Thomas Jefferson Papers

Robert Patterson to Thomas Jefferson, 10 May 1809

From Robert Patterson

Philada May 10th 1809.


My younger son, Robert Maskill, having gone thro the usual course of collegiate studies in our Seminary, and of medical studies under Dr Barton, and obtained degrees both in the Arts & in medicine; has devoted the last twelve months chiefly to the study of mineralogy under Mr Godon; in which, it is said, he has made considerable proficiency. He has a strong desire of visiting some parts of Europe, particularly Paris, with a view to his further improvement from the opportunities which he would then enjoy—I have yielded to his inclination; and he is about to embark in a vessel which will sail from this port for Amsterdam, probably in the course of about two or three weeks from this time.

He is extremely solicitous, as well as myself, to obtain a letter from you, Sir, to some of your correspondents in Paris. It is true, he has not the happiness of being personally known to you. Sometime last spring he had indeed the pleasure of being introduced by his uncle Mr Findly, which you will probably recollect. How far a compliance with this request may be consistant with propriety, under the present circumstances, you will judge & determine; and will have the goodness to excuse this freedom in—Sir, your most respectful servant

Rt Patterson

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ as received 14 May 1809 and so recorded in SJL.

Robert Patterson (1743–1824), mathematician and educator, emigrated from Ireland to Philadelphia in 1768. In 1779, following service in the American Revolution, Patterson became professor of mathematics at the newly organized University of the State of Pennsylvania (from 1791 the University of Pennsylvania). He held the position until 1814, with service as the university’s vice-provost, 1810–13. Patterson was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1783 and was a secretary, 1784–97, a curator, 1797–99, a vice president, 1799–1819, and president from 1819 until his death. Patterson was one of five society members TJ selected to give Meriwether Lewis scientific instruction prior to his expedition to the Pacific Ocean. TJ also appointed Patterson director of the United States Mint, and he served in that capacity from 1805–24 (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Carolyn Myatt Green, “The Robert Patterson Family—Eminent Philadelphians, Scholars, and Directors of the United States Mint: 1743–1854” [Ph.D. diss., University of Georgia, 1974]; APS, Minutes, 18 Jan. 1783, 2 Jan. 1784, 6 Jan. 1797, 4 Jan. 1799, 1 Jan. 1819 [MS in PPAmP]; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 2:7, 10 [20, 23 Dec. 1805]).

Robert Maskell Patterson’s uncle William Findley was a United States congressman from Pennsylvania, 1803–17.

Index Entries

  • American Philosophical Society; members of search
  • Barton, Benjamin Smith; medical instruction by search
  • Findley, William; as U.S. congressman search
  • Findley, William; introduces R. M. Patterson to TJ search
  • Godon, Silvain; mineralogical lectures of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • Lewis, Meriwether; prepares for Lewis and Clark Expedition search
  • mineralogy; lectures on search
  • Patterson, Robert; identified search
  • Patterson, Robert; letters from search
  • Patterson, Robert; recommends son to TJ search
  • Patterson, Robert Maskell; family of search
  • Patterson, Robert Maskell; letters of introduction from TJ search