Weather, Climate, & Observation
In the Revolutionary Era and Early American Republic
Thomas Jefferson did not create the system of weather recordkeeping that he employed. Nor was he, by any means, the only person at the time who made systematic written entries of meteorological observations. He and the others were carrying forward scientific investigations into the natural world that had really started to take shape in the last decades of the 1600s. Through the 18th century in Europe and the United States, interested amateurs such as Jefferson who had the means to do so pursued those inquiries. Only during the 19th century would such activity become the realm of professional scientists.
One object of this work for some weather recorders was to develop theories and principles of weather prediction. Jefferson, however, was more interested in filling in a picture of weather in various locations in America and ascertaining differences in the climates of North America and Europe. The information he collected can help us to understand another set of differences, those between the climate of his time and that of the 21st century.
Use the links on the left to learn more about Jefferson’s weather records in historical context.