Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to John Wood, 11 January 1810

To John Wood

Monticello Jan. 11. 10.


I have to thank you for the publication you have been pleased to send me, on the Cycloid, & it’s application to the diurnal rotation of the earth, to the winds & tides. it is a work of great Mathematical erudition; and it’s calculations & principles will doubtless excite the attention of Mathematicians of the first order. I propose to send two or three copies to my Mathematical friends beyond the water. but I feel myself undeserving the compliment you pay me in the invitation to pass a judgment on it’s merits. time was when I should have been delighted with such an investigation. but 40. years of abstraction, by duties of a different kind, from the higher mathematical studies, & from exercise in any, in fact, but those operations which the ordinary affairs of life occasionally call for, warn me against the presumption of pronouncing on the merits of such a work as this. when portions of it were not long since presented to the public in another form, I remarked them as coming from the hand of a master; & they in fact determined the choice of the mathematical preceptor for my grandson. I am much pleased to learn from you that he is pursuing his studies with profit. I have advised him, while with you, to devote himself almost exclusively to Mathematics. he can study Natural philosophy when alone, at leisure, & at home. I shall be delighted to see him attain a high degree of Mathematical knolege; because I know none so interesting & satisfactory. it gives us precision & certainty instead of the fancies & fables of other self-styled sciences. in these sentiments I recommend him to your kind attentions, which will be peculiarly gratifying to Sir

Your most obedient humble servt

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); at foot of text: “Mr John Wood”; endorsed by TJ.

Writing from Manchester Academy as “J.W.” on 14 May 1809, Wood presented to the public an earlier version of his research on the relation of the cycloid to the study of the earth’s rotation (Richmond Enquirer, 16 May 1809).

Index Entries

  • A New Theory of the Diurnal Rotation of The Earth (Wood) search
  • geophysics; J. Wood’s work on search
  • Girardin, Louis Hue; Richmond academy search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; mathematical study search
  • Manchester Academy (Va.) search
  • mathematics; TJ on search
  • natural philosophy; study of search
  • Randolph, Thomas Jefferson (TJ’s grandson; Jane Hollins Nicholas Randolph’s husband); and J. Wood search
  • Randolph, Thomas Jefferson (TJ’s grandson; Jane Hollins Nicholas Randolph’s husband); education of search
  • Richmond, Va.; L. H. Girardin’s academy at search
  • schools and colleges; L. H. Girardin’s academy (Richmond) search
  • schools and colleges; Manchester Academy (Va.) search
  • Wood, John (ca.1775–1822); and education of T. J. Randolph search
  • Wood, John (ca.1775–1822); A New Theory of the Diurnal Rotation of the Earth search
  • Wood, John (ca.1775–1822); letters to search