Skip Global Navigation to Main Content
In Brief

Thomas Jefferson, Renaissance Man

09 June 2012

Wide angle of Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello (Flickr/Randy Pertiet)

Thomas Jefferson: Declaration of Independence author, president, Monticello architect and macaroni machine maker?

Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson is famous for many things. He was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, the third president of the United States and the first U.S. secretary of state. He expanded the country by 15 states with the Louisiana Purchase and encouraged exploration of the Pacific Coast with the Lewis and Clark Expedition. But he was also an architect and inventor.

As an architect, Jefferson designed and built his own mansion, Monticello. Shown above, the neoclassical plantation stretches across 5,000 acres (2,023 hectares) in Charlottesville, Virginia. The third president was also integral to the conception of two academic institutions: the United States Military Academy at West Point and the University of Virginia.

Jefferson was particularly involved in the creation of the University of Virginia, the first to offer a selection of elective courses. The intellectual architect wanted to establish a place for students to specialize in new areas of study, free from religious influences. For this reason, the university is centered on a library instead of a church, as was the custom of the time.

When he found spare time, Jefferson tinkered with inventions. With a particular affinity for farm machinery, Jefferson invented a special plow designed to work in the rolling hills of Virginia. He also developed a macaroni machine and made improvements to the dumbwaiter, a small elevator to transport objects rather than people.

Find out more about Virginia at DiscoverAmerica.com.