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REFLECTIONS ON MONTICELLO

The third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826), was a brilliant polymath, as enthusiastic about science and technology as he was about political philosophy. As a student at North America’s second oldest university, the College of William and Mary, he had studied the Law, but claimed that his favorite teacher had been the Scottish born physics professor, William Small, after whom the institution’s physics laboratories are now named. President John F. Kennedy, once hosting 41 Nobel Prize Winners at the White House, remarked "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House — with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."

Jefferson served as Secretary of State, Ambassador to France, Vice-President for one term (1797-1801), and President for two terms (1801-1809). He is credited for the Louisiana Purchase (from France), virtually doubling the size of the infant United States, and commissioning the Lewis and Clark expedition that revealed the beauty and the westward extent of North America. He personally prided himself as the founder of the University of Virginia. Despite these remarkable accomplishments, it is for his wisdom and eloquence that he is perhaps best known among Americans. As the principle author of the Declaration of Independence, he wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” (These are just 35 words of the 1320 contained in the Declaration)

Monticello, the home that Jefferson built for his family on a hilltop in Charlottesville, Virginia, was influenced by the work of the Paduan architect Andrea Palladio (1508–1580), and became the most famous example of Jeffersonian neo-Classical architecture in the United States. The edifice puts on display Jefferson's talents as an architect, as well as many of his myriad inventions. Although construction of his architectural masterpiece commenced in 1768 and lasted four decades, he was absent for most of this time while in the service of his country. Accordingly, the best description of his beloved house is that for him it served as an occasional getaway and ultimately his retirement home.

Over the past weekend, I visited Monticello with close friends who were visiting from Memphis, Tennessee. They happened to be good friends of the recently retired Director of Monticello. I dedicate this photograph to the Director and his wife, and to our guests from Memphis. Thomas Jefferson was a tall man, measuring 1.90 m (6’3”) in height. In the ws can be seen two ladies posing with a life-size statue of Thomas Jefferson.

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Additional Photos by Bulent Atalay (batalay) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6035 W: 457 N: 10452] (35157)
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