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July 10 1812: Jefferson and Chemistry


On July 10 1812, Thomas Jefferson writes to Thomas Cooper about his introductory lecture on chemistry. Jefferson is particularly interested in the practical or domestic applications of chemistry. He writes: "I have wished to see their science applied to domestic objects, to malting, for instance, brewing, making cider, to fermentation and distillation generally, to the making of bread, butter, cheese, soap, to the incubation of eggs." Jefferson's letter is reproduced below.
To Thomas Cooper.
Monticello, July 10, 1812.

Dear Sir
I received by your last post through Mr. Hall, of Baltimore, a copy of your introductory lecture to a course of chemistry, for which accept my thanks.  I have just entered on the reading of it, and perceive that I have a feast before me.  I discover from an error of the binder, that my copy has duplicates of pages 122, 123, 126, 127, and wants altogether, pages 121, 124, 125, 128, and foreseeing that every page will be a real loss, and that the book has been printed at Carlisle, I will request your directions to the printer to enclose those four pages under cover to me at this place, near Milton.  You know the just esteem which attached itself to Dr. Franklin’s science, because he always endeavored to direct it to something useful in private life. The chemists have not been attentive enough to this.  I have wished to see their science applied to domestic objects, to malting, for instance, brewing, making cider, to fermentation and distillation generally, to the making of bread, butter, cheese, soap, to the incubation of eggs, etc.  And I am happy to observe some of these titles in the syllabus of your lecture. I hope you will make the chemistry of these subjects intelligible to our good house-wives.  Glancing over the pages of your book, the last one caught my attention, where you recommend to students the books on metaphysics.  Not seeing De Tutt Tracy’s name there, I suspected you might not have seen his work.  His first volume on Ideology appeared in 1800.  I happen to have a duplicate of this, and will send it to you.  Since that, has appeared his second volume on grammar and his third on logic.  They are considered as holding the most eminent station in that line; and considering with you that a course of anatomy lays the best foundation for understanding these subjects, Tracy should be preceded by a mature study of the most profound of all human compositions, Cabanis’s "Rapports du Physique et du moral de l’homme."

In return for the many richer favors received from you, I send you my little tract on the batture of New Orleans, and Livingston’s claim to it.  I was at a loss where to get it printed, and confided it to the editor of the Edinburgh Review, re-printed at New York.  But he has not done it immaculately.  Although there are typographical errors in your lecture, I wonder to see so difficult a work so well done at Carlisle.  I am making a fair copy of the catalogue of my library, which I mean to have printed merely for the use of the library.  It will require correct orthography in so many languages, that I hardly know where I can get it done.  Have you read the Review of Montesquieu, printed by Duane? I hope it will become the elementary book of the youth at all our colleges.  Such a reduction of Montesquieu to his true value had been long wanting in political study. Accept the assurance of my great and constant esteem and respect.

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