Thomas Jefferson Papers

Nathaniel Chapman to Thomas Jefferson, 10 November 1809

From Nathaniel Chapman

Philadelphia, Nov 10th 1809.


By the Linnean Society of this City, I have recently been appointed to deliver their next anniversary discourse. The subject which I have selected for the occasion, is, an inquiry into the causes, and changes of climate. In consequence of the almost total want of written documents, I find that I am exceedingly embarrassed to collect a sufficient number of facts to warrant any conclusion respecting the alterations of climate in the United States. This, indeed, is a point which can only be traced by the help of the observations of persons now living, or by those traditional accounts, or unpublished registers of weather, which may have been handed down to us.

Knowing how active is your curiosity, and how wide the scope of your intelligence on all questions of Natural history, and especially those relating to our own Country, I am persuaded that it is eminently in your power to aid my researches.

May I be permitted to ask of you such assistance, as it may be convenient to you to give me, in this interesting, but very difficult investigation? My only claim, I am sensible, to your attention, in the present instance, arises from our belonging, in common, to the family of Science; you certainly one of the most distinguished; I, the humblest of its members.

With the greatest respect, I am, Sir, &c

N. Chapman, M. D.

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 29 Nov. 1809 and so recorded in SJL.

Nathaniel Chapman (1780–1853), physician, was a native Virginian who studied under Benjamin Rush, took his medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania in 1801, continued his studies in London and Edinburgh, and then settled in 1804 in Philadelphia, where he established a prosperous private practice. He visited TJ during his presidency and sent him the prospectus for his Select Speeches, Forensick & Parliamentary, with Prefatory Remarks, 2 vols. (Philadelphia, 1808). Chapman taught at his alma mater, 1810–50, holding the prestigious chair of theory and practice of medicine from 1816. A member of the American Philosophical Society starting in 1807 and its president, 1846–50, he also founded the Medical Institute of Philadelphia, the first American postgraduate medical school, edited a prominent medical journal, and in 1848 was elected the first president of the American Medical Association (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 ; Irwin Richman, The Brightest Ornament: A Biography of Nathaniel Chapman, M.D. [1967]; Chapman to TJ, 13 Jan. 1807 [DLC]; APS, Minutes, 17 Apr. 1807, 2 Jan. 1846 [MS in PPAmP]).

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  • American Philosophical Society; members of search
  • Chapman, Nathaniel; identified search
  • Chapman, Nathaniel; letters from search
  • Linnean Society of Philadelphia search
  • meteorological observations; N. Chapman seeks search
  • Philadelphia; Linnean Society of search