cover image Science and the Founding Fathers: Science in the Political Thought of Jefferson, Franklin, Adams and Madison

Science and the Founding Fathers: Science in the Political Thought of Jefferson, Franklin, Adams and Madison

I. Bernard Cohen, Author W. W. Norton & Company $25 (368p) ISBN 978-0-393-03501-8

Cohen's eye-opening, elegant study shows that America's Founding Fathers were true citizens of the Age of Reason who sought links between scientific principles and constitutional government. Thomas Jefferson, naturalist and inventor, had a consuming passion for scientific pursuits ranging from paleontology to zoology. The Declaration of Independence, which he wrote, reverberates with echoes of Newtonian science, as when he invokes ``self-evident'' truths or ``laws of nature.'' Benjamin Franklin, far from being a mere tinkerer or inventor, pioneered the science of electricity. Franklin also developed a demographic theory that North America would become a population center of the British world; this led to the policy according to which the British annexed Canada rather than Guadeloupe as the spoils in the war against the French (1754-63). John Adams, who studied astronomy and physics at Harvard, was a founder of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Boston. And James Madison, a devoted amateur scientist, drew on scientific metaphors and analogies in his Federalist articles. Illustrated. Cohen is Victor S. Thomas professor emeritus of the history of science at Harvard University. (July)