At The National Portrait Gallery: Rittenhouse

 

The Self-Made Man

Rittenhouse by Peale

Rittenhouse by Peale

David Rittenhouse (1732-1796)  was a world renowned astronomer, scientist, mathematician, surveyor and inventor.

He was also entirely self-taught.

Rittenhouse grew up near Germantown, PA.  It is said that at age 13 he had mastered Newton's laws of motion and gravity.  He was one of the first Americans to build a telescope and used his to observe the transit of Venus across the sun in 1769.

Based on his observations, Rittenhouse stated that the distance between the earth and the sun was 93,000,000 miles.  He was, of course, correct.

Transit of Venus

Transit of Venus

He built his home in Philadelphia where he regularly held salons attended by Benjamin Franklin and others.  Thomas Jefferson said "he would rather attend one of those meetings than spend a week in Paris."

Rittenhouse proves that genius is where you find it.  Jefferson's encomium, from a man who had lived in France for years and was revered by European intellectuals, underscored that America could think, too.

Rittenhouses's portraitist, Charles Wilson Peale, studied under John Singleton Copley and Benjamin West.  He was around at the right time.  In Philadelphia in 1776 he painted portraits of Washington, Hancock, Franklin, Hamilton and Jefferson.

Peale fought in the American Revolution, gaining the rank of Captain in the Pennsylvania Militia.

Sources: SI.edu, Wiki, National Portrait Gallery

2 Comments

  • Victoria Huckenpahler says:

    It sounds very civilized — like the salons in France.  Someone else who was rather like this was Benjamin Banneker, whose bio. my Dad wrote. As you doubtless know, Eric, he surveyed the land this city stands on.  And considering he was a Black man in that day and time his accomplishments were doubly amazing.  

  • eric lamar says:

    Vic-

    Very interesting you should mention that, Rittenhouse also colloborated with Andrew Ellicott to complete the Mason-Dixon survey.

    Small world; thanks for sharing.

     

    E

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FE Talk: Humpday Hangout

Comments
Eric Lamar
Some Kimchi Blow Back
S- Nail on the head. Imagine if Iran made a film, comedy or otherwise, about the assassination of Obama. The S@#t would hit the fan. But, somehow, it's OK if we do it. E
2014-12-18 22:54:39
Victoria Huckenpahler
Some Kimchi Blow Back
What's most disturbing about this is that, however great or little their involvement, North Korea has won a cyber-war. This does not bode well for the future, not only for our relations with N. Korea, but with other terrorist states. I agree it was foolhardy to invite the inevitable by making this film.
2014-12-18 22:33:08
Mike
Some Kimchi Blow Back
Well done Mr Kim! I hope the movie is as funny as all the drama it cause. I guess we will just have to wait for it to make its way to the $5 table at Walmart to see it. That were is get to see most movies anyway.
2014-12-18 22:24:23
Smitty
Some Kimchi Blow Back
That's right, Eric. It was the studio who decided they would lose too much money if they distributed the film and nobody came to see it. Besides, you're right on point about a film that never should have been made. Do we ever ask ourselves how we'd feel if the tables were turned?
2014-12-18 21:31:09
Alan
Some Kimchi Blow Back
Bravo. :)
2014-12-18 20:44:26
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