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Thomas Jefferson Jackson See

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

T. J. J. See
Portrait of Thomas Jefferson Jackson See.jpg
Portrait of T. J. J. See
Born (1866-02-19)February 19, 1866[1]
Montgomery City, Missouri
Died July 4, 1962(1962-07-04) (aged 96)[1]
Oak Knoll Naval Hospital, Oakland, California
Nationality American
Alma mater University of Missouri
Scientific career
Fields Astronomy and Mathematics
Institutions Instructor, Department of Astronomy, University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill., Astronomer, Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Ariz., Astronomer to Naval Observatory, Mare Island, Calif.

Thomas Jefferson Jackson (T. J. J.) See (February 19, 1866 – July 4, 1962) was an American astronomer whose promulgated theories in astronomy and physics were eventually disproved. His educational and professional career were dogged by conflict, including his attacks on relativity. He was fired from his position at two observatories, eventually serving out his professional years in an island outpost in California.

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  • Thomas Jefferson & His Democracy: Crash Course US History #10
  • Age of Jackson: Crash Course US History #14
  • #03 Thomas Jefferson


CCUS 10 - Jefferson and 1812 Hi, I’m John Green, this is Crashcourse U.S. history and today we’re going to discuss Thomas Jefferson. We’re gonna learn about how America became a thriving nation of small, independent farmers, eschewing manufacturing and world trade, and becoming the richest and most powerful nation in the world in the 19th century, all thanks to the vision of Thomas Jefferson, the greatest and most intellectually consistent founding father, who founded the University of Virginia and grew twenty varieties of peas at Monticello... [Present John:] Me From the Past! Get to your desk. In a stunning turn of events, Me from the Past is an idiot and Jefferson is more complicated than that. Intro So, in 1800, Thomas Jefferson, pictured here. This is the third time we’ve featured Thomas Jefferson on the chalkboard so we had to go a little Warhol on it. Right so Jefferson, the Republican, ran against John Adams, the Federalist. 1800 was the first election where both parties ran candidates and actually campaigned, and surprisingly, the Federalists’ elitist strategy of “Vote for Adams because he’s better than you,” did not work. Now, both parties realized that it was important to coordinate their electoral strategy to make sure that the vice presidential candidate got least one fewer electoral votes than the Presidential candidate. But then the Republican elector who was supposed to throw his vote away forgot to, so there ended up being a tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. As per the Constitution, the election went to the House of Representatives, where it took 36 ballots and the intervention of Alexander Hamilton before Jefferson was finally named president. Incidentally, Burr and Hamilton really disliked each other, and not in, like, the passive aggressive way that politicians dislike each other these days, but in the four-years-later-they-would-have-a-duel-and-Burr-killed-Hamilton kind of way. A duel which occurred--wait for it--in New Jersey. But anyway, shortly after the election of 1800, the 12th amendment was passed, making the electoral college simpler, but not as simple as, say, you know, one person’s vote counting as one vote. Anyway, complain about the electoral college all you want, but without it, we would never have had President Rutherford B. Hayes. And just LOOK AT THAT BEARD. So Jefferson became president, and his election showed that Americans wanted a more democratic politics where common people were more free to express their opinions. The Federalists were never a really a threat again in presidential politics, and arguably the best thing that John Adams ever did was transfer power in an orderly and honorable way to his rival, Jefferson. Jefferson’s campaign slogan was “Jefferson and Liberty,” but the liberty in question was severely limited. Only a fraction of white men were allowed to vote, and of course, there was no liberty for the slaves. There’s a lot of contentious debate on the subject of Jefferson and slavery, but here’s my two cents, which I should NOT be allowed to contribute because we should only round to the nearest nickel, which by the way features Thomas Jefferson. So Thomas Jefferson was a racist and he wrote about black people’s inherent inferiority to whites and Native Americans, and the fact that he fathered children with one of his slaves doesn’t change that. George Washington freed his slaves upon his death. Well, sort of, they were supposed to be freed upon his wife’s death, but living in a house full of people who were waiting for you to die made Martha want to free them while she was still alive. But with few exceptions, Jefferson didn’t free his slaves upon his death and throughout his life, he used the sale of slaves to finance his lavish lifestyle. And, this leads to two big philosophical questions when it comes to history. First, if Jefferson clearly did not think that black people were the intellectual or moral equals of whites and was perfectly comfortable keeping them in bondage, then what does the most important phrase of the Declaration of Independence actually mean? And, the second question is even broader: does it matter if a person of tremendous historical importance had terrible aspects to their character? Does being a bad person diminish your accomplishments? I don’t have a great answer for those questions, but I will tell you that no one remembers