What Mathematics Rittenhouse Knew
New evidence suggests that David Rittenhouse (1732–1796) may have been a more mathematically sophisticated scientist than has previously been thought. Based on his correspondence with Jefferson, some of the scratch work in his diary, and a new examination of some of the mathematical literature known to have passed through his hands as Librarian of the American Philosophical Society (APS), Rittenhouse’s mathematical papers appear in a different light.
V. Frederick Rickey and James T. Smith deserve credit for the suggestions they have made which have improved this paper.
Thanks to the librarians and archivists in the reading room at the APS Library for their kind patience. Their influence extended all the way to Texas, in the form of Houston Community College Librarian, Erica Hubbard, who once worked in Benjamin Franklin’s office in Philadelphia at the APS Library; her support was critical.
My research at the APS was funded by the Franklin Grant I received in 2015 from the APS. I would not have applied for that grant, if had not been for the encouragement of the late Edwin Gallaher, poet and math department secretary of the Central Campus of the Houston Community College system, in the fall of 2014.
- Hindle, Brooke (1964) David Rittenhouse. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New JerseyGoogle Scholar
- Hindle, Brooke, ed. (1980) The Scientific Writings of David Rittenhouse. Arno Press, New York, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Gilreath, James and Wilson, Douglas L., eds. (1989) Thomas Jefferson’s Library: A Catalog with the Entries in His Own Order. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
- Hutton, Charles (1785) Mathematical Tables Containing Logarithms, to which is prefixed A Large and Original History. G.G.J. and J. Robinson and R. Baldwin, Paternoster Row, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Jefferson, Thomas (1791) Letter to David Rittenhouse, asking for return of Journal de Physique, in the folder “Rough calculations” of David Rittenhouse, Archives of the American Philosophical Society.Google Scholar
- Montucla (1754) Histoire des Recherches sur la Quadrature du Cercle. Ch.Ant. Jombert, Libraire du Roi en son Artillerie, rue Dauphine, ParisGoogle Scholar
- Rittenhouse, David (1785) ”To Thomas Jefferson from David Rittenhouse, 28 September 1785,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified February 1, 2018, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-08-02-0444. [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 8, 25 February–31 October 1785, ed. Julian P. Boyd. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953, pp. 565–566]
- Rittenhouse, David (1786) ”To Thomas Jefferson from David Rittenhouse, 26 June 1786,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified February 1, 2018, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-10-02-0011. [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 10, 22 June–31 December 1786, ed. Julian P. Boyd. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1954, p. 73.]
- Rittenhouse, David (1790) ”To Thomas Jefferson from David Rittenhouse, 2 July 1790,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified February 1, 2018, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-16-02-0353. [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 16, 30 November 1789–4 July 1790, ed. Julian P. Boyd. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961, pp. 594–596.]
- Rittenhouse, David (1791) “To General Schuyler from David Rittenhouse, 26 February 1791,” Archives of the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, PAGoogle Scholar
- Smith, Murphy D. (1976) Oak from an Acorn: A History of the American Philosophical Society Library. Scholarly Resources, Inc., Wilmington, DelawareGoogle Scholar
- Whitehurst, John (1787) An Attempt Towards Obtaining Invariable Measures of Length, Capacity, and Weight from the Mensuration of Time, Independent of the Mechanical Operations Requisite to Ascertain the Center of Oscillation or the True Length of Pendulums. William Bent, Paternoster Row, London.Google Scholar