The Science of the Founding Fathers
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, South Court Auditorium (42nd St. & 5th Ave., Manhattan)
The Founding Fathers’ degrees of faith differed widely one from another. What they shared more universally was a deep belief in Enlightenment “natural philosophy” and the scientific method. For them the establishment of the United States of America was “an experiment,” in the full scientific sense of that phrase.
This aspect of American history is largely unknown to the public. While we have heard of Benjamin Franklin’s electricity experiments, we have no idea who and what made the experiments possible; nor do we know much about Franklin’s then-better-known co-founder of the scientific society of the colonies, botanist John Bartram. We know that young George Washington was a surveyor, but not that he was later lauded in Europe as a daring experimental farmer, or of his intense interest in altering the Potomac River by locks, canals and steam vessels, or that during the Revolutionary War — and over the objections of the Continental Congress — he used an experimental vaccination technique to prevent his troops from being decimated by smallpox, which ensured the republic’s survival. These and similar little-known stories are the subject of an eagerly-awaited book.