 2017. pg. 10

Not sure how one measures that Jefferson was interested in more things, and knew more things than any other American, but I trust Mr. Wood here. Also, Jefferson’s record keeping is legendary.

He amassed nearly seven thousand books and consulted them constantly; he wanted both his library and his mind to embrace virtually all of human knowledge, and he came as close to that embrace as an eighteenth century American could. Every aspect of natural history and science fascinated him.

Wood, Gordon S. Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. New York: Penguin Press, 2017. pg. 10, 11

It wasn’t enough that Thomas Jefferson owned seven thousand books. He consulted them regularly.

He knew about flowers, plants, birds, and animals, and he had a passion for all facets of agriculture. He had a fascination for meteorology, archaeology, and the origins of the American Indians. He loved mathematics and sought to apply mathematical principles to almost everything, from coinage and weights and measures to the frequency of rebellions and the length of people’s lives. He was an inveterate tinkerer and inventor and was constantly thinking of newer and better ways of doing things, whether it was plowing, the copying of handwriting, or measuring distances.

Wood, Gordon S. Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. New York: Penguin Press, 2017. pg. 11

It’s hard to think of any modern, public person, with Jefferson’s insatiable appetite for “all of human knowledge”.


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