Visitors to Monticello often think of Jefferson as an inventor, but he was really more of an innovator. Rather than creating original ideas, Jefferson generally improved upon or adapted items already in existence in novel ways. His three true inventions are the Moldboard Plow to till the soil, the Cipher Wheel to encode and decode messages, and the Zig-Zag Roof system to capture rainwater.
"I am not afraid of new inventions or improvements..."
Thomas Jefferson, 1810
Monticello was a laboratory for Jefferson's innovative adaptation of technology and design.
Jefferson experimented with technological improvements throughout his life and amassed a wide-ranging collection of gadgets and machines at Monticello.
"Nobody wishes more than I do that ingenuity should receive liberal encouragement" Thomas Jefferson, 1807
Jefferson's writings reveal his lifelong promotion of invention and innovation, driven by his Age of Enlightenment belief that that the human condition could be continually improved. While Secretary of State, Jefferson granted the first American patent and his basic principles for granting copyrights remain in effect today.
931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway
Charlottesville, VA 22902