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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Eric Lamar
Ethics: Reg Wants to Know
Mike, Thank you for the support. E.
2014-08-21 17:17:34
Mike Schwartz
Ethics: Reg Wants to Know
Eric, it is impressive to me how you always take head on efforts to discredit your integrity admitting you are not perfect while the "leaders" in the IAFF cannot seem to find the strength to take head on the effort to address the issues you raise. Apparently, they are perfect. It is shocking to me…
2014-08-21 13:44:03
Reg Verner
Ethics: Reg Wants to Know
Actually brother you are trying to cloud my point. WHY NOW and why keep it up after our IAFF has spoken. If only democracy was as important to you as being lauded by the very same man you now attempt to discredit. Your self praise on how you were able to hang tough under the…
2014-08-21 13:24:01
Perry Kaemmerling
Ethics: IAFF’s Schaitberger Under DOL Scrutiny
Mr. Lamar In regards to "Ethics", how did you come across this email address in which you are using to advertise your blog?
2014-08-20 23:36:49
Eric Lamar
Ethics: IAFF’s Schaitberger Under DOL Scrutiny
Laugh-out-loud. Whatever you say.
2014-08-20 22:44:24
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