Richard Nixon for starting the EPA. But this is very important to understand: slaves were aware of the concept of liberty and they wanted it. So, in addition to an election, 1800 also saw one of the first large scale slave uprisings. Gabriel’s Rebellion was organized by a Richmond VA blacksmith who hoped to seize the capital, kill some of its inhabitants and hold the rest hostage until his demands for abolition were met. But, the plot was discovered before they could carry it out and Gabriel along with 25 other slaves was hanged. But, after the rebellion, Virginians, if they didn’t know it already, were very aware that slaves wanted and expected liberty. And the response was predictable: Virginia made its laws concerning slaves much harsher. It became illegal for slaves to meet in groups on Sundays unless supervised by whites, and it became much more difficult for whites to legally free their slaves. Oh, it’s time for the mystery document? The rules here are simple. Identify the author, no shock. Fail to identify the author, shock. “The love of freedom, sir, is an inborn sentiment, which the God of nature has planted deep in the heart: long may it be kept under by the arbitrary institutions of society; but, at the first favorable moment, it springs forth, and flourishes with a vigour that defies all check. This celestial spark, which fires the breast of the savage, which glows in that of the philosopher, is not extinguished in the bosom of the slave. It may be buried in the embers; but it still lives; and the breath of knowledge kindles it to flame. Thus we find, sir, there have never been slaves in any country who have not seized the first favorable opportunity to revolt.” [1] I mean, from the bit at the beginning about the love of freedom, it seems like it could be Jefferson, but the rest does not seem like Jefferson. It probably wasn't a slave since they were denied access to education precisely because the breadth of knowledge is so dangerous to the institution of slavery. Ugh, this is looking pretty bleak for me, Stan. Mmmm...John Jay? Dang it! Who was it? GEORGE TUCKER? Who the John C. Calhoun is George Tucker? Is there a person watching this who knew that it was George Tucker? Apparently George Tucker was a member of the General Assembly of Virginia, and the Mystery Document was a description of Gabriel’s rebellion that suggested a solution to the inherent problem of rebellious slaves. He argued that we should set up a colony for them in Indian territory in Georgia, which, of course, also wouldn’t have worked because we were soon to steal that territory. But, back to Jefferson: His idea was to make the government smaller, lower taxes, shrink the military and make it possible for America to become a bucolic, agrarian “empire of liberty” rather than an English-style industrial-mercantile nightmare landscape. So how did he do? Well, really well at first. Jefferson got rid of all the taxes except for the tariff, especially the whiskey tax. And then when he woke up with a terrible cheap-whiskey induced hangover, he paid off part of the national debt. He shrunk the army and the navy and basically made sure that America wouldn’t become a centralized, English style state for at least the next 60 years. Low taxes and small government sounds great, but no navy? That would be tough, especially when we needed ships (and Marines) to fight the Barbary Pirates (on the shores of Tripoli) who kept capturing our ships in the Mediterranean and enslaving their crews. This is yet another example of how foreign affairs keeps getting in the way of domestic priorities, in this case the domestic priority of not wanting to spend money on a navy. Also, vitally, Jefferson’s presidency really marks the last time in American history when a Republican president didn’t want to spend money on the military. Don’t get me wrong, Democrats can do it too. I’m looking at you, LBJ. As much as he wanted to get rid of any trace of the Federalists, Jefferson found himself thwarted by that eminently conservative and undemocratic institution, the Supreme Court. Jefferson appointed Republicans to most government positions, but he couldn’t do anything about the Supreme Court, because they serve for life. And, since the country was only like twelve years old, they were all still pretty fresh. Most important among them was Chief Justice, John Marshall, who happened to be a Federalist. Marshall was Chief Justice basically forever and is without question the most important figure in the history of the Supreme Court. He wrote a number of key opinions, but none was more important that the 1803 decision in Marbury v. Madison. Marbury v. Madison is so important because, in that decision, the Supreme Court gave itself the power of judicial review, which allows it to uphold or invalidate federal laws. The court then extended this power to state laws in Fletcher v. Peck and eventually even to executive actions. Like, we think of the main job of the Supreme Court being to declare laws unconstitutional, but that power isn’t anywhere in the constitution itself. Marbury v. Madison gave the Court that power and without it the Supreme Court would probably be a footnote in American history. So unlike Marshall, Jefferson and the Republicans were big proponents of strict construction, the idea that the Constitution should be read as literally as possible as a way of limiting the power of the federal government. The problem is, there might be things the government wants to do that the Constitution didn’t account for, like, for instance, buying a large tract of land from Napoleon, who, as we remember from Crash Course World History, complicates everything. