Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Caspar Wistar, 2 March 1807

Philada. March 2d. 1807.—

Dear Sir,

Please to accept my Sincere thanks for your kind communication of Feby. 25 last. I assure you that I sincerely regret the part I have taken in proposing an appointment which was contrary to a principle that seems so very correct. I confidently hope that he will give you satisfaction for he appears to have excited very unusual sensations of concern in the minds of many of our mathematical members—

The Society will feel a new sense of obligation for your attention & liberality respecting the large bones as one of them I am extremely gratified by the circumstances & expect a very interesting result.   As to the Mammoth, we want principally the bones of the Head no Specimen of the part above the upper Jaw are to be found in any collections here. Duplicates of this important part would be very interesting to enable us to decide with Confidence as to the general form.   Dr. Goforth appears to have found many teeth of the Siberian Elephant, (ribbed transversely) The bones of this Animal must also have been there, but I have not seen or heard of any bones different from those of the Mammoth, & therefore beg leave to propose to Captain Clarke to examine different bones belonging to the same part of the body, to determine whether the bones of the Siberian Animal are also to be found.   There are different species of Tusks, I have one which has been worn as flat as a Scythe, & has no spiral twist—differing greatly from the Mammoth’s tusk—we want information, & specimens also, relative to this: But the most interesting of all these Objects, is the great Paw— There seems every reason to believe it is five feet in length. I doubt whether it belonged to the Megalonix, however this may be, its enormous size renders it immensely interesting, whether we suppose the animal to have walked on its toes, as the Genus Felis, Canis, &ca. or on the flat part of its foot, as the Bear. My chagrin at the loss of this Specimen is very great, but I have sanguine hopes that the object may be replaced by this Search—It is not improbable that there are many other bones equally interesting, whose existence we do not suspect, & therefore, if it can be done with out inconvenience, it would be desirable to have specimens of all such as appear here to Capt. Clarke especially the Head & Paws—If that Gentleman could examine Mr Peales Sceleton it would aid him in his search. while the presence of the distinguished Travellers Lewis & Clarke whose enterprize reflects so much credit upon their Country as well as themselves would be a great gratification to all the friends of Science among us—With the greatest respect I beg leave to Subscribe Your obliged friend

C. Wistar Jr.

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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