Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln: Patriots, Presidents, and Geographers

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln are well known as being three very significant presidents.  What many people do not know, however, is that they were all geographers.

George Washington's map of Mount Vernon. From Smithsonian Magazine.
George Washington spent his youth mapping and surveying much of northern Virginia.  His surveying mapped out much of the western Maryland-Virginia(-and now West Virginia) border.  The Library of Congress has an excellent online article about Washington's work as a geographer.

Thomas Jefferson was also a surveyor but he did so much more.  During the Revolutionary War he managed to take time out from being governor of Virginia to write his famous regional geography text book Notes on the States of Virginia.  During his presidency he commissioned the famous Lewis & Clark expedition.  Earlier, as ambassador to France he commissioned a moose hunting trip in New Hampshire to disprove French environmental determinism.

Abraham Lincoln briefly was the county surveyor for Sangamon county, Illinois.  Lincoln soon returned to his law practice and politics which were his love.  However, he stated his geography work as land surveyor "produced bread and kept body and soul together."

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