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. So, yeah, Jefferson basically doubled the size of the US in what came to be known as the Louisiana Purchase. Napoleon was eager to sell it because the rebellion in Haiti had soured him on the whole idea of colonies and also because he needed money. Jefferson wanted to purchase New Orleans because western farmers were shipping their products through the city, and when he approached France about this, Napoleon was like, hey, how about I sell you...this? Jefferson couldn’t turn down that deal, so he bought the whole kit and caboodle for $15 million, which is worth about $250 million today. To put that into perspective, a new aircraft carrier costs about $4.5 billion. So he got a good deal. What’s the problem with this? Well nothing if you believe in a powerful government that can do stuff that’s not in the Constitution. But if you are a strict constructionist, like Jefferson, you have to reconcile this obviously beneficial act with there being no mention in the constitution of the President being able to purchase land in order to expand the size of the U.S. So, laying scruple aside, Jefferson bought Louisiana and then sent Lewis and Clark to explore it, which they did, even going beyond the boundaries of the purchase all the way to the Pacific. And this was so cool that it almost makes us forget that it was kind of unconstitutional and a huge power grab for the President. So the question is why did he do it? Jefferson’s desire to increase the size of the country prompted Federalists to complain that “we are to give money, of which we have too little, for land, of which we already have too much.” By doubling the size of the country, Jefferson could ensure that there would be enough land for every white man to have his own small farm. And, this in turn would ensure that Americans would remain independent and virtuous because only a small farmer who doesn’t have to depend on the market for food, or shelter or anything really--well, except slaves--can be truly independent and thus capable of participating in a nation of “free” men. Thanks, Thought Bubble. And, this desire to create a nation of independent farmers producing only primary products helps to explain Jefferson’s other incredibly controversial policy, the embargo. Jefferson imposed the embargo in order to “punish” Britain for its practice of impressing American sailors, as well as its blockade of France, with whom Britain was once again--or possibly just still--at war. So basically, Jefferson wanted free trade among nations, and his solution was to get congress to forbid all American ships from sailing to foreign ports. The theory was that the British were so dependent on American primary products like wood and cotton that if we cut off trade with them the British would stop impressing American sailors and end their blockade. What’s the connection between free trade and Jefferson’s agrarian ideal? Well, the idea was that America would trade its primary products for Europe’s manufactured goods so that the U.S. wouldn’t have to develop any manufacturing capacity of its own Alas, or perhaps fortunately, this did not work. For one thing, Britain and France were too busy fighting each other even to notice America’s embargo. So, they just continued blockading and impressing. Also, the embargo devastated the American economy. I mean, exports dropped by 80% Furthermore, not being able to import European manufactured goods only served to spur American manufacturing. I mean, Jefferson might have wanted Americans to be a bunch of self-sufficient farmers, but Americans wanted European manufactured stuff, like teapots and clocks and microwaves...well then how did they cook stuff, Stan? And if they couldn’t get that stuff from Britain, they would just make it themselves. So in terms of Jefferson’s agrarian ideal, the embargo was a massive failure. And lastly, the embargo limited the power of the federal government about as much as crystal meth limits cavities. I mean, imposing the embargo was a colossal use of federal power and it was also an imposition on people’s liberties. The problem the embargo was supposed to solve didn’t go away and, as we’ll discuss next week, it eventually led to the U.S.’s first declared war. For now I want to leave you with this. Thomas Jefferson is revered and reviled in almost equal measure in American history. The Declaration of Independence, which he mainly drafted, is a signal achievement, delineating some heroic ideas for the founding of the United States, but also embedding some of its crucial shortcomings. And Jefferson’s presidency is like that too. He claimed to champion small government but he enlarged federal power more than Washington or Adams ever did. He imagined an agrarian republic but his policies led to increased manufacturing; he wanted to foster freedom, but he owned slaves and took land from the Indians. In the end, Jefferson’s life and policies encapsulate the best and the worst of us, which is why his Presidency is still worth studying closely. I’ll see you next week. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan Muller. Our script supervisor is Meredith Danko. The associate producer is Danica Johnson. The show is written by my high school history teacher, Raoul Meyer, and myself. And our graphics team is Thought Cafe. If you have questions about today’s video, please ask them in comments where they’ll be answered by our team of historians. And we’re also accepting submissions for the Libertage captions. Thanks for watching Crash Course and as we say in my hometown, don’t forget to be awesome...Oh that was a fake out! It’s going this way. CCUS 10 Jefferson ________________ [1] George Tucker, quoted in Foner, Voices of Freedom p. 150.


