A Day in the Life of Thomas Jefferson

In his pockets, Jefferson carried such a variety of portable instruments for making observations and measurements that he’s been dubbed a “traveling calculator.” Among his collection of pocket-sized devices were scales, drawing instruments, a thermometer, a surveying compass, a level, and even a globe.

To record all these measurements, Jefferson carried a small ivory notebook (pictured) on which he could write in pencil. Back in his Cabinet, or office, he later copied the information into any of seven books in which he kept records about his garden, farms, finances, and other concerns; he then erased the writing in the ivory notebook.

A Day in the Life of Thomas Jefferson (Monticello.org)

Interesting version of a colonial PDA. The Romans used wax tablets, which could easily be resurfaced.

See also “Drudging at the Writing Table“.

And don’t miss the QuickTime panorama of Jefferson’s office, which has some stuff you can click on and fiddle with as if you’re in a Myst game. Get your virtual mitts on the bookstand, which lets the user easily juxtapose the contents of one book against four others, creating a kind of ad-hoc hypertext, or the polygraph, a lever-based manuscript duplicating machine.

Jefferson was truly a geek.