Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from John Vaughan, 21 July 1802

From John Vaughan

Philad: 21 July 1802

Dr Sir,

An uncertainty having arisen, whether the adress of Mr Brown was correct, I have taken the liberty to trouble you, with this, letter of thanks from the Society to Mr Brown for the Interesting bone lately Sent—If some of our Members, would now furnish an account of the Mamoth & of this new Acquisition, our 6th Volume might immediately go to press.—& I fear that from the Sons Skeleton, we may be anticipated—It is under this impression, & from a knowledge of the warm interest you take in the reputation of the Society & our Country, that I take the liberty of Suggesting, that a letter from yourself to Dr Wistar, as arising from your own sense of its importance, might accelerate the performance, of what he has I believe had some time in preparation—The Comparative Anatomy he will probably Confine himself to—if he does—possibly Dr Barton might be induced to take up the Natural History &c & M Peale would recite, where found &—& means of acquirement.—When the Torpedo was discovered three or four Different members presented papers to the Royal Society—

Knowing you will pardon the Trouble I give, in favor of the Motives, I remain with the greatest respect Dr Sir Your obt. Servant.

Jn Vaughan

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Prest. of United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 29 July and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: American Philosophical Society to John Brown of Boone County, Kentucky, not found, acknowledging the receipt on 18 June of the fossil sent by Brown; see APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Proceedings, 22, pt. 3 [1884], 325; Brown to TJ, 28 Apr.; TJ to John Brown (the senator), 14 Aug.

MAMOTH: that is, the mastodon remains excavated by Charles Willson Peale in New York State. The NEW ACQUISITION was the prehistoric bison skull from Kentucky (TJ to Caspar Wistar, 14 July; Peale to TJ, 18 July).

Committees of the American Philosophical Society were attempting to move forward with publication of the society’s Transactions. The fifth volume had gone to the printer several months earlier. Despite Vaughan’s supposition that the next installment MIGHT IMMEDIATELY GO TO PRESS, the first part of the sixth volume of Transactions was not set into type until 1804 (APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Proceedings, 22, pt. 3 [1884], 319, 320, 322, 324, 357).

THE SONS SKELETON: the mastodon skeleton that Peale’s son Rembrandt had exhibited in New York City and intended to show in Europe (TJ to Charles Willson Peale, 5 May). Vaughan’s hopes for an interrelated set of papers by Caspar WISTAR, Benjamin Smith BARTON, and the senior Peale regarding the recent fossil discoveries were not realized.

In the 1770s, John Walsh, John Hunter, Jan Ingenhousz, and Henry Cavendish presented separate papers to the Royal Society of London on aspects of the TORPEDO or electric ray, a fish capable of generating an electrical charge. Benjamin Franklin corresponded with two of the investigators and helped to disseminate the results of the research (Royal Society of London, Philosophical Transactions, 63 [1773–74], 461–89; 64 [1774], 464–73; 65 [1775], 1–4; 66 [1776], 196–225; Franklin, Papers description begins Leonard W. Labaree and others, eds., The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, New Haven, 1959–, 39 vols. description ends , 19:160–3, 189, 204–6, 233–5, 286–8, 295; 20:257–67, 433; 21:148, 150, 217).

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