Jefferson and the Early Diplomatic Corps
The recent controversy over release of U.S. diplomatic cables via Wikileaks got us thinking about how Jefferson, the U.S.'s first Secretary of State under the Constitution, and his successors communicated with their ambassadors and consuls abroad.
Good thing I know somebody with a subscription to American Scientist, otherwise I would never have found out that Keith Thomson (another friend of ours and former ICJS fellow) published an article in the May-June issue, "Jefferson, Buffon and the Moose" (pp. 200-202). It's an excellent overview of the philosophical argument between Buffon and Jefferson regarding "degeneracy" of New World flora, fauna, and even people vs. those of the Old World.
James Ferguson, 1710-1776, was a sort of “Bill Nye the Science Guy” of the middle to late 1700s. A fellow of the Royal Society, he had done important work in observing and understanding the moon’s orbit, but his true calling turned out to be explaining science to the general public. Some of his works still make good reading today. He strove for simple, elegant solutions and didn’t waste words. Perhaps he put it best in “Select Mechanical Exercises”:
“The simpler that any machine is, the better it will be allowed to be, by every man of science.”