Early life

See was born near Montgomery City, Missouri. He attended the University of Missouri, graduating in 1889 with an undergraduate career that was outwardly stellar. See achieved honors distinction in nearly every subject, became his class valedictorian and was the recipient of the Laws Astronomical Medal for an original thesis on an astronomical subject. However, his speech "The Spirit of the Age" was a plagiarized version of an earlier speech given by another student, and his "original thesis" for the Laws Astronomical Medal was claimed to be original work but was just from prior work by Sir George Darwin. See was also a critical player in the academic insurgency aimed at ousting university president Samuel Laws (in favor of See's mentor William Benjamin Smith). This plagiarism and bitter in-fighting "set the scene for a career perhaps unrivalled as an example of wasted talent".[2] Nevertheless, with the outwardly strong credentials, See went to the University of Berlin where he received a PhD in mathematics in 1892. With a European doctorate, See returned to America with enviable credentials and a career of great promise.

Scientific work

See specialized in the study of binary stars, particularly in determining their orbits. See initially found work at the University of Chicago, where he worked as an instructor under George Ellery Hale. See left Chicago in 1896 after failing to receive a promotion. He next worked at Lowell Observatory until he was fired in 1898 for his arrogant attitude towards the staff. See's arrogance and overconfidence caused problems throughout his career, in both professional relationships and erroneous scientific results arising from carelessness. After his dismissal from Lowell, See joined the staff of the United States Naval Observatory in 1898.

It was at the Naval Observatory that some of See's previous work, and his arrogance, led to his downfall. Several years earlier, in 1895,[3][4][5][6] while studying the well known binary star 70 Ophiuchi at the University of Chicago (and from a few observations made at the Leander McCormick Observatory of the University of Virginia during a visit in April 1895[3]), See believed he had found small anomalies in the motion of one of the stars suggesting a third object was present and its gravitational influence was affecting the motion of the star (William Stephen Jacob had mentioned this possibility in an earlier study in 1855). See's results were published in the Astronomical Journal. In 1899, Forest R. Moulton analyzed this proposed triple system and demonstrated convincingly that it would be unstable, and therefore very unlikely to actually exist (Moulton also pointed out that an orbit not requiring an unseen companion had been put forth by Eric Doolittle). See took great offense and wrote an abusive letter to the Astronomical Journal. An edited version was published and he was banned from future publication in the Astronomical Journal. See found himself increasingly at odds with other astronomers, and eventually suffered a breakdown in 1902. He spent one semester teaching at the United States Naval Academy, but was then transferred to a naval shipyard at Mare Island, California in charge of the time station, until his retirement in 1930.

 Thomas Jefferson Jackson See
Thomas Jefferson Jackson See

In 1910 he published a 700+ page work entitled Researches on the Evolution of the Stellar Systems, Vol. II, The Capture Theory of Cosmical Evolution. In this work he describes his task to "brush aside the erroneous doctrines heretofore current, as one would the accumulated dust and cobwebs of ages". In 1913 William Larkin Webb published a Brief Biography and Popular Account of the Unparalleled Discoveries of T. J. J. See. Webb was a newspaper publisher and amateur astronomer, and a long-time admirer of See, a fellow Missourian. The book, which many regarded to have been written by See himself, essentially destroyed any remaining credibility he had in the astronomical community. The Nation published a review of the book poking fun at its extraordinary hyperbole, which included such material as: "The infant See, we are told, first saw the light on the 393rd anniversary of Copernicus's birth, ...[and] showed himself "every inch a natural philosopher" by speculating on the origins of the sun, moon and stars at the age of two, never so much as dreaming that he should grow into a little boy with "methodical methods", and one day become "the greatest astronomer in the world".

See is renowned as the primary modern proponent of the idea that various ancient observers report the color of the bright star Sirius to be red as a result of stellar evolution. The Red-Sirius controversy arises because modern observations show that Sirius is white in color, and the very strong realization from modern astronomers that a reddish color for Sirius in antiquity is essentially impossible by any mechanism of astrophysics. See published six papers from 1892 to 1926 on the topic, making shrill attacks on critics, and ignoring the substantial numbers of texts from antiquity that described Sirius as blue or white in color. See's obsession with what is now considered as a fringe area (whose solution involves only cultural allusions) only served to further distance the maverick from mainstream astronomy.[7]

See spent the years at Mare Island pursuing fame as a discoverer of the laws of nature, issuing a series of publications on the origin of the solar system, the size of the Milky Way and the cause of sunspots and earthquakes. He also wrote a series of articles about the Aether, which eventually totalled nearly 300 pages, and served as the framework for his theory of everything, in which all forces were transmitted as aetheric waves.

He also engaged in vitriolic attacks against Einstein and his theory of relativity, which Einstein essentially ignored. The scientific community also ignored See's criticisms of relativity.

See's numerous papers are in the collection of the Library of Congress.

Selected writings


  1. ^ a b Sherrill, Thomas J. (1999). "A Career of Controversy: The Anomaly of T.J.J. See". Journal for the History of Astronomy. Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  2. ^ Peterson, Charles J. (2004). "The education of an astronomical maverick: T. J. J. See and the University of Missouri". Journal for the History of Astronomy. 35: 293–304. Bibcode:2004JHA....35..293P. 
  3. ^ a b See, T. J. J. (1895). "Micrometrical measures of double stars, made with the 26-inch refractor of the Leander Mc Cormick Observatory of the University of Virginia, from 1895 April 10 to May 5". The Astronomical Journal. 15: 97. Bibcode:1895AJ.....15...97S. doi:10.1086/102247. 
  4. ^ See, T. J. J. (1895). "Perturbations in the motion of the double star 70 Ophiuchi = T, 2272". The Astronomical Journal. 15: 180. Bibcode:1895AJ.....15..180S. doi:10.1086/102318. 
  5. ^ See, T. J. J. (1895). "Micrometrical measures of double stars". The Astronomical Journal. 15: 188. Bibcode:1895AJ.....15..188S. doi:10.1086/102329. 
  6. ^ See, T. J. J. (1896). "Researches on the orbit of 70 Ophiuchi, and on a periodic perturbation in the motion of the system arising from the action of an unseen body". The Astronomical Journal. 16: 17–23. Bibcode:1896AJ.....16...17S. doi:10.1086/102368. 
  7. ^ Holberg, Jay B. (2007). Sirius: Brightest Diamond in the Sky. Springer. pp. 158–167. ISBN 978-0-387-48941-4. 

Further reading

External links

This page was last edited on 20 September 2017, at 20:09.
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