Thomas Jefferson: Paleontologist

Did you know?

Did you know that President Thomas Jefferson is considered the father of American paleontology? The Sage of Monticello collected numerous fossils over his lifetime but had a particular obsession with mammoths, which he believed inhabited the unexplored West. In fact, when Jefferson commissioned Lewis and Clark’s expedition, one of their objectives was to find a live mammoth population west of the Mississippi! In Jefferson’s time, paleontologists were not entirely sure how the skeleton of a mammoth was built as a complete skeleton had not been found. Jefferson is known to have played with mammoth bones on the floor of the White House as if they were a puzzle. If only he were able to see the complete authentic mammoth specimen now on display in the Regional History Gallery at Discovery Park of America